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HBO Films Director's Dialogue with Wes Anderson

By Jenny Spaulding

October 10, 2007

This sold out event took place and a newly opened facility called TheTimesCenter, which is part of The New York Times Building and headquarters. Before the talk began, I noticed director Peter Bogdanovich was in the audience. This amused me because I had also spotted Mr. Bogdanovich at a Film Society screening of Noah Baumbach's Kicking and Screaming two years ago. At the time I couldn't place their connection and thought it was unusual that a seasoned director like him would be hanging out with Noah (who was also there along with his cast.) Then I remembered that Mr. Bogdanovich had a role in Noah's second film, Mr. Jealousy. And further, now I remember that Polly Platt who is Bogdanovich's ex-wife was a producer on Bottle Rocket. Ahh, it all ties together eventually!

Anyhow, here are some highlights:

The talk began with Wes joking that there were no labels on the water bottles and that they weren't endorsing anything. The interviewer, Kent Jones, commented that Wes's films are often considered dark and that there is a point in The Darjeeling Limited where the tone shifts. Wes responded that his films usually do shift between comedy and drama, but that after a darker, dramatic moment they usually shift back to comedy soon after, which this movie doesn't.

As he's said in the past, Wes said he set out to make a movie about three brothers on a train in India and that he, Jason Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola went to India to write and act out the story. They made a very conscious choice to incorporate stories and events from their own lives. If anyone saw Jason on Jimmy Kimmel this week he joked about how when they were each living in different cities and would have five hour long conference calls, accruing huge phone bills.

Discussing Bottle Rocket

In discussing Bottle Rocket he said it started out as a short film simply because they didn't have the money for a feature. When they did make the feature length version he said their test screening scores were horrible. He would sit in the back of the theater watching the audience rustle around saying to himself, "No, don't go for the handbag," joking that if they left stuff behind maybe they were just going to the snack bar and not bailing completely. At Q&As, people were surprised at how much Bottle Rocket cost to make, since it was during the era of Robert Rodriguez pulling things off for seven grand. He told an amusing story about screening in an 800 seat theater where he had once been the projectionist and had lived at during one point (for reasons he decided against elaborating) where there were only 12 people in the audience for the Q&A.

When the subject of loss in his films came up, Wes said he didn't like to over explain things, but would try to leave "clues" about the characters. He used Owen Wilson's role in Bottle Rocket as an example saying there was a line in the movie about "his Mom and Craig" and that the audience was supposed to pick up that he probably had an unhappy childhood.

The interviewer said that when selection committee had first screened The Darjeeling Limited it had some different music. At one point there had been Beatles songs, which Wes didn't get the rights to so he used music by the Kinks instead. At first he was worried because he'd used music by them before and was concerned about repeating himself. Then he laughed that he was so strongly defending himself against something that he hadn't actually been accused of. Ultimately he knows there are connections and links in his work and he's ok with that.

Discussing Bill Murray

Regarding his working relationship with Bill Murray he said at one point he'd hoped to get him to play James Caan's role in Bottle Rocket, but that Murray's agents could never find him (something about traveling around in a Winnebago) to get him the script. I guess he tried again with Rushmore and Bill agreed to the role very quickly. Wes said he wasn't sure if since then Bill had read another one of the scripts for their projects together. As a result, he stages table reads knowing that then Bill would have to read/listen to the script. When it came to his role in The Darjeeling Limited he didn't think he could get Bill to do it because the role wasn't even a cameo, more of a "symbol", and that he'd have to go to India. Bill was intrigued because he'd never played a "symbol" and asked to see just his part in the move. This illicited laughs from the crowd (if you've seen the movie, Bill's role is verrrry small).

Wes was very charming and personable, with a deadpan, dry wit that is difficult for me to capture in writing. You can certainly see the connection between himself and the characters in his screenplays.

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