“There’s freedom in bondage,” said the actor, who plays Sam’s Khaki Scout master in the film. “What might look like a very managed environment is actually providing an actor with a lot of rich fodder to interact with. . . . None of Wes’s characters are anything less than urgently sincere about what they’re doing and their intentions. And that’s the easiest thing in the world to play, because he constructs characters who are deeply earnest and sincere in their intentions. . . . Wes draws a really well-defined path towards the main thing that you need [as an actor], which is: What does this person want, what do they care about, what are they trying to do?”
Anderson admitted that “in most of the movies I’ve done, you’d be hard-pressed to find a plot. There was an attempt at a plot, there are key events, usually it does have some kind of structure, I just don’t know if it’s exactly dramatic structure.” Instead, Anderson creates worlds — and characters who populate them — in which viewers can sink into an alternative universe where homes are cozily stuffed with idiosyncratic gewgaws and furbelows, where a mom played by McDormand can communicate with her far-ranging children by way of a megaphone and where life has the operatic richness of the Benjamin Britten opera “Noye’s Fludde,” which serves as the musical leitmotif for “Moonrise Kingdom.”
“When I try to write a script, I draw on anything I can get my hands on,” Anderson said of his inspirations, noting that he always begins with the characters’ dialogue so he can get a sense of their voices. “Usually I have some very vague idea of what the movie is supposed to be, and then I’m thinking, ‘I’ve always wanted to use this thing from something somebody else has told me, and this thing from a book I read 15 years ago.’ ” In the case of “Moonrise Kingdom,” those cues came not just from Britten (in whose “Noye’s Fludde” Anderson performed when he was young), but also from the children’s fantasy author Susan Cooper and the artist Norman Rockwell, whose idealized vision of America was on the verge of disappearing in 1965, when the story is set.
Anderson, who had been working on the “Moonrise Kingdom” script for several years until co-writer Roman Coppola finally wheedled it out of him with goading phone calls and a month of concentrated work, also watched other movies having to do with young love: Ken Loach’s “Black Jack,” Francois Truffaut’s “Small Change,” George Roy Hill’s “A Little Romance” and an obscure 1971 film called “Melody.” But Anderson’s greatest influences have always been Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, the filmmakers behind such pictorially rich productions as “The Red Shoes” and “Black Narcissus,” and whose devotion to artifice Anderson shares, at a time when spontaneity and naturalism define the vernacular of the indie world he works in.
“There’s something very exciting about what they made in front of the camera,” Anderson said of Powell and Pressburger. Noting that “Black Narcissus” took place in the Himalayas but was filmed almost entirely on a set in England, he said: “You were really transported to that place, but you [also felt] someone had made these things. And they’re very emotional, moving films.”
The same has already been said of “Moonrise Kingdom,” which was the opening-night film at Cannes. (The film subsequently opened in New York and Los Angeles last weekend, setting box office records for the best-ever opening of a live-action film.) Unbelievably, “Moonrise Kingdom” was Anderson’s first film to be invited to Cannes, a wrong that Norton, for one, was glad to see rectified. “It’s about time,” he said, adding that Anderson should have had five or six movies at Cannes by now. “It’s good that they finally got with the program and acknowledged one of my generation’s really great auteur filmmakers.”
opened Friday at area theaters.