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"There's Freedom In Bondage": 12 Things Learned At Cannes About 'Moonrise Kingdom' & Wes Anderson's Hyper-Controlled Style

The Playlist By Edward Davis | The Playlist May 24, 2012 at 3:21PM

Having received some of his best reviews in years, Wes Anderson's "Moonrise Kingdom" made a grand debut opening the Cannes Film Festival in style last week. By all accounts (including one very positive review of our own), Anderson's latest picture and first live-action film in five years, is a pleasant, charming and enchanting return to form that's both nostalgic for those early pre-teen years and emotional in its exploration of adolescent angst and early love. Starring newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward with an excellent supporting cast featuring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman, Playlist contributor Aaron Hillis got a chance to sit down with some of the cast at the press conference in Cannes.
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Moonrise Kingdom, Cannes
Aaron Hillis

5. "There's freedom in Bondage." Edward Norton discusses the liberty in Anderson's meticulously planned films by referencing the rather popular bestselling erotic fiction novel "Fifty Shades Of Grey."
While some argue that Anderson's controlled style can be, well, controlling and stifling, Norton felt a director knowing absolutely what he wants is helpful. "Not to reference 'Fifty Shades of Grey' but sometimes 'there's freedom in bondage,' " he said with a laugh. "What might look like a very managed environment is actually providing an actor a lot of rich fodder to interact with and when certain things are pre-determined then other things that are improvisational can bloom out of it."

Norton described a scene where Anderson had crafted a long tracking shot in a scout camp, but when they came across some fireworks, both Norton and Anderson noted that the actor's cigarette smoking wouldn't jibe with those kinds of strict safety concerns that a scout master would have. "So we this reason to have the conversation with the cigarette held out [far away from the fireworks]," he explained. "Those are the kinds of things that emerge because of the fun constriction of the way that the shot is set up. But on a more fundamental level. I've never associated Wes' characters with the comedic qualities. The humor in Wes' films has always derived out of characters that are deadly serious. None of Wes' characters are anything less then urgently sincere about what they’re doing and their intentions and that's the easiest thing in the world to play. Wes draws a really well defined path. In many ways the greatest gift to an actor to make it clear what this character's after in life."

Moonrise Kingdom, Ed Norton

6. Speaking for the entire cast, Bob Balaban said the film was much more emotional than anyone expected it and described Anderson's approach as the "kindly dictator."
While it may read as a backhanded compliment, Balaban also defended Wes' style, orchestration and carefully designed way of working. "Wes is the perfect kindly dictator," he said. "There's a tremendous amount of relief to an actor to come into a situation and know what the parameters are."

The actor also explained how the emotional texture of "Moonrise Kingdom" took him and the cast by surprise when they first saw the picture. "It's very formal and very planned in many ways and I think that's the great power of the movie," he said. "Within formality there's this tremendous emotional life sort of coursing through it. I was very unaware of it at the time. The structure being so firm and organized has somehow mysteriously allowed this powerful emotion -- something that you would think could have squeezed the life out of something, allowed it to be powerful. There was a huge amount of freedom and spirit [in the film] that was nurtured by something you might have thought would destroy it."

7. Trust the filmmakers of "Moonrise Kingdom": Scoutmasters were smoking in front of their troops in the 1960s.
"Oh, but they were," Norton said when one journalist thought this part of the film felt off. "Like if you Google from that time period, I'd say 50% of the photos I found of scoutmasters, they were hanging around the campfire with a cigarette in hand. I found some PR films about scouting in America from the late '50s and '60s and it's astonishing how omnipresent the cigarettes are in those. But it just wasn't a big deal at the time."

8. Anderson and Norton created an interesting opposite approach to his character. They created a front story instead of a back story.
"We found this picture of a scoutmaster with sunglasses. This guy was smoking a cigarette, he had sunglasses, he was a cool scout master," Anderson said. "But I remember that when we shared this picture Edward and I both had this thought that his character [was eventually] going to be in Vietnam in the next two or three years. It kind of triggered that for us. Whatever the opposite of a back story is."

This article is related to: Moonrise Kingdom, Edward Norton, Wes Anderson, Bob Balaban, Roman Polanski, Cannes Film Festival


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