Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola recall their collaborative process in scripting Moonrise Kingdomand explain why, for them, writing dialogue is like a musical experience.
Since his first feature, Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson has forged a distinctive voice while collaborating with a string of co-writers: Owen Wilson, Noah Baumbach, and with Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom, Roman Coppola. Anderson’s films are marked by the full-armed embrace of artifice, putting a stiffly positioned narrator out front, for example, or with deliberate tracking shots which show the constructed set. All aesthetic elements show a stylization and awareness of the storytelling going on, from the dialogue, frequently earnest and stilted, to the meticulous retro-inspired design, which tends to make his stories hard to locate in time.
Moonrise Kingdom, however, is placed firmly in 1965, on an island off the coast of New England, where two slightly disturbed and alienated 12-year-olds, Sam and Suzy, fall in love, them against the world. While at scout camp, Sam, an orphan in foster care, reviled by his campmates, escapes into the wilderness with Suzy, after they meet at a church play. With a storm brewing, parents, police and scoutmasters track them as they set out to make their own way in the world.
Wes, you’ve worked with collaborators on all your films, I believe. They are all distinctly in your voice, so what does a collaboration give to you? And why was Roman the right collaborator for you on Moonrise Kingdom?
Wes Anderson: Roman and I worked together with Jason Schwartzman on the script for Darjeeling Limited. That story, the characters and world very much came from all three of our experiences. It was an especially collaborative thing, and such a good experience. I had been attempting to make this script of Moonrise Kingdom for about a year. I had a few pages and some notes, but I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t get past the first 10 pages or so. I asked Roman to read them to see if he could help me and work with me on it. He was very encouraging but also immediately asked several key questions that got the thing going again, and the two of us had a complete script in a month or five weeks.
Wes Anderson: The most memorable thing that began this process of us writing, that for me was crucial because it really had an impact, was when you, Roman, read the beginning. It’s maybe the first 10 minutes of the movie; these two kids have met in these woods. You were very encouraging about it but you said, “How did they meet in these woods?” And you said you thought they had arranged this, and I said I didn’t know what had come before that. So you actually asked the question, more like suggested, this is a secret meeting that has been arranged previously. It was like it was already meant to be there but I didn’t know.
Roman Coppola: And there was the question, Well, what do the parents think? I recall you saying “He doesn’t have any parents.” I said, “What’s the story there?” So, in the case of our roles, I would ask questions just out of genuine curiosity that seemed to trigger a response, and then you’d start to uncover the possibilities and put it down.
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