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Roman Coppola Talks Collaborating With Wes Anderson On 'Moonrise Kingdom' & How The Process Differed From Working On 'The Darjeeling Limited'

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by Jeff Otto
June 6, 2012 12:56 PM
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Moonrise Kingdom Roman Coppola
Roman Coppola and Wes Anderson are developing into quite the team. Coppola first served as a second unit director on Anderson’s 2004 film, “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.” In Anderson’s next film, “The Darjeeling Limited,” Coppola produced, co-wrote and returned to second unit duties. Along the way, Anderson discussed the idea of a film about a boy on an island who gets in a canoe and runs away. That seedling began to take shape after 'Darjeeling', starting off from a series of conversations between Coppola and Anderson.

Set in 1965 on a small island off the coast of New England, “Moonrise Kingdom” is about a precocious, highly intelligent orphan named Sam (Jared Gilman) who falls in love with a young lady named Suzy (Kara Hayward). The two make a pact to run away and live together in the great outdoors. The disappearance of the two youngsters sends the islanders into a tizzy to find them. The colorful character list includes the leader of Sam’s Khaki Scout Troup, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton); the local Sheriff (Bruce Willis); and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). The supporting cast includes Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel. Like all of Wes Anderson’s films, giving a synopsis doesn’t really do the film justice. His quirky, highly visual style is one always better experienced than described.

Coppola spoke with The Playlist last week to explain how the project came together and what his process with Anderson is like. Here are some highlights from our interview.

Moonrise Kingdom, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward
On being the "rescuer" of “Moonrise Kingdom”
Wes Anderson has referred to Roman Coppola as the “rescuer” of “Moonrise Kingdom” when discussing the co-writer’s involvement in the project. “Well that’s nice,” Coppola responds when asked about the quote. We asked Coppola to further elaborate on how he came to be involved.

“Wes had the kernel of this idea prior to ‘Darjeeling Limited’ as I remember. After that film was finished, he began to work on it in earnest and I would check in with him, ‘Oh, how’s that island project going?’ He was starting to lay it out, but when he got to about ten pages of script, he was kind of stuck," Coppola explained. "I was a little disappointed because I was like, ‘What’s next? What happens after that?’ So it started out really more as a friend asking him questions like, ‘You’ve got this kid in a canoe, he ran away. What do his parents think?’ And Wes says, ‘I don’t think he has parents.’ And then there were questions like, ‘Is he an orphan? Where did he live prior to this?’ And you start to go through these questions and it just kind of got unlocked. In a couple of weeks, it just clicked and we started riffing. Sometimes you just get on a roll and you have that gestation of all that raw material and you can kind of fly. We just had a good rapport to define what it was going to be.”

Comparing the process to “Darjeeling Limited”
Coppola says the writing process with Anderson on “Moonrise Kingdom” was quite different from that of “The Darjeeling Limited.” “On ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, I only visited the set briefly because I was excited to see it come to life,” Coppola told us. “I didn’t participate in the actual production of it. Although Wes would include me by sending me images and it was cool to see it unfold. With ‘Darjeeling’ Jason [Schwartzman] and Wes and I kind of assumed were brothers. I was the middle brother, Peter, Wes was the eldest and Jason was Jason’s character. We knew we wanted to make a movie about three brothers trying to connect going on this experience together and kind of pushing things to try to feel something. So we would get together and go have dinner, walk around. We went to India together and we made a pact that any time we see a church we’re just going to go in. We just kind of assumed our characters and then we had all this material that we wove into the story. It was different in that way that we kind of grew it all together through acting it out.”

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