Hey, everyone. Capone in Chicago here. Wes Anderson is one of those directors whose films have been analyzed and admired almost from the first second he come on the scene with BOTTLE ROCKET some 11 years ago. And then of course, we have him to thank for introducing us to the sublime talents of Jason Schwartzman in Anderson's second feature RUSHMORE. Both went on to see their works gather more and more acclaim. Anderson with THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS and THE LIFE AQUATIC, and Schwartzman with roles in such films as SHOPGIRL, MARIE ANTOINETTE, and I HEART HUCKABEES. After a wildly inventive turn together in Anderson's American Express commercial and the short film HOTEL CHAVALIER, which acts as prologue to their current film, the two embarked on a spiritual journey across India with Jason's cousin Roman Coppola, and the three came up with a wildly entertaining script for THE DARJEELING LIMITED, a colorful, bittersweet piece about family, death, sex, and seeking out the most colorful and unusual experiences imaginable. In other words, it's another great work from Wes Anderson. Earlier this week, I got to spend some time with Anderson and Schwartzman, first in a more traditional interview setting at Chicago's legendary Drake Hotel, and then later that night when I moderated a Q&A with the pair after a screening of both the short and DARJEELING. Shockingly enough, I had the foresight to bring a recorder to the Q&A to bring you some of that discussion as well. I hope I'm able to convey just how like-minded these two guys are, and they seem to be in a constant state of discovering new things about each other even as they are discussing adventures they had while make this and other works. Sometimes it feels like a routine they've worked out in advance (or just from answering some of the same questions over and over again during this press tour), which makes things very funny as well as informative. But most times it feels more like a real conversation than just about any interview I've ever done, to the point where I sometimes had to remind myself to reel things back in and actually ask a question or two. I loved the film they made, and talking to them was pure icing. Enjoy…
Capone: I should just mention off the bat that my wife was born and raised in Houston [as was Wes], and she went to high school with your brother Eric [who has appeared in some of Wes' films]. They were the same year, so they knew each other. And my wife's sister went to the female companion school of St. John's [where RUSHMORE was shot]. There's that scene in RUSHMORE where someone is reading off a list of names, and my wife was saying to me "I know some of those names." I think I showed her that film for the first time.
Wes Anderson: Really? It's funny because there are names in it that are people I don't even know anymore, elementary school names, people from my older brother's class. Or the friends of Jason's, although some of those got faded out.
Jason Schwartzman: But you see my mouth saying them.
WA: You do see your mouth saying it.
JS: A couple of my friends from high school are in the movie.
WA: It's the kite-flying society. He's listing possible candidates for the kite-flying society. That's funny.
C: I've been really encouraging the people that we were able to invite to the DARJEELING screening tonight to watch the HOTEL CHEVALIER short first.
WA: Is the short going to play tonight?
C: I don't know, but that would be fantastic because the audience wouldn't know that going in. [The short did play beforehand.]
WA: Although some people have seen it so they'd go, "Ach, I better go get some popcorn. I've already seen it."
C: Somehow I doubt it. But my point was going to be that you've actually done quite a bit of shorter film work over the years, everything from the commercials that you've done to the original BOTTLE ROCKET short to the Max Fisher Players that you did for MTV Movie Awards, which are some of my favorites.
WA: Oh yeah. I forgot about that. We did those in Ft. Worth.
JS: Wasn't it outside Dallas or something?
WA: Not Ft. Worth. I want to say Plano, Texas. It was outside Dallas, because I think Owen and I were writing in Dallas.
JS: Is that what was happening?
C: I think your American Express commercial is wonderful.
WA: Thanks. [to Schwartzman] What have we been telling people? We've been telling people this is our first time working together since RUSHMORE, but we did those Max Fisher shorts and we did the American Express commercial.
JS: Can I say one thing though? We've done stuff in between but it wasn't directly in the middle; it was more like right toward the end. Not the end, but more recently, the end of our timeline.
C: What do you do differently when approaching a short. With the exception of HOTEL CHEVALIER, you seem to focus on getting to the laughs right away.
WA: Yeah. I think for each one it's a whole different thing. For the American Express commercial, I've done other commercials, but for most commercials you're just a hired guy doing your thing. You might think I did it from the way it looks or something, but that's still not something I wrote or invented. It has nothing to do with my own work, except for certain visual things I might do a certain way. Whereas the American Express commercial, that is something I did, I wrote, I cast my friends in it. They let me do what I wanted. But I had these parameters: it was two minutes long, and it's an American Express commercial. And we did a DAY FOR NIGHT sort of thing, so that's what we did. And it's fun to see, there's a movie at the beginning of that Jason and Roman [Coppola] are supposed to be acting in, they're pretending to be acting in a movie. And the movie they are acting in, I'd relate those to the Max Fisher plays, it's a parody of something. That's easy to do.
C: And Jason, you're in period costume in that. Was that before MARIE ANTOINETTE?
JS: I sure am. I think that was after MARIE ANTOINETTE, but oddly enough it was shot in the same location.
WA: You guys shot there?
WA: A local filmmaking hub.
C: I know that HOTEL CHEVALIER short was shot about a year before DARJEELING. Was there even an attempt or thought to make it part of the same film?
WA: They sort of are part of the same film. They're linked. But the first thing that I'd thought of was the beginning of the feature. And that's a real beginning-of-a-movie scene, it's meant to be the beginning. So then I felt it really shouldn't have a short in front of it. You should be jumping in with Bill Murray [running after and ultimately missing a train] and then you're off. At the same time we have this short that does go with the film and as we continued to write the movie even after we'd shot the short, we were linking them more and more, and they were becoming more and more dependent on each other. And so it was a puzzle in the end, how do I present these two things that I've made because they were conceived so without any real commercial thought about how they were meant to be shown. Then I decided that maybe the way to do that is to show the short on the internet. We can just give the short away for free, and anybody who wants to see it can see it. But in the end, not everybody is great with the internet, you know? So some people say, "I tried to get it, but I couldn't."
C: Even with free stuff, they can't get it.
WA: Even with free stuff. So I'm not sure if that was the right decision.
C: What was interesting at the press screening I went to was that seeing them back to back like that, maybe unintentionally, made Jason's character the focus of at least the beginning of DARJEELING LIMITED. You're the star of the film for a while, at least in the audience's minds because you're the only one we know something about going into the main story. You're our entry point into this world.
JS: I definitely acted it that way [laughs].
WA: That's right. And his guy is sort of the documentarian of the group. He's the one that adapting it. There's something about that probably makes it something of his point of view. For me the short is like a short story that you read, and then the movie you read another time. So that's why it's been a puzzle for me how they were really meant to be presented. There's wasn't really a plan for the release of this when we started. Instead, we made them both and then had to figure it out. What I will say is, different people will see them in different way and different people will interpret them in different ways, and it'll have a different effect on people because it's such an odd things to watch.
C: You mentioned Bill Murray cameo at the beginning of the film. There's been some discussion that maybe he is somehow symbolic of their father somehow. I don't think I made that jump until the film was over and I went back to reflect on the movie as a whole. I though about that scene, he sort of misses that connection where his kids are going with their lives and missing out on this part of their life. What was Murray in that scene? Is he a symbol?
WA: I would say he is a symbol. I'd rather just let it be, whatever somebody brings to it from their point of view and how they interpret it, that's what we want, because I think it's more interesting if it's a mystery. If it gives you an experience that you can then interpret, it's our job to give you that experience. But I did say to Bill Murray, "Well, we have this kind of cameo, but I don't know if you'll want to do it because it's in India and it's this little bitty part, and it's not even really a cameo. It's more like a symbol." And he said, "Oh, I can do a symbol." [laughs] And that was how we got him but telling him he was a symbol.
C: What is it about India? People tend to have these spiritual, life-altering pilgrimages there. Having done it twice together now [once as they were writing and once while filming], why India?
JS: That's a good question.
WA: [To Jason] I'll shove off and you…
JS: You shove off and I'll coxswain it.
WA: What does a coxswain do?
JS: He calls out to the rowers, "Go, go, go." Isn't that right?
C: On a crew.
JS: Yeah. So you shove off.
WA: I'll start out on the beach and I'll run, and you're already sitting on the boat.
JS: I'm on the boat with my megaphone waiting on the dirty lake [laughs].
WA: It's a tricky thing. I find that a lot of people say…Roman told me he saw this thing online where these two elderly people review the movie, an old man and an old woman, they reviewed THE DARJEELING LIMITED. And the old woman didn't like it at all, and the old man really did like it.
JS: Are they a couple?
WA: They are a couple. Roman said they are both very smart, and he really liked them. And the old man said that he liked these brothers, that the movie is from their point of view traveling through India. And she doesn't like them, but she also felt that the film exploited people in India. And I always feel like, that makes me unhappy to hear anybody say that because we went to India because I was fascinated with this country. We fell in love with it. We are tourists there; that's all we can ever be there. But we're tourists who are very interested in this culture and learning about it. It's a place where people who go there and like it tend to love it, and the people who love it tend to want to go back. There is more religion, more variety of religion, more practice of religion, more rituals there than any place else I've ever experienced. I think that's why people go on pilgrimages there because it's a place where, if you're open to it and interested it will genuinely have quite and impact on you just because of the intensity of the place. I've always found that I had very emotional experiences there, but then you get sensitive and wonder if that sounds kind of naive. I don't know. I just hate to sound self-protective and defensive; I'd rather just express our real feelings about it.
JS: My real feeling of India is that while I was there, the thing I kept saying was, "Oh my god, I wish my mom could see this; I wish my brothers could see this." How am I ever going to explain this? The things I would see continually on a daily basis, I was overwhelmed by it. They were so different than anything, and you want to share them. That was my feeling about it, wanting to share this place with people and smiling a lot. I can't say I don't know why it's all these things to other people, but I went there and if you got there with an open heart and open mind, I feel so much happier having been. I don't know how else to describe it.
C: Not only did you experience it, but you've also captured the journey on film so you can share it with others.
WA: It's our chance to share it, yeah.
C: The film definitely takes a tonal change with the death of the little boy and his funeral, which is then juxtaposed with the events around the brothers' father's funeral. The wonderful performance by Irfan Khan as the boy's father really brings that sequence its power. He's put in three tremendous performances this year [he's also in THE NAMESAKE and A MIGHTY HEART]. It's been great rediscovering him after so many years of not seeing him in a film that made it stateside. Did you seeking him out for this role?
WA: Yes, but initially I thought we would cast a non-actor in the part because everybody else in that village is a non-actor. They were just people we met that lived there. But as we started the process of casting, I realized…
JS: It's a lot to ask of someone who's not an actor.
WA: It is. Then I thought, I'd wanted to work with Irfan, and I thought, here's a chance to work with him, and we're going to get something completely different than what a non-actor would do. Non-actors bring their own interesting thing, but Irfan brings what's needed. He's a powerhouse. It was an opportunity to work with him and to just be able to sit back and say, "Okay, we know this is going to work."
JS: It was amazing when he walked on set to see everybody…he's famous.
WA: Well, he's the only "star" in the movie, in that sense. They have their own movie industry.
C: It just occurred to me that I've spoken to all three of the directors who worked with him in these three films, including you.
WA: Is that Mira Nair and [Michael] Winterbottom?
C: Yes, and they all praise him to the stars.
JS: He's great. He's a good guy too, a really cool dude.
WA: It's funny because he showed up on the set, and he didn't have much time because he works a lot. And he showed up and he was a star on the set, and I was uneasy at first. Then after the first day of work, that night, he watched THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS; he didn't know any of my work before that, but he liked that one. And the next day, he talked to me about that and we talked about that. And after that, I felt like I could…the first day I felt like I was this novice working with a star, and I felt intimidated. Not that he was making me feel intimidated, but he definitely made me not feel intimidated the second day. And part of that was people's reaction to him made me feel that way.
JS: I remember that he wanted to wear earrings in this one scene, and I remember walking out and I saw him standing there and he's assembled like 10 villagers all around him. And he wanted to wear the Ragistani earrings, and like Wes said, he was the only real actor among the non-actors. So he had all of these people around him, and he was standing there looking at each one. [Jason demonstrates by putting on a very serious face, and pretending to looking around the room as if looking at 10 different sets of ears; eventually he points to my ears and pretends to remove earrings and put them on himself.] And I remember, the guy took out his earrings, and Irfan put them in, both earrings right off the guy's ear and went and did the scene. And I was like, "Holy shit."
[A publicist sticks her head in the door to give up the wrap-up notice.]
C: We'll cover some more of my questions tonight, but let me ask you two about things you have coming up. Wes, you have the animated THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX [based on the Roald Dahl book].
WA: It's taken us a long time to get this going, but we finally got it going. Noah Baumbach and I adapted it. George Clooney is going to play Mr. Fox. We've just started working on it in England, and it's going. We have a guy named Mark Gustafson directing the animation. Henry [THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS] Selick was going to do it originally but over time that didn't work out because Henry has his own thing he's directing [CORALINE, based on Neil Gaiman's novel].
C: Is the film going to look more like what Henry has done in the past?
WA: I think the closest thing to compare it to is that Eastern European stuff, because the animals are going to have fur, and the sets are meant to look kind of like real life. So it's more in the vein.
C: More three-dimensional?
WA: Yes, stop motion. That style.
C: When is that scheduled to be released?
C: Jason, I know you have a cameo in WALK HARD, and you play one of the Beatles. Walk me through who are playing the four Beatles in your scene.
JS: Justin Long is George Harrison, Paul Rudd is John Lennon, and Jack Black is Paul McCartney.
C: And obviously you as Ringo Starr. Was that just one day on set of goofiness?
JS: Yeah, one day of goofiness. Jack is really funny. Some guys are just, everything they do is funny. I remember they would do things like, they were getting into doing the accents, and they started to really stretch oooout wooords. And [producer] Judd Apatow kept saying, "Everytime you can, say you're the Beatles." "We are here, and we are the Beatles." And we'd all address each other, "Very good, Ringo Starr." Everyone was saying their names all the time.
WA: Was Judd saying that because he wanted to be sure it would be editing in, so a line would find it's way in?
JS: Yeah, and the other thing that was really funny--I don't know if this is in the movie--Jack Black kept saying, "We are the Bee-aay-tulls." He would stretch out every letter in the word. He was going like crazy. But I guess when you shoot on digital, you can do stuff like that, keep going.
C: I guess. And you're also in film with Ben Stiller set for next year [THE MARC PEASE EXPERIENCE]. What can you tell me about that?
JS: I can tell you it's about A Capella vocal singing groups, and about a guy who's a limo driver, but 10 years ago he was kind of a big deal in high school and he still has the same amount of enthusiasm as he did then, but he's kind of holding onto it. And I'll say that it will be fun movie because it's not broad; it's a smaller movie, and it's a character-driven movie, but the characters are broad, because they're in the world of high school theater and A Capella. As real people, they are big and excitable, but it's not over the top. They're over the top, but that's not the intension of the movie. It's more realistic. I think it's really fun, and I hope it turns out good. So that's my next film. I think they're trying to get it to Sundance next year.
[At this point the interview needed to be wrapped up. What follows are some additional bits of information from the post-screening Q&A that night. Some of the questions are mine, some are from the audience.]
Capone: So, the theme of the brothers' journey is "Say Yes to everything." I know that you two and your co-writer Roman Coppola took your a trip like this while you were writing the film to get to know the place you were writing about. Was that your motto during your trip as well, and did saying yes to everything include all the exotic remedies these guys were downing along the way?
Wes Anderson: You're getting right into it. I think we did have a "Say Yes to everything" attitude on that trip. The three of us went to India to write together, after we'd started the script, we went there to get to the next step of our writing process. I don't think it was exactly like what you see in the film.
Jason Schwartzman: The characters are all fictional. [laughs]
C: [to Wes] But you did bring your printer on the trip, didn't you?
WA: [long pause] Yeah.
[At this point, Jason whispers something to Wes.]
WA: He's trying to back you on this. There's a story that does relate to what you were asking, so we're not evading the question. And this is a story that Jason told on "Conan," and it's my story, but Jason told it on "Conan." Did anybody see him? A few people did.
JS: I bombed. I did not do well. They didn't tell me Ted Koppel was going to be on.
WA: This may sound similar to the story he told on "Conan," but it's my story.
JS: You told it, but it's our story. We were both there.
WA: Well, that's true. When we were writing, there's a village in the film, and we were looking for this place to shoot this scene that happens in this village. Some people brought us to the place, this beautiful village. They introduced us to the people there. When we arrived, the elders in the village invited us to participate in this traditional ritual that they invite visitors to take part in where you drink opium with them. So we went into this hut and sat on the floor together, and the leader, or the one who's in charge, becomes the "opium chef" or something like that. He kind of steeped it like tea in a little leather pitcher, an opium pitcher. And then he poured it into his hand, and he told us you had to slurp it out of his hand. You could take one slurp or three slurp. I think…
JS: We all took three [laughs].
WA: And it felt like half a Xanax. But when we stood up and started to go out of there, we all shared this feeling like this is a great village. And we cast those people that we met and we used that village. So in terms of drug stuff, it was more traditional…drugs.
Question: Jason, how come your character had no shoes on?
JS: [To Wes] Can you answer that?
WA: You want me to answer? I don't really have an answer for that. The thing is, we always get asked this, but we keep saying we've got to have a great answer for this, and we should. But we don't have it yet. But you know what I'd like to know, what has a great answer? I'll tell you what our process was. When we made the short film, he's in a hotel room, there's carpet on the floor, and it's a very comfortable environment. And I just thought that his character was right; he had his character. So when we went to India, I said, well, I like the way he was in the short. But now there's gravel and bits of glass on the ground, so it's a different environment, but we kept it. And he has a very high threshold for pain, and he's going to do whatever is necessary for the job. I think we liked that there was something mysterious about it, that his character is kind of doing an experiment.
JS: Yeah, maybe my character has just chosen not to wear shoes for this period of his life, and he's going to honor that commitment, even in India.
WA: [to the audience] Does anybody else have an idea on that?
Audience member: Yeah, you could say he's a Christ figure, that he's more in touch with the earth…
JS: That's it! I'm glad you said it; we didn't want to say it. I think we got our answer from here on out.
Question: Can you talk about the co-writing process?
WA: That was one of the ideas for the movie, that I wanted to work with Jason and Roman and combine our points of view. So the movie really started with the three of us getting together in a room. And then what happened?
JS: I think one thing that was great about writing with Wes and with Roman was that right off the bat the idea was to write a script that was very, very personal, kind of like the character that I play in the movie who writes these short stories based on things that have happened in his real life. He writes these chapters to move on in his life. We all kind of related to that aspect of my character. We all wanted to make something based on all three of our lives that was that personal, and almost too personal. And I must say that most of our writing process was spent telling stories about our lives and asking questions to each other about each other's lives to find the next things that might help us the realize the movie we were trying to tell. We had this basic idea and the times when we were stuck or confused or in a rut, we'd say, "Well, Wes, what happened to you?" And then somewhere in that answer, hopefully would be something that would push us forward. And I'll also say that that's the kind of writing process that you want to have with people you love and trust and feel very comfortable with, because you'll say a lot of embarrassing things, and they get to know you very well. That's the part of the writing process that I can talk about.
WA: The other thing that I would add to that, I think we all had a suspension of disbelief in the writing. We really wanted to get into it, we wanted it to be very personal, we wanted to Romanticize it a bit. And we went to India together and during that trip, we kind of acted out the roles quite a lot, and that to me made it an adventure.
JS: And there's also something nice about when you're just talking and thinking of things, someone else recognizes something in what you're saying, and they go "Oh wait, something you just said, there might be something there."
WA: Like the way we knew that Jason was about to say something good was he would say, "Well, I don't know, but the 'bad T.V.' version of it might be like this…" And then he would do something really good.
JS: Thank you.
Question: I was wondering how to pick the music, kind of for all your films, but particularly this one?
WA: The music for this one, the main inspiration for that, were the films of Satyajit Ray, who is a filmmaker that I admire for a long, long time. And because I've always loved his movies, that kind of turned me on to wanting to go to India and learn about India and work there. No only did he write and direct his films and had is own company that he worked with in his region and make many, many films, he also composed the music for many of his films, and I wanted to use some of that because I wanted to be connected to his movies. The more I listened to his music by itself, the more I really grew to love it. And it became a big part of the movie, and it led me to, he composed some music for Merchant-Ivory for a film called SHAKESPEARE-WALLAH. And then I started listening to all the Merchant-Ivory movies, which I think are quite influenced by Ray, and we used a lot of music from that.
C: For a lot of the world, Ray's films were all people knew about India. Was that how it was for you?
WA: Yeah. I think a lot of English people went there an go there, even more than Americans do now. But I think Ray's films are much better known because it used to be that his films used to be the only ones that were internationally distributed. It used to be that their industry was just for India, and this guy made these movies that were not that widely seen in India.
Question: A lot of your films are about family, can you talk about the relationship you have with your family?
JS: My brothers are my sounding board, if they can give me a compliment about something I've done, it really means the most to me. And they're very honest with me. My older brother really loved the movie. He was really sweet actually, as I was leaving his house one night, he said something like, "Hey, let's make an agreement." And I'm like, "What? About what?" And he's like, "It's from your movie! Good night, I love you." And that was really sweet. And my little brother, he saw the movies and when it was over, I asked him "What did you think?" And he said, "Uh, I need to think about that one." And then the next day, he called me and said, "Your movie, it was very emotional for me to watch." And it made him feel like afraid that we must never get this disconnected from each other as brothers. And he was fired up. He said, "We should go…" I forget where he said we should go; it wasn't India. It was someplace 45 minutes away or something. But he was like, "We should go away for the weekend, and spend the night and just get to know each other and talk and find out where we are all in our lives, because we can't let this happen to us." So in the beginning, I think it fucked him up a little bit, but then he realized why it fucked him up and he was proactive about those feelings. That's how he felt about it.
Question: I heard that BOTTLE ROCKET was coming out as a Criterion DVD.
WA: That's right. We just have to do a lot of work to prepare it, but that's in the works. I was supposed to do a bunch of stuff already that I didn't do yet, so I'm going to get on it though. But some of the stuff is at my mother's house in Texas, so I have to go to Texas and dig through all my boxes, because there's materials for the movies that I haven't looked at in a long, long time. And we want to try and include everything that might be good.
[Just before the Q&A, Wes and I talked in more detail about his plans for this release, which included a great deal of deleted scenes, some of which he way try to incorporate into the film, with the rest being standard deleted scenes extras. Of course the original BOTTLE ROCKET short would be on the set, but Wes added that he's also got outtakes from that as well that he wants to find.]
Question: Can you talk about the look and design of your movies. Did you have any training in design?
WA: No, I didn't have any training. About this movie, it all comes from India. The two trains, for instance, one is blue, one is red. The first train is what they call a broad-gauge train, most of the trains in India, the newer trains, are this broad gauge. That's the way that those kinds of trains look. We modified it, we decorated it, and the decoration is all traditional Ragistani stuff. We met guys who do wall decorations, that's what they do, they paint walls like that, they paint elephants on it. It's all hand made. So many things that are made by machine here, are made by hand in India and they're unique and I love that, and I want to incorporate other people's work into the train. But as it happens, the broad-gauge trains tend to be these two shades of blue. And at the end of the movie, we in a different part of Ragistan, more mountainous, and they tend to use meter-gauge trains that are slightly smaller, and the meter-gauge trains tend to be red. I like that, and that was nice because we had this shift, and we could design the costumes, which were all based stuff that's made there, block prints and patterns that are very common there. We just adapted to what we found and tried to share the things we discovered with this movie.