Wes Anderson on 'Moonrise Kingdom' and its unfamiliar reality

Wes Anderson presented his new film, "Moonrise Kingdom," at the Cannes Film Festival.

Story highlights

  • Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" is about young lovers who reunite and run away
  • The film stars Bruce Willis, Francis McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Ed Norton
  • Anderson: "I want the movie to happen in a place where the audience has never been"
In Wes Anderson's latest film, "Moonrise Kingdom," he tells the tale of two young lovers who reunite and run away into the wilderness after a year apart.
It's 1965, and a major storm is bearing down on New Penzance Island, off the coast of New England, and their disappearance sets off an island-wide search and rescue mission.
The film stars Bruce Willis, Francis McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Ed Norton along with Anderson favorite Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. But it's the two young lovers, portrayed by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who steal the show.
"Moonrise Kingdom," which opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, has the look and tone of Anderson's prior films "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Darjeeling Limited." But here, Anderson is examining the notion that love is a driving force that causes a range of different reactions -- especially when those at the center are just 12.
CNN spoke with Anderson from Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy, about the making of "Moonrise Kingdom," the film's lack of nostalgic impulses and the impulse for audiences to read deeper into on-screen metaphors.
CNN: The word "twee" is often used by people these days to describe your work. Does that word mean anything to you?
Wes Anderson: Virtually nothing. (laughs) I get the thrust of it, but it's really kind of like white noise to me. I have no opinion about it
CNN: "Moonrise Kingdom" tells the story of two 12-year-olds who fall in love and run away. Is this a universal feeling of youth?
Anderson: My point of view about it was the memory of feeling that way is so strong for me. Rather than starting with an idea of a character or characters and a setting, instead I was starting out with a feeling. An emotion. A memory of an emotion that I was hoping to re-create in some way. So, that's where it came from.
CNN: Is it wrapped around nostalgia?
Anderson: Even though there's every reason to think its nostalgic: It's set in the '60s, and it's childhood and first love and that sort of thing. But I don't really associate it with nostalgia. Somebody in Cannes asked me, "is it your memory of a fantasy?" It took me a second, to think, "I don't even know what you mean." But I see that is exactly what it is. This fantasy I had at that time.
CNN: Over the years, your films paint these pictures of various male figures that struggle in some way to grow up or face reality. What's interesting about that for you?
Anderson: I kinda think probably the adult and the children -- at least in this new story -- are on parallel tracks. They're not going the same direction, but they're all having these romantic relationships that they're trying to find a way to make work and rescue themselves through them. The kids are the ones that have a clarity about what they want. They don't have any wisdom, but they do have a clear understanding about what they want to have happen. And the adults don't. It ends up making them more confused than the kids.
CNN: That clarity, the directness, is intriguing about the worlds and characters that you portray. You don't do macho, "I don't care" guys. They know what they want and get a little bit psycho for the girl.
Anderson: (laughs) You're right. You could say they get a little psycho for the girl, and you could put this on any of the guys. I'm sure you could track that back over a number of different films. I don't know how it relates to real life. I'd rather not. The psychological indication it makes about myself. But it does seem to be a continuing thread.
CNN: "Moonrise Kingdom" is the two young actors' first roles in anything. What was the logic behind this casting?
Anderson: When you're going to cast people this age, you're assuming that they're not going to be professional. Even if they are, it just means they've been working for eight months or something like that. I had no preconception about what they were supposed to look like, sound like or act like. Even their personalities. I knew what the characters were like and that they had to sort of relate to that. They're sort of outsiders. They've got to be convincing in that. But we started really early in the casting process and set aside a long time to do it. Just looked at one audition after another, waiting for someone to appear that we all felt like we could shut down and move on to the next phase of production.
CNN: How much does the setting in "Moonrise Kingdom" factor into this story?
Anderson: I feel like I want the movie to happen in a place where the audience has never been before. That's sort of a slightly magical world. I started feeling like the movie ought to feel like -- the girl is carrying around a suitcase full of fantasy books -- somewhere along the way, I started to feel like the movie should feel like it could be in that suitcase. That it could be one of those books. So everything that goes into the movie -- where we shot it, the locations, the houses, the sets -- are all my way of make this world that's not a familiar reality.
CNN: During the film, there's the idea that a major rainstorm is bearing down on the island. Should I read into that as a metaphor about what's brewing between everyone on screen?
Anderson: I'm up for reading into it. I like to hear people reading into it. I tend to try to keep it very abstract from myself. I like to put things and work things in to these stories that feel like symbols to me. But I don't really want to know what they symbolize. I'd rather have someone say, "I got this out of it." I want to feel like I'm working with some subconscious stuff that could be stronger because we don't simplify it too much. Let it be open to different connections. I'm sorry I'm sounding a little cosmic about it. The storm should feel like it's about a lot of things. Now I'm going to try one: It could even have to do with what's coming in America or something like that. 1965 is sort of an end to a period. I'm just trying this out, though. That's my first time to have that thought.