CANNES, France -- Chosen as the opening film at Cannes 2012, as well as one of the 22 films selected for the main competition, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom has made quite a splash, both in its May 16 debut at the festival, as well as in its May 25 limited opening in the U.S. (It is scheduled for a wider release in June.)
Set in 1965, the story recounts the tale of two quirky 12-year-olds who find a rare simpatico and, on an island off the coast of New England, they run off together ... much to the dismay of their assorted parents, guardians, authorities and the local Boy Scout troop.
Jason Schwartzman plays Cousin Ben, the one Boy Scout captain with a sentimental heart and many connections who just might be able to help the duo in their quest to get off the island.
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Two days after the film's debut, a series of interviews took place at the Carlton Cannes' exclusive beach locale directly across the street from the main hotel. After a small, invitation-only press conference was held with Anderson, co-writer Roman Coppola, and actors Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Bob Balaban and the two young leads (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), a quasi version of celebrity musical chairs occurred, with groups of exclusive and semi-exclusive interviews happening simultaneously.
Waiting to be summoned for my one-on-one interview with Schwartzman, I occupied one in a row of chairs placed against a wall ... looking for all the world like the sole neglected girl at the dance.
After the publicist waved me over and introduced me to Schwartzman, I said, "I was feeling like a wallflower, hoping you were going to ask me to dance."
Schwartzman countered, "And I absolutely was going to ask you to dance."
At that moment, I knew the interview was going to go well:
Gadette: Just like your character of Cousin Ben in Moonrise Kingdom, I believe you, too, had once been a Boy Scout. Is there a particular merit badge that you earned that gave you great joy, or, conversely, something that gave you great shame?
Schwartzman: Great shame. I was badge-less because, well, I was the equivalent of a white belt in karate. The reason is that I was a little Boy Scout, very excited as a young boy, wanting to learn to tie knots, or know which berry not to eat ... but at a certain point pretty early on in my time in the Scouts, you have to go camping in the woods overnight. And everyone was telling ghost stories before bed ... I had an active imagination, something frightened me in one of the stories. I tried to go to sleep that night, but there I was in the woods, hearing every twig that broke; it was totally frightening. I figured if this is just the beginning, and it's affecting me that much, I don't think I'm cut out for the Scouts. And I resigned.
Gadette: You resigned? Just like Jared Gilman's character in the film?
Schwartzman: I did, I resigned. I handed in my badge. And I was badge-less. It's so embarrassing ... but it's true.
Gadette: What is it about the relationship you have with Wes Anderson that allows for the fact that you've made five movies together?
Schwartzman: I don't know what it is. I just feel lucky that I'm working with someone whose movies I would love even if I wasn't in them. To me, I love super broad comedies, big action movies, but the kind of thing that ultimately gets me laughing the hardest is in more of a style of a Wes Anderson or Jonathan Ames.
Gadette: Speaking of Jonathan Ames, I see that you're wearing a raincoat that seems lifted from your character in Bored to Death.
Schwartzman: No, I had this pre-Bored to Death. Partially the reason that I'm wearing a raincoat indoors is that if I don't, my light gray suit and white shirt will be ruined ... personally, I'm a disaster. Trust me, it's bad.
Gadette: Speaking of 'Bored to Death,'I loved that show, and was so disappointed when it abruptly ended. And no wrap-up!
Schwartzman: Yeah, I know, I wonder how it's supposed to work with a show if you don't know if it's going to come back or not -- are you supposed to wrap up each season? Are you supposed to hope for the best or the worst? I say the best, we hope for the best!
But here's the truth, working with HBO was everything you could dream it could be. I'm so happy that we got the show in the first place. It's so hard to get on the air, and then to get to make little half-hour movies for three seasons. And when it was over, every single person I knew at HBO called me. I'm very happy to say that in my life, particularly since it's so hard to find people you really love ...
Gadette: Like Mr. Anderson?
Schwartzman:Yes, there's the even rarer thing, the golden ticket, is when you love someone and you're able to collaborate with them. And I've had it with both Wes and Jonathan (I asked Jonathan if he'd become ordained and marry my wife and I ... and he did). To me, while Wes and Jonathan are extremely different creatively, at the same time there's something similar about them. I like their dose of absurdity, comedy, sincerity ... the ratio, though different, creates I balance that I like very much.
Gadette: But even with all your good luck, sometimes things don't go off as well as you'd like. I'd read in a previous interview that when you were 17, you were a huge fan of some big-name rock band, and you were beyond excited to land a conversation with the front man. But it went so horribly, you found that you were unable to ever listen to their music again. Will you tell me who it was?
Schwartzman: I will never tell. It wasn't that it went badly -- like the man was mean -- but it was that we just couldn't quite communicate. But the great ending to the story is that I did see the man two or three years ago at a rock festival, and he said, "Hey, it was so great meeting you back then, I had such a nice time." And I thought to myself, "Thank you. Now I can listen to your music again."
Gadette: I've heard you use music metaphors when you talk about Wes Anderson's filmmaking technique.
Schwartzman: Wes spends a lot of time constructing these movies, and they're very intricate, delicate and balanced. Using the metaphor, he's a composer and a conductor of a very detailed piece of music with a lot of counterpoint. With this type of music, it's very important to help the composer and conductor keep the piece of music in balance and help support that balance, Now, that also might be because my first time ever acting was with Wes. So it's a style that is the more comfortable style for me.
Gadette: Speaking of music, since you're a musician as well, even with your busy schedule are you finding a way to keep those music chops alive?
Schwartzman: Music for me is not like a secondary love. When I say I'm an actor, and I make music, people immediately want to give things a ranking. To me, one is "1," and one is "A" -- they're two separate systems. I can do music anywhere, anytime, because these days, computers are so portable, and I have a little keyboard. For me, it's just calming. Like, for example, after a day of press like this, one person will do yoga for two hours; one person will walk on the beach; another will watch TV ... and I sit down and play with music. It doesn't have to be good ... I just like doing music, it feels like the best way to end my day. It's a relief to my day.
Gadette: You're talking about artistic joy, aren't you? Why so many people are initially attracted to the creative arts?
Schwartzman: I developed this style because I used to be in a band that was on a major label, and we were recording, it was much more commercial. It took some time to try to get to a place where I could make music in a way that felt like it was when I was 12 or 13 years old. I found out that, to me, making music at this particular time of the day feels good, like a reward. I do it every day, because I do feel like it is a muscle and it can die very quickly. I remember I went a couple of months without writing any music and when I went back, I was so out of it. It's not an obsession, in that I have to do it. I just love to do it.
Unfortunately, I'm being signaled that it's time to say goodbye.
Schwartzman: (referring to my sweater): I like that you said that you were a wallflower, and here you are, wearing flowers.
It's always good to work in a theme, at least when you can ...