From India, with quirk

There are few directors who can polarize movie-goers and critics like Wes Anderson, whose films, from Rushmore to The Royal Tenenbaums to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, play out like modern French New Wave fairy tales and star a rotating cast of friends such as Owen and Luke Wilson, Anjelica Huston, and Anderson’s muse, Bill Murray. If you hate Anderson, you really hate him. If you love his work, you’d probably deck the guy who really hates him.

His latest, The Darjeeling Limited, will probably succeed in ostracizing even more of the movie-going audience, but that hasn’t stopped him from steering deeper into the type of personal filmmaking his hero Francois Truffaut championed at the end of the ’50s. This time around, he’s co-written his colorfully eccentric work — about three estranged brothers’ spiritual quest to India to fix their miserable lives — with actor Jason Schwartzman, who starred in Rushmore, and good fried Roman Coppola (yes, the son of Francis; that would make him Schwartzman’s cousin). The Current sat down to chat about the movie with Anderson and Schwartzman, as well as Adrien Brody, who, along with Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, plays a broken brother.

Jason, did you hurt yourself, or is that a pimp walk?

Jason Schwartzman: It is a pimp walk. No, I broke a couple of toes a few weeks ago playing soccer with no shoes on.

Usually when three different screenwriters get credit on a movie, it wasn’t actually a collaboration — but this was. Could you talk about the process, since you’re new to it?

JS: `Wes, Roman, and I` would go to Paris every five weeks and we would sit in a room all day and just write. To me, it seemed less three guys imagining it and telling characters what to do; it seemed more like the three of us just asking questions. That’s how advancements in the script seemed to be made. It was always like `the characters` were on a trip and we had to know why. Why are they on a train? Why are they getting kicked off it? The answers came from personal experiences and stories. Then we’d go home to LA and do these five-hour conference calls every day. We’d just sit on the phone and ideas wouldn’t be happening, but we’d still sit on the phone for five hours. We’d just sit there in silence. It was hard for me to think about the movie because all I could think about was how big this phone bill was going to be. `Laughs` Why am I spending money to not have an idea with these people? It was just so expensive, this writer’s block. Can’t we just hang up the phone, come up with an idea, and then call each other? So I think the secret to writing a screenplay like this is choosing a good long-distance plan.

Wes, your stories have been called eccentric, which, let’s face it, is a bit of an understatement. How do you think Darjeeling fits in with your work?

Wes Anderson: Honestly, I’m not making movies where I think, “Let me see how weird this can be.” With this movie, our credo was, how personal can we make it? How much of our own experience can we get into it? Because maybe the end result will be good for us. Instead of being people trying to make a movie, maybe we’ll have an experience like the character Jason plays in it, then move on to the next chapter in his life — and we wanted something like that to happen to us.

But your choices in cinematic material do rest firmly in the independent world despite your willingness to direct commercials and work with the so-called mainstream establishment.

WA: I think mainstream is a good place to be. Mainstream is where the audience is. But independent is good, too. Independent is good if you have something you want to say. I’m positive on both of those fronts.

Adrien, making this movie must have been a blast. Jason and Owen are both hilarious. What was the process like?

Adrien Brody: We had a lot of fun. It was a lot of hard work, but I look at this and it didn’t feel like work because everyone was really laid-back, and we all have similar sensibilities, and we all like the same things, and we’re interested in the work. Wes creates a real family environment and it was fun to be a part of it. We all lived together; we moved into a large house and hung out everyday. It was a bonding process, just us living together.

On a personal note, you don’t exactly saturate the screen with your presence. If anything, it seems like you avoid taking more work.

AB: I wish I could say there’s an infinite amount of great projects and they’re all at my disposal. That is not the case, and I don’t think that’s the case for anyone. I try to remain selective. I try to work often, but not so often I don’t enjoy my work or the process.

Wes, there are few directors who can garner mixed reviews like you, but also revel in a diehard fanbase.

WA: Bottle Rocket, almost nobody went to see it. Rushmore got quite mixed reviews. It got good reviews, but at the time a lot of those good reviews weren’t that great. Tenenbaums got very mixed reviews, but many, many more people went to see it. I just feel like these movies need time.

Next up for you is The Fantastic Mr. Fox, an adaptation of the Roald Dahl story. Do you think you’ll be able to bring your trademark visual style to a stop-motion animated movie?

WA: I never think about my own style in the first place. I just do it from my own perspective. So I have a hunch it will have a lot of that, but there will be a lot of things to discover in this process since I’ve never worked in animation before.

On a final note, Jason, what was it like to shoot that nude scene with Natalie Portman?

JS: `Laughs` I wasn’t nude, so I was off the hook on that one. •

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