INTERVIEW Through the Artist’s Eyes
A Conversation With Wes Anderson
The Darjeeling Limited” is the latest film by director and writer Wes Anderson. The movie chronicles the emotional and spiritual journey of three estranged brothers reuniting in India. (For a review of the film, see http://www-tech.mit.edu/V127/N45/darjeeling.html.)
I had a chance to sit down with Anderson before the Boston screening of the film. The following is an excerpt from that conversation.
The Tech: You, Roman Coppola, and Jason Schwartzman went to India before making the movie to live the movie first. In the movie, Jason’s character reads verbatim from his own life. Did scenes from your own travels translate themselves into the movies?
Wes Anderson: They did. In fact, originally, Jack wasn’t a writer. As we were working, that came into it, and I can’t imagine that that didn’t happen because we had decided we wanted to make this movie very very personal. For whatever reason, that appealed to us. We were very conscious about trying to use our own experiences as much as we could; in any town we were asking the question we were always asking ourselves: what happens next? We were asking, what’s happened to you like this? What are the details of that? And we tried to use that.
In the course of that, we ended up with this character who was doing what we were doing, which was taking things from his life and trying to make them into stories, and using that process to get to the next point in his life.
TT: In your movies you have a lot of elaborate scenes. I was wondering if the scenes with the elaborate shots are the ones you enjoy shooting the most or if you enjoy the smaller more intimate scenes.
WA: I think sometimes it’s fun to shoot a complicated scene. But most of what is fun on the set, on the day that you’re actually doing it, is when the actors are great. In whatever way that comes about, when the actors are surprising you with their performances — when suddenly there’s a mood on the set and you feel like wow something’s really happening here in front of our camera — that’s the thing that’s exciting.
TT: How do you reconcile detail-oriented cinema with keeping the big picture in mind?
WA: I have a thought on that. In the case of this movie, what’s in there is what we discovered in India. So I want to share as many of the experiences that we encountered during our travels. I want those moments in there.
In general I feel like I would rather have a movie we fill with ideas and then somebody says at first they’re distracted. Well, then see it again. I feel like a movie can contain a lot. If it feels like there’s more detail than some people expect, it’s different. Everybody makes movies in a different way. I’d rather have it be as dense as it can be.
It’s true that in the end most of the time goes into the script and figuring out how your characters interact. And most time on the set goes into the performance of the actors and how we’re going to help them bring it to life and how they’re going to help us bring the story to life. But I like to embrace the idea of filling the movie up with ideas. In the end if that means my movies share some similarities or someone can say he always does it that way, well that’s OK. I don’t mind if my movies fit together as a body of work, follow some train of thought, and they develop more ideas through the course of the film.
TT: A couple of your movies have several songs by the same artist. Do you get into the mood of one musician or do you find a piece that fits more?
WA: Part of what music can do is help the movie form its identity and give it coherence or cohesion. In the case of this, I think the sound of the movie is really the music of Satijit Ray, who was a director who composed the music for his own films, and that’s one thing we really wanted to embrace with our movie, and it was very well suited for our movie. Much of the sound of the movie comes from Ray’s music.
But also these Kinks songs — we had a sequence in the beginning, middle, and end and they were all connected — and it just sort of revealed itself that these songs all from one record by the Kinks seemed to fit. And those are songs written by brothers so there were links that we liked. Mainly, it was just when we put the music in those scenes, the scenes seemed finish.
TT: Your next movie is going to be an adaptation of the book The Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl, and I was wondering why you chose to do that?
WA: It’s just a book I’ve always loved, and I liked the idea of doing some stop motion animation. I started talking about it with Noah Baumbach [director of “Squid and the Whale”] and we quickly figured out a way we could make a script of it because it’s a very short book. There’s not that much material there so we had to expand it and we had to make up our own version and try to see if we could follow Roald Dahl’s lead and try to write a movie that we hoped he would like.
TT: I read a lot about the fact that you make movies in a collective. I was wondering if you feel like you have to do that for a movie. Or is that how you enjoy making movies most?
WA: I enjoy it. I enjoy working with my friends. In the case of this story, the script really came from the combination of Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, and my points of view. And it couldn’t exist any other way. The movie has so much of Roman and Jason’s experience and so much of my experiences, it would never be the same with a different collaboration. And I think that it was because we were close friends already that allowed us to do something that was very personal.
On the set when you start a movie and it’s a reunion and all these friends get together, there’s an energy on the set that you wouldn’t get in another circumstance. And I feel like that can find it’s way on screen. So it’s both what I enjoy and also what I think works for the kind of movies that I like to do.