Wes Anderson burst onto the American Indie scene in 1996 with his first feature film Bottle Rocket which also introduced the world to Luke and Owen Wilson. Cementing his reputation as the Godfather of Quirk with films like Rushmore, The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson returns to screens this year with The Darjeeling Limited, about a trio of brothers who take a train journey through India and discover more about themselves and each other than perhaps they’d ever hoped for. He talks to Rotten Tomatoes.
Where did the idea for the film come from originally?
Wes Anderson: Initially I had two ideas; one that I wanted to make a movie in India and the second one was that I had this idea about a movie with three brothers on a train together. I mixed them together and they became The Darjeeling Limited.
The other main idea I think was that I thought I’d like to write with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman and I think the movie we wound up making is really the combination of all three of our points of view mixed together.
Your movies are renowned for their fantastical edge, but when you think about them the stories you tell are always quite down to earth. Does the fantasy come after the idea?
WA: You know, it all sort of happens together I think. The movies I make tend not to be quite reality but the characters are inspired by real people and they’re always very personal. This movie, for instance, is a very personal movie; everything comes from my experiences, or Jason’s or Roman’s experiences. That was really our goal and it’s always been important to us that’s it’s both personal to us and hopefully personal for other people. That’s the idea!
I can’t imagine seeing the film without having seen Hotel Chevalier, your short prologue, first. Why didn’t it proceed the film in the US?
WA: Well it’s just been added to the print in the US from this week, actually. And I think that’s just as well because the short gives you some information and clues. Questions that get answered within the movie. In America I thought people would get to see it on iTunes – I thought everyone who wanted to see it would get to see it – but it’s just been a sort of puzzle for me.
I believe you’re entering the world of animation for your next project.
WA: Yes, we’re doing an animated film; an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book The Fantastic Mr. Fox. We’ve just started it and George Clooney plays Mr. Fox. We’re making it here in London and it’s stop-motion adaptation. I wrote the script with Noah Baumbach who made The Squid and the Whale. It’ll take some time!
It’s a new area for you to explore; how are you finding it?
WA: It is and I like it, it’s fun. It’s fun to do an animated movie and I really enjoyed writing the script with Noah. The thing with animation is that you record the actors like a radio show and then the animators become actors in their own way because it’s their job to take this puppets and make them seem alive. They bring their own personalities to the way they move these puppets.
You’ve always seemed very open to experimentation on your films and it seems like some moments happened spontaneously on set. How does that work in animation?
WA: Well for this film we recorded all the voices on locations. We went out in a forest, we went in an attic, we went in a stable. We went underground for some things. There was a great spontaneity in the recordings because of that, I think.
And then the animators bring their own spontaneity to it as well, because when they do a take of a shot it really is like just one continuous activity for them. They launch into it and do it, and they’re not even quite sure how it’s going to turn out when they’re doing it. They’re sort-of sculpting their way through a scene and trying to make this inanimate object alive.
So while it seems more rigid, you actually get two passes at that spontaneity.
How involved are you in the actual animation process?
WA: My job is first to write the script, and then to record and edit the voices. And then I’m responsible for designing the environment and I have an art director I’m working with on that, costume designers and character designers. There are different people who are in charge of these departments. And then I work on planning the shots and the storyboards. There’s a guy named Marc Gustavson who’s the director of animation, and he’s the one who really will take this puppets and make them seem alive and he oversees a team of animators. So I have my own ideas about what to do there, but he brings a great deal of experience into that and he’s really the guy who’s in charge when the puppets start moving around.
From shooting on a moving train to a fully-fledged animation project; are you always looking for the next challenge as a director?
WA: I don’t really look for challenges as much as I like adventures. Other than that I’m just trying to find stories I want to tell. This one is about foxes and badgers and so it has to be animated in one way or another. India, I just wanted to work there. They bring their own challenges. The hardest project I’ve done was The Life Aquatic; working at sea is a huge challenge.