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The Darjeeling Limited - Wes Anderson interview

Wes Anderson co-wrote and directs The Darjeeling Limited

Interview by Rob Carnevale

WES Anderson talks about co-writing and directing The Darjeeling Limited, shooting on location in India and reuniting with Bill Murray for another adventure…

How was the experience of shooting in India?
Wes Anderson: I had been told by a number of people that it would be chaotic and unpredictable, so I was warned. I thought that we ought to make it our policy that when we were confronted by some surprise or obstacle in the course of making the movie we would just incorporate that into the story. So, if the set somehow was different when the moment came to shoot it we’d just use what we got. And that happened quite consistently. For instance, we had a team where the body of this boy [in the movie] is meant to be washed. No one in the village we were working in wanted it to be shot in their house – they didn’t want anyone pretending to be dead in their houses. But they agreed to build us a little house where we could shoot that scene.

So after we talked about it a bit, the people that built the house showed it to me and I said: “Great, on Tuesday we’ll come and shoot this scene…” But then we arrived on the morning to shoot it and they’d changed it. They’d painted it and put flowers in it and it was all quite different. So, I asked what had happened and they replied: “We thought you would like this more.” But as a result of deciding to embrace these changes, there were surprises built into our process that made it exciting.

Which of the three brothers is closest to you?
Wes Anderson: Well, I kind of feel closest to Jason [Schwartzman]‘s character. I feel like I understand his experience in the short film [Hotel Chevalier] in particular and then I also relate to his idea that he’s going to document what’s happening in his life and make it into fiction – and that’s somehow going to get him to the next chapter in his life. I definitely identify with that because when we were writing we had really made a point to keep it [the story] as personal as we could; to try to always use our personal experiences in the story. We also had this idea that this movie was going to have a big affect on us – that was our goal, to have something heavy happen to us.

Did it?
Wes Anderson: It did. But then it usually does if you go away somewhere to make a movie. It’s usually a big, giant undertaking and it’s usually kind of intense. In this case, we were all learning about this place [India] as tourists – but as a place that I had fallen in love with and that I could see everyone else responding to. The people who hadn’t spent time there were being very overwhelmed and became quite taken with it. But then you’re telling this story together and everybody gets very close. You also know that there’s this time limit on it and that come the end of the shoot, everyone is going to break apart again, so it usually is quite a moving process. People tend to start getting depressed towards the end of movies.

Where did the inspiration for the Bill Murray character come from and how important was it that you got him again?
Wes Anderson: Well, we had thought of Bill Murray while we were writing it. The inspiration for that was… well, I’d actually written that scene and went to Jason [Schwartzman] and Roman [Coppola] with it. So, I had the Bill Murray scene and then Adrien Brody’s entrance, followed by Jason Schwartzman’s entrance and then Owen Wilson’s and the three brothers on this train. But that’s all I had. I didn’t know what was going to happen from there.

One place the character came from is a series of old American Express TV commercials with Karl Malden and we thought the Bill Murray character was working for an American Express type bureau. I don’t think people really use those anymore – but we were calling it the Travellers’ Exchange Bureau and he was the local representative, which probably meant he was in the CIA or something too [laughs]. So, that was kind of our theory about who this character was…

But then I think we thought of Bill Murray as someone who physically resembles Karl Malden and we thought he would be perfect. But then I thought it would make it so loaded. However, I then had this idea of a sequence at the end where all these people come back from the train and then I thought it would be amazing if we got Bill Murray. Everybody would arrive at their own interpretation of the character but he would bring something to it. So, I ran into him in New York and he was asking me what I was going to do next and I told him that we had this cameo part that he probably wouldn’t be able to do because he’d have to go to India and it wasn’t even a cameo, more a symbol… But he replied: “A symbol? [Pause] I could do that.”

People often call and say: “Can you help me to get Bill Murray in our movie.” But I’m always like, “well I don’t know how to do that!” I’ve sometimes tried and not been able to get him but then I’ll suddenly be very surprised by the thing that he will suddenly decide to do. In this case, he ended up coming to India twice for a total of maybe two minutes of screen-time. He had to come back to do the later shot because we had to build the set. But what ended up happening as a result of his involvement is that he took this thing that was a symbol and made it into a person. He says one line, I think, but I do feel he brings him to life.

Do you think he’s been something of a good luck charm for you?
Wes Anderson: Yeah, he is a good luck charm and the other thing is that like Angelica Huston, he’s someone that I love to have on the set. The way I know them both is on the basis of being a fan of them and their movies. So, any chance to have them involved, I’m going to jump at.

Are you ever concerned that the audience won’t be able to relate to your films?
Wes Anderson: Some people have that experience with my films. But for me that’s never been my goal. I don’t want to hold back. If I have ideas, I want to put them in the movie. It’s not a minimalist approach at all but I feel like it’s for the audience. It’s about seeing how much texture we can give it and seeing how many things are there for people to latch on to… I just want to do it the way I want and I feel like it won’t be helpful for me if I start worrying about that. I just have to follow my instincts. Everyone is going to respond differently to it and everybody’s right – that’s their point of view. That’s how the story intersects with their lives.

b>Read our review of The Darjeeling Limited

b>Read our interview with Randall Poster (music supervisor and genuinely cool guy)