“It’s not something I really think about in relation to my own life or experience so much,” Anderson says. “One thing I do know, I’ve had a number of friends who are my father’s age, and I still do, in particular directors who I’ve gotten to know. And somehow, that’s always been kind of important to me, or at least it’s something I wanted, at least with these particular people, it’s something I’ve been drawn to. I think there is some connection in that with the kind of relationships that are in my movies.”
Bill Murray, who has appeared in every Anderson film since Rushmore, often ends up playing those father roles, so I asked Anderson about their collaboration — whether he writes roles for his regulars, like Murray and Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, or whether those casting decisions occur later in the process. “Bill I thought of — for instance, when we did The Life Aquatic, that was really written for Bill,” he admits. “Whereas this new movie, I tried not to connect to it to an actor until as late as I could. But it sort of happens automatically — as I’m working on a script, I’m kind of thinking, well how are we gonna make this into a movie? It’s only so long before I’m going to be in the position of having to sort this all out. One of the first thoughts I had was, it might be nice to have Bill and Fran McDormand together, I thought that might be an interesting chemistry.” (It is.)
McDormand is not the only cast member new to the Anderson company this time around; Bruce Willis and Edward Norton are also in the film, in roles (of a police officer and bright-eyed young Scoutmaster, respectively) that seem to both drawn on their established personas and complicate them. Anderson says that’s not something he usually does in casting, but it felt right here. “Bruce was one of the few times where I thought of, what is his movie persona, and how does that relate — because I’m casting Bruce Willis as a policeman, which is not exactly against type. But I did have this thought that Bruce would bring such authenticity to him, you would always believe him as a cop, but this one is a very sad, insecure, lonely policeman, which is not something we particularly associate with him.”
We talked a bit about his process for devising the design elements of his films (“Usually, there’s a certain amount of that that’s in the script, that I try to put in there. I don’t want to weigh down the script with too many detailed descriptions, so sometimes I’ve kept notes on the side”), but I was struck by how even those discussions always wound back to the story and the characters, something that the frequent (and sometimes critical) examinations of his distinctive aesthetic tend to leave out. “I usually have a kind of atmosphere in mind,” he told me, and that sounds right — he’s not making dollhouses, as some have charged, but creating a world where these unique characters can live and breathe and interact. The look may be specific, but the emotions are universal: of getting lost in a good book, of feeling alone in a big and scary world, of wondering what’s out there for you, and of looking someone right in the eye and wanting to know all of their secrets.
Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom is out now in limited release. It opens in theaters nationwide tomorrow.