Wes Anderson may have assembled his best cast yet for "Moonrise Kingdom": Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swinton joined Anderson mainstays Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman on the roster. Yet, it was finding the film's young leads, Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, that proved most difficult.
"With this kind of movie -- you're working on other fronts at the same time, but in the back of your mind, you're kind of thinking, 'If you don't find them, you can't make the movie,'" Anderson told HuffPost Entertainment.
The 13-year-old neophyte actors were hired by Anderson after eight months of searching to play Suzy and Sam, two New England tweens who fall in love and run away during the summer of 1965.
"I didn't have any real preconceived notions about what they ought to be like -- I didn't really picture anything," Anderson said. "I was just waiting for somebody to show up who we thought was so great that we could shut down the process and move to the next phase."
Following the debut of "Moonrise Kingdom" at the opening of the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival in France, Anderson rang up HuffPost to discuss the making of his new film, the moment he knew Bill Murray was a kindred spirt, and what he thinks of those who dismiss his films as "twee."
You said it took eight months to find Kara and Jared. Did you ever think it just wasn't going to happen?
Yes, I did. That's always there. The tension of it. That kind of relates to something I feel about the whole filmmaking process in general. Every time you do a take on a movie you're not sure if it's going to succeed. Even if you have a great cast, like we had, every scene you're kind of waiting for the release. "Oh, yes; it happened. We got it!" There's always the possibility that it's just not going to work.
You're famous for these meticulously-designed long takes. Did you run into trouble with trying to do those with such green actors?
The way I approached it with these guys was that we rehearsed for a very long time, so they knew the script, they knew the material, they knew the characters. They did their own practicing, too -- like canoeing and different outdoor activities. She read continuously during the pre-production period. They wrote to each other as well. They just did things related to the movie. On the set, though, it wasn't like were doing 20 takes at a time with these guys. They were just as quick as anyone else.
Kids are always open to anything. It's very rare that a kid isn't extremely eager to make you happy. So there's an ease to the process in that way, but the main thing is: did you find the right ones? With this, I always felt very pleased with them. The characters were not fully fleshed out until they were playing them, as far as I'm concerned.
"Moonrise Kingdom" really captures that feeling of being a child in the summertime. Was that informed more by their performances or by your script?
The first real inspiration for this movie is this Francois Truffaut movie, "Small Change." It does this unusual thing: it's more of a movie for grown-ups, but it is told from the point of view of these little kids. The camera is lowered down to them. It's their angle on everything. That was the whole impetus of the project, to make the film so it expresses what these smaller people are feeling. For me, it was kind of trying to see if we could capture the feeling that I remember from being 12 years old and thinking I was in love at that age.
Were you as good of a scout as Sam?
No, I wasn't. I did try my hand at it, but I didn't have it. I will say that Edward Norton, who plays the scout master, would be a first-rate Eagle Scout. He's got all those techniques. If your plane crashes into the jungle somewhere, he would be the guy you would want to have with you. In fact, he would actually crash the plane, because he's a pilot as well. He can climb mountains, he's good with boats. Any kind of outdoors thing, you'd be in good hands.
Bill Murray is notoriously hard to pin down, yet you've done six movies with him. What's the secret?
He's in everything I've done, except "Bottle Rocket" -- and that one, as far as I know, he's never even seen. We gave him the DVD, and -- back in those days -- we gave him the VHS, but I don't think he's ever watched it. When we did "Rushmore," in the very beginning, it could have been intimidating -- but he made it not intimidating. As soon as we started working together, I would say something to him and he would respond with something that made me think, "Not only does he understand what I'm saying, he seems to like it and has expanded on it." In that movie, there's a scene where he has a conversation with the teacher, and he's supposed to leave. We did a couple of takes and I said to him, "What if you, rather then just walking away, you walk away and then you sprint away." It was a weird thing. And he said, "You mean to have an excuse for my heart beating so fast? Yeah, okay." And I was like, "To have an excuse for my heart beating so fast? Wow, what a way to say it." He made it real; it was funny, but he made it real. I've always felt like I've enjoyed that rapport so much.
Critics sometimes use "twee" as shorthand to describe you work -- or they dismiss it as just another "Wes Anderson movie." How does that make you feel?
Well, it's not annoying. It's just, you know, my real honest response is just ... nothing. It's just white noise to me. It's lost all its sting over the years.