CANNES, France -- Without his coonskin cap and without her thick blue eye shadow, the two 13-year-old stars of 'Moonrise Kingdom' looked more like modern-day middle-schoolers than the off-kilter characters in Wes Anderson's latest valentine to puppy love that blooms on a particularly idiosyncratic island off the New England coast in 1965.
Jared Gilman plays Sam, the oddball orphan who resigns from the Khaki Scouts in order to run away with his true love. The object of his affection is Kara Hayward's Suzy, who is fond of peering at the world through a large pair of binoculars.
The young teens handled themselves with aplomb as they met with a group of journalists at Cannes' Carlton beach two days after the film's opening. Initially fielding questions by an approximate gathering of 20, followed by one-on-one (or, rather, two-on-one) interviews, Jared and Kara appeared to be having the time of their lives.
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Gadette: How are you two feeling, caught up in all this Cannes whirlwind?
Gilman: It's great, it's awesome.
Hayward: It's such a blessing and an honor.
Gadette: Given that 'Moonrise Kingdom' represents both of your acting debuts -- it being such a career high and all -- are you at all concerned about what a less-glamorous tomorrow might look like?
Hayward: I haven't given it much thought; I'm just going to try to wing it.
Gilman:Yup, me too, just wing it.
Gadette: Given the accelerated pace of today, do you think this kind of innocent love story in the film, enhanced by the exchange of letters, could have happened in 2012?
Hayward:I don't think it would be quite the same; I think it would be different because in, say, handwritten letters, they're much more personal than an email or a text, and that's generally what kids today use to communicate. Another thing, I don't believe this movie is just about young love. It's about all kinds of people wanting to be loved.
Gadette: You both have some unusual props in the film that seem to define your characters, such as Suzy's binoculars and Sam's coonskin cap. Can you tell me what these items meant to your characters?
Hayward: My lovely, trusty binoculars. I think that Suzy used the binoculars because she always imagined herself someplace other than where she was ... such as in her very unhappy household. Since she didn't want to be stuck inside, in a very sad house, she would put herself outside, thinking "If only I could be out there with the rest of the world."
Gadette: It's also a shield, don't you think?
Hayward: Yes, it was definitely a shield, she didn't want people to see her. She also might have wanted to look busy so she didn't have to deal with what was going on in her immediate surroundings.
Gadette: OK, Jared, your turn; tell me about the coonskin cap.
Gilman: I feel like it was used to make my character more invisible from everyone else. Maybe he thought it might make him a bit different, and that it was a good camouflage for hiding in the bushes, away from everyone.
Gadette: You'd said something earlier, that the hat was the key to your character, that it helped to transform you.
Gilman: Yes, that and the glasses.
Gadette: Did either of you have any intensely strong crushes or even love yet in your life that you drew upon for the experience?
Hayward: Well, speaking from the point of view of a 13-year old girl, I don't really think anything as intensely strong as the love Suzy and Sam had has been experienced quite yet in my life. But small crushes, yes.
Gadette: You two had to work with a cat and a dog ... could you talk a little bit about that?
Hayward: The kitten, his name is Gino, I actually got to keep him. He is now mine. He always seemed to calm down when the camera was on him, which was odd because he was very excited the rest of the time.
Gilman:Yeah, on camera, Gino always stopped whatever he was doing and posed. A bit of a diva. And Bella the dog always listened, was able to do a lot of tricks.
Gadette: Kara, you got to keep the cat. Jared, do you get to keep anything?
Gilman: Unfortunately, no. [Jared pauses, suddenly hit with a funny thought]: The spirit of my character!
Gadette: Jared, can you talk about working with Bruce [Willis], and Kara, can you speak to working with Bill [Murray] and Frances [McDormand]?
Gilman: Bruce was awesome. He was great.
Hayward: Bill and Fran were and are amazing people. They were very sweet and down-to-earth, and Fran, she likes to become close to everyone she works with. She's very intelligent and a complete inspiration, I think, to everyone who meets her. And Bill, he's hysterical. You're always laughing when Bill's around. He's a ray of sunshine.
Gadette: Did you have specific connection to the adolescents in the film? Did Wes tell you anything specifically about the psychology of your characters that helped you?
Hayward: I did have a couple of small connections with Suzy. She loves animals and reading. But other than that, we are very different people with our experiences, our stories and our personalities. Psychologically, Suzy is a very lonely, misunderstood young woman who runs away with Sam because she feels he understands her.
Gilman:Sam and I are very different. But I can relate to him in the sense that I feel like every preteen has to go through that phase of fitting in. And also, Wes had me watch Clint Eastwood's 'Escape from Alcatraz.' There were some similarities between Clint Eastwood's character and mine; they're very resourceful and capable, and I got to see that through the movie.
Gadette: What would be your advice to young people and/or young actors?
Gilman:I guess it's just to never quit, always keep trying no matter how many rejections you get. Don't be discouraged.
Hayward: I never knew that I wanted to be an actress until I began acting in the role of Suzy. That's when I truly found my passion for the art, and so I believe that one of the ways to find out what you really want to do is to try new things.
Gadette: What did you think when you saw the final product up on the big screen?
Hayward: It blew me away. It was so amazing to see the incredible result of all this work that everyone put in. The way it came to life, it was extraordinary. An amazing first experience; I can't imagine anything better.
Gilman: This movie is wonderful! I feel so honored to be associated with it.
Gadette: Anything you two would like to put out there for readers to know?
Hayward: Just what a beautiful story this is, and how I generally hope the audience enjoys it, and falls in love with the adventure like I did. I never wanted it to end.
Gilman: Hopefully everyone will enjoy it. Something personal about me: I'm a huge movie buff, and I like talking about movies, watching movies.
Gadette: Including Wes Anderson's previous films?
Gilman: Yes ... I'd seen 'Fantastic Mr. Fox' and loved it!