Anthony D’Alessandro is Managing Editor of AwardsLine.
The deadpan, rhythmic pop-and-snap banter. The dysfunctional parents and rebellious teens. And that classical-funk soundtrack played against those doll-house sets. These are some of director Wes Anderson’s stylistic hallmarks, idiosyncrasies that point to the cinematic evolution of absurdist theater. “I certainly have often thought of Harold Pinter,” says the Houston native about his muses, which have also included J.D. Salinger and François Truffaut. Pinter’s “a writer who has always inspired me. Samuel Beckett maybe in a more distant way, but Beckett through Pinter is one. The sparseness and abstractness of Pinter has always been a real inspiration for me.”
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But while a number of absurdists have also been cynics, Anderson couldn’t be more optimistic. No more is this apparent in his Cannes Film Festival-launched summer arthouse hit Moonrise Kingdom, which has earned $65 million worldwide. The tale about two lost, romantic adolescent souls whose lives are more together than their parents’ has charmed critics since its bow, and its momentum has continued to a Gotham Award for best film and five Indie Spirit nominations including feature, director, and screenplay.
AwardsLine: What was the genesis of this project?
Wes Anderson: It was some years ago, and I wanted to make a story about my memory of falling in love at age 11, but also my memory of the fantasy that went with it: The desire for something bigger to happen and the desire to be living a fantasy life, which was a strong feeling for me at that age. Moonrise Kingdom is autobiographical in the sense that it’s very close to the experience that I envisioned for myself when I was the age of those characters. All of my films are filled with personal details, and a lot of those personal details are where the emotional connection comes into it.
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AwardsLine: Is it easier for you to launch a production nowadays? Do you simply make a phone call to producers Scott Rudin and Steven Rales?
Anderson: Even if you have people like Steven and Scott supporting you, one still has to figure out the foreign-sales numbers and other factors, like who is in your cast and how much are we getting for various territories, which helps you figure out a reasonable budget number. While that’s happening, there’s another kind of preparation that needs to be done and that I like to do: There’s a thorough, rigid preparation for my movies. Plus, the biggest thing with Moonrise Kingdom, once there was a script: Who are the actors for these two kids? Because if we can’t find them, we don’t have a movie. So we set aside time to search.
AwardsLine: Expound on your filmmaking relationship with Scott Rudin.
Anderson: My hunch is that Scott does something different on every movie he works on, and he has very different relationships with moviemakers. On some movies he’s saying (to a director), “Here’s a book you have to do” and bringing the material. And on some movies, he is on the set every day giving feedback. On my movies, his role has been very consistent over the years. He’s my producer-ial adviser—he’s my key adviser along with Steven Rales—and Scott is a great script reader and analyst. He has a very good feeling for storytelling. The main thing he gives me is a bunch of criticism that I may or may not use and that may aggravate me, but always leaves me with something to do next. The best thing you can ask for is that your conversation with your collaborator continually results in making a project better. He’s also important when it comes to releasing a movie and how we’re going to handle it.
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AwardsLine: Every awards season, you seem to be in the conversation. What’s your takeaway on the season?
Anderson: It’s great to get (Oscar) nominations; I have not gotten many. I’m not one of those guys (that) if you go to my office, you find a staggering number of trophies on the shelf. We got one for Darjeeling Limited at the Venice Film Festival called the Leoncino d’Oro. At first we thought we won the Golden Lion, but slowly realized, “Wait a second, this means the Lion Cub.” It turned out it’s an award given by school children in Venice. We took that home, and it was really small. That same year, we also got an award from the American Association of Retired Persons as their favorite film of the year, which was strange. We were honored by the youngest Italians and older Americans. I always find something like this very moving and a surprise.
AwardsLine: It goes without saying that your filmmaking style stands out. Would you ever change it up?
Anderson: What makes my movies like my other movies — all those different things I do that prompt someone to say, “Well, I think we know who did this one” — those things are like my handwriting to me. What I’m focusing on (in each movie) are those things that are different and that I’ve never tried before. I’m always directing a movie where I wrote a script with a collaborator. It’s something that I invented and feels automatic and natural to do in my handwriting. If I was adapting Dashiell Hammett, I might find myself working in ways that are less recognizable as my thing. I’m not positive about that. But at some point along the way, I don’t want to force myself to make my movies unlike my other ones. Instead, I want to force myself to make them as entertaining, personal, and moving as I can make them.