It’s been quite the few weeks for Jared Gilman. Just 13 years old, the star of Wes Anderson’s latest Moonrise Kingdom has recently returned from Cannes, where the movie opened the festival to great acclaim, and now finds himself on a press tour as the film is breaking limited release box-office records and drawing some of the best reviews of the director’s career.
The praise for Moonrise Kingdom is in no small part due to the performances — both screen debuts — of Gilman and his co-star Kara Hayward, who play Sam and Suzy, two smitten and rebellious 12-year-olds who make a break from their families and set out on an adventure both magical and bittersweet. Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton and Bruce Willis also star, alongside Anderson’s signature style, of course, which has never been used to more precise emotional effect.
We sat down with Gilman recently for a chat about the film and working with Wes Anderson — which sounds great and all, but what was even more impressive was that he learned how to tie his first tie from Bill Murray. Read on for more on that, but first, here are his five favorite films.
Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009; 89% Tomatometer)
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly — again, the tension that was built in some of the scenes was really great, how you didn’t really need a lot of dialogue and stuff. I never really got bored of the movie, considering its length.
Have you seen For a Few Dollars More? That’s my favorite of them.
I have not.
There’s this great shootout choreographed to the chimes of a music box, it’s fantastic.
Oh, I’ll have to see that.
The Matrix, ’cause it’s just like a real — it’s a great action movie.
Next, we chat with Gilman about his debut performance in Moonrise Kingdom, working with Wes Anderson, and getting some essential life training from Bill Murray.
How did you first meet Wes Anderson? I understand there was a long casting search to arrive at you.
Well I met Wes after my first callback. I was paired with another girl for a chemistry test, and I think we read like 30 pages of the script together, and we were recorded on their iPhones so they got us on video. Wes seemed like a really nice guy. He seemed really awesome and cool.
Did you audition with [co-star] Kara [Hayward]?
I never auditioned with Kara. We were both cast and I met up with her in Wes’s office and we did like a chemistry thing there.
Did you two develop a friendship during the shoot?
Yeah. We did hang out a lot together in the beginning of filming, because it was really just us. We filmed a lot of the “in the woods”-type stuff, the montage and that kind of thing. But yeah, I think we developed a strong relationship.
You guys shared your first-ever kiss on screen. Were you nervous, or were you comfortable with each other by then?
Yeah. Ah, it was the last thing we filmed and it was a closed set, so we were all very protected and we were also our characters. We were acting, so it’s what our characters wanted.
Do you identify with Sam at all?
Well, in a ways I’m really different from Sam in the sense that he’s really outdoorsy; he’s a Scout, and I’m very indoorsy. I never could imagine myself being that.
You’re a movie fan.
[Laughs.] Yes. I’m a video game nerd and movie buff kind of guy. So yeah. But I can relate to Sam in the sense of not fitting in growing up, and that whole sense.
What’s it like working within Wes’s directing style — is it very precise? Is there room to move?
Well, in the first take he kind of had us act out the scene how we felt we would, how we wanted to. Then as we would do more and more takes he would kind of tweak our performance and make it that much better. And I think that really helped.
His movies have a very specific tone to their dialogue. How was it adapting to that style?
I mean, I don’t think that was really too hard for me, because through the rehearsals I just kind of got that sense of how he wanted everything to happen; how he kind of thought, I guess. So yeah, it wasn’t hard.
Your scenes with Bruce Willis looked like fun.
Bruce is really cool. He’s funny. He’s awesome.
I love that scene when he pulls out the huge club with the nails in it; it reminded me of Pulp Fiction. Have you seen that yet?
I haven’t seen it yet. I want to though, ’cause… [smiles] yeah.
I’ve been told Bill Murray had some interesting on-set moments involving a tuba and what not…
[Laughs] Yeah. Bill was hilarious.
What’s your favorite memory of working with him?
Bill Murray taught me how to tie a tie.
Oh that’s cool. Was it a bow tie? He’s always wearing bow ties.
[Laughs.] No. It was a regular tie. I was at a costume fitting, ’cause I had to wear a costume where I had to wear a tie, and at the time I had no idea how to tie a tie.
Some grown men don’t know how.
[Laughs.] Yeah. I never really had to wear a tie. In fact, the first time I ever saw a tie I screamed and ran around the house yelling “No tie! No tie!”
[Laughs.] That’s a common reaction.
[Laughs.] And everyone in the room was all women, so they didn’t know either, and Bill just happened to be right there. He looked over at me and said, “Jared, come over here and I’ll teach you.” So I went over to him and he taught me.
There’s something you’ll always have. Your first tie? Bill Murray.
Kara said she got to keep the kitten. What did you take away from the film?
Well, I guess if this counts, I did canoeing lessons before the film and they gave me this oar to kind of practice on, so during filming I thought it would be a good idea to get everyone’s autograph and keep that as kind of like a memory from Moonrise. So I did that. And also, I think it was like a couple of months after filming ended, I got [Sam’s] backpack in the mail.
Are you going to pursue acting now, or go back to school?
Acting, yeah. Obviously I will stay in school but I’m also gonna be continuing acting. I’m already auditioning for other things. I’m just really hoping that my next movie’s gonna be as good as this. I’m just waiting for the next really great thing, I guess.
Anything in particular you’re looking for?
I don’t really know what I’m looking for. I guess I’m looking for something that’s really good.
[Laughs.] That’s an excellent criteria.
What inspired you to take up acting?
I’m not sure. That’s a good question. I’m trying to remember what it was that made me really wanna take acting classes. I guess I was taking acting lessons ’cause I thought it was kind of like a fun thing to do, and then I got my manager and that kind of clicked in some way and I realized I should probably pursue acting as a career — and now I am.
Did you do any theater before being cast in the movie?
Besides like the mandatory school plays I didn’t do a lot of theater stuff, but I took like acting classes and that kind of thing.
Which have you learned more from: the classes, or working with Wes Anderson?
I really think that nothing beats the real thing. I think that working with Wes and working on this movie I picked up a lot of stuff. I really learned a lot.
Have you been back to your acting classes since the movie?
Yeah, I’ve been doing acting classes, like audition prepping, stuff like that.
Everyone in your class must be asking you a lot of questions now.
Well now I think the classes that I do are more private, they’re more one-on-one type things, but yeah, my friends at school have talked to me about Moonrise.
What’s it like being back at school after the movie? Have your friends seen it?
Yeah, a couple of my friends have and they’ve all liked it. My friends are very supportive, but they keep me from getting a big head, which I like. They treat me like anyone else.
You must feel a little famous. I mean, you’ve been to Cannes — what was that like?
Cannes was awesome. It was unbelievable. It was like, ahhhhhhhh…
How many cameras were there, like 20 million?
It was a lot. A lot. When I was at the press conference I took a second and I looked around and I was in shock.
Must have been a little surreal.
Yeah, it was really surreal. It was too good for words.
Did you go to a lot of parties and schmooze with famous people?
Yeah I met a bunch of famous people and stuff like that, and they were all really great. They were congratulating me on my performance and they were all really nice.
Anyone in particular stand out?
Oh, god. Everyone really stood out. I met Alec Baldwin, Chris Pine, Jessica Chastain… umm, Tim Roth. So many other people, I’m just trying to figure out who to name. It was really awesome. Cannes was a lot of fun. And the last day I was there I spent the day in Nice, which was very… nice. [Laughs.] No pun intended.
[Laughs.] Okay I’ll let that one slide. Was that your first time in Europe?
No. My dad, at his old job, would go on business trips all around the world, so I used to travel a lot.
So, do you have a favorite Wes Anderson film? Had you seen his stuff before working on Moonrise?
Well, before I’d seen Fantastic Mr. Fox — and that was truly fantastic. [Laughs.] Again, no pun intended. But now I’ve seen all of his movies and I really have no idea what my favorite one is, to be honest. They’re all really great.
Do you think you’ll get to work with him again soon?
I mean, I hope. I hope. Hopefully he’ll come up with a role that would suit me. It’d be an honor to work with Wes again.
Moonrise Kingdom is now playing in select theatres in the US and in the UK, with more locations to follow soon.