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All Aboard! Director Wes Anderson’s Q&A on His Moving ‘Darjeeling Limited’

[IMG:L]Let’s face it, there’s a reason why Wes Anderson stands out from the thousands of names currently listed in the DGA Directory. His is a name associated with a certain brand of anachronistic filmmaking that gave rise to a handful of indie directing superstars in the late ‘90s. From Rushmore to The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson’s signature film language has fully seeped into pop culture–with but five features to his name. And with his latest Darjeeling Limited, his boundary pushing legacy forges on, full steam ahead. 

Darjeeling Limited charts the unexplored terrain of fractured family relationships shared by three estranged brothers who’ve reunited on a quest, one year following their father’s death. Francis, Peter and Jack, played by Owen WilsonAdrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman respectively, share the invisible language of siblings to such a palpable degree that the disparate-looking trio slowly begin to resemble one another mid-trip. And with Owen Wilson, 20-year Anderson collaborator, eerily portraying the most outwardly wounded of the brothers, their hapless journey begins.

[IMG:R]The risk-taking filmmaker, whose popularity has been attributed to hype, proves again there’s more substance over style in his work, that humorously reflects the heart of broken family bonds sealed by blood and wince-inducing dialogue.

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Hollywood.com caught up with the alternative, linen-suited Texan over a plate of humus at the W Hotel.

Hollywood.com: You actually shot Darjeeling Limited on a moving train! Why add such a challenge to filming?
Wes Anderson:
No, it’s not the easiest way to go when getting permission and getting started. But, it means that what you shoot is what you see in the movie. It’s what’s on screen and is a way to ensure that it’s realistic that you’re on a real moving train–and maybe [it’s] the only way?

HW: Do you think shooting on-location gives more of a real flavor to the story than shooting on a set?
For most of my movies I try to do as much as I can on “real” sets. Life Aquatic was in a ship…it’s very difficult to shoot inside of the ship…it’s hard enough to shoot on a deck! Down below, it’s just too much of a nightmare. It’s hard to shoot on a moving train, but I like to film on real locations because there’s so much stuff that’s invested. There’s this sort of fable-like aspects to these stories I will work on. Like, The Royal Tenenbaums–that’s a very invented world but we shot it in a real house in Manhattan. I think that’s important.

[IMG:L]HW: This film presents such a rich, curious world. When did it first strike you: “I’m really far from home and in this alternate universe?”
One thing is, I didn’t want to go to India and try to build India. India is a place where there is so much to see, it’s densely populated, but there is so much going on. Anywhere you look you find something amazing. We wanted to fill the movie with the things that we discovered there. I’m not really answering the question am I? [Chuckles].

HW: More or less. It’s just that I’m referring to that very moment when it hit you: “I’m far away from what I know?”
Yeah, well, you know I remember a moment when we were scouting in the desert. We climbed to the top of a sand dune and we were kind of figuring out how we were going to stage this certain scene. I do remember having the feeling, this is a long way from Houston!

HW: Had you been to India before this project began?
I started going because I knew I wanted to make a movie there. Then I brought Jason [Schwartzman] and Roman [Coppola] there the second time I went. We did a lot of the writing there. Adrien [Brody] had been there also. Adrien, in fact, had some stuff that he had to get back from India anyway. He had a motorcycle and some furniture and stuff that was waiting for him there. So, he knew that area.

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[IMG:R]HW: From visiting temples to browsing markets, do you feel like your personality made it into the film–alongside key images you really wanted to see?
My oldest friend from fourth grade is from Madras, so I had grown up around his family and always heard about India. Then I read a book … that really intrigued me about India. Then I saw these documentaries that Louis Malle made at the end of ’60s and early ’70s. Then I started watching these movies by Satyajit Ray, who made lots and lots of movies. He’s not part of the Hindi movie industry, he’s from Calcutta. Then finally I saw this movie called The River by Jean Renoir–and when I saw that, it all sort of came together and I thought, “this is a place I’m going to go work.” Then I started thinking about the story with Jason and Roman. And when we went there we really sort of just stumbled onto most of the places while we were writing.

HW: Did you have any preconceived notions about India from watching movies before you arrived there–and have they changed since visiting?
I had lots of preconceived notions about India. Really, I would say less than my preconceived notions being changed, they got filled-out. I think I went knowing that I knew India literally from a two dimensional square images. Being there is a whole different set of experiences and also the experiences with the people there … there’s no way to have a simulation of that from watching movies. I really fell in love with India after going there. I was very interested in India before. I feel like after going there, I had a real reaction. As a lot of foreigners do–they just get hooked.

[IMG:L]HW: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman have such a great familial rapport. What would you say is the “it” that these three actors share that makes their bond so tangible?
 Jason and Owen have known each other quite a long time since Rushmore. But they didn’t know each other that well. They got to know each other much better during this movie. I’ve always been very close to Jason, and I’ve been close to OwenOwen and I have known each other for twenty years. Jason and I have known each other for ten years. Jason always looked up to Owen….but I saw Owen suddenly “get” Jason in a way he hadn’t before. Then Adrien arrived in a situation, [namely] that he liked the way everyone seemed to like each other. And, he wanted to be a part of that! And the other thing is Adrien, of all these guys, is the most experienced actor and he’s a real pro, and I think everybody was very impressed with his talent. And, we also had a lot of fun with him.

HW: Also, the brothers’ relationship seems so organic–what did each of them bring to the table for their roles? Their characters are so different, but blend together so beautifully.
WA: Well, you know, they fit together. They’re very different guys. Jason brought something quite reserved. His character is doing a lot of reacting.  Adrien’s character is kind of roiled up in a way that he’s quite expressive of. Owen’s character is just trying to manage everything and control everything. Their characters dictated a lot of that.

HW: Did you give them a lot of direction, or did their personalities speak to their character?
We made a script, they knew the script. And my job is to try and make an atmosphere where they can kind of pretend…and the choices they make on “how” to make the character tend to be theirs.

[IMG:R]HW: Your short film, Hotel Chevalier starring Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman, screened prior to the Darjeeling. Will it be screened in theaters before the feature? What were the workings behind that?
The short, we made about a year before the movie. At first I wrote this scene and then I kind of figured out that I wanted Jason in it. And I thought, “I think this is the same character” [from Darjeeling], because we were working on the script already for the movie. It was already kind of linked. Then as I was finishing writing the short we decided that they [the films] definitely go together. Then [reenacting doubt], we’ll see if Natalie Portman wants do it? She was the person we had in mind. Then she said yes. So I said, “Let’s just make this right now.” So I just paid for it and made it right then.

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HW: In between script sessions for Darjeeling?
We kept working on the script. It’s a weird thing to do. There wasn’t a game plan. Yes, they go together. Yes, to understand why Natalie Portman appears near the end of the movie, you really should’ve seen the short. It’s not really a very commercially sound concept. So, once it was all done then I was faced with [imitating himself], “We can show it [Hotel] in front of it [Darjeeling]?” But then, “I don’t know if I’d like for everyone to see it in front of it.” And really, I kind of feel like, “It’s nice if you see it [Hotel]. Then you see the movie the next day.”

HW: So, like your directing style, the Hotel Chevalier/Darjeeling Limited package is a multi-varied concept?
In the end we try to make it that one person can see it in one way, and another person can see it in another way. We’ll have the short [downloadable] on iTunes. And then maybe at a certain point we’ll add the short in with the movie in the theaters; and it’ll be [available] on the DVD. You can watch the movie and then the short, or the short and then the movie. It’ll just be in different ways. It wasn’t very preconceived. In the end I just felt [pauses], “I don’t want to force it. Let’s just see what it is. Let’s just see what it wants to be.”

–Contributing writer, Brigid Brown

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