Say what you will about Wes Anderson, the director of “Bottle Rocket” and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” the man and his work stand out. There’s nothing much like a Wes Anderson experience (and they are experiences, from the impeccable production design to the spot-on soundtrack choices), except another of his films.
Much to the delight of his avid fans, he’s back with his fifth film, “The Darjeeling Limited” — which recently opened in, um, limited release. As much a spiritual journey through India as it is a comedy about three estranged brothers, the film stars Adrien Brody and Anderson stalwart Owen Wilson.
And re-teaming with Anderson for the first time since the much-beloved “Rushmore” is Max Fischer himself, Jason Schwartzman. MTV spoke with Anderson and Schwartzman (who also co-wrote the film) about their history together, why it’s not so bad to repeat yourself and whether Max will ever appear onscreen again.
MTV: First things first: Who is to blame for it being nine years since you’ve done a film together?
Wes Anderson: Is it nine years? We did have a part in “The Royal Tenenbaums” that was written for Jason, but it got cut out. He played a boy who lived across the street from them.
MTV: That was cut out in the screenwriting stage?
Anderson: Yeah. But there’s a bird in the movie that’s named after his character. He was going to play Mordechai. He was the son of a diplomat and had escaped from his school.
MTV: What did you guys make of each other when you first met at the audition for “Rushmore”?
Jason Schwartzman: I was very nervous going in because I had never really auditioned for a movie before. I was immediately put at ease, though. He was young. I felt immediately like, “Oh, this could be my friend.”
Anderson: I remember the very second of meeting him. We had spent a year trying to find someone to play this part. When he read, it was a slam-dunk. We got the guy. Then he read opposite some other people that were auditioning to play the sons of Bill Murray, and he played Bill Murray’s part and he was really great. I mean Bill was great, but Jason was pretty good too in that part.
MTV: Does it feel like a completely different kind of collaboration this time?
Schwartzman: This time around it feels like the intent was to make something very personal. And it feels like you can only go to that level by deep-sea diving with someone you know and trust and can believe in. There’s a real foundation there. You have much more rope to bungee with.
Anderson: [Laughs.] I knew there would be a second [metaphor]. I already got deep-sea diving but then I got the bungee. I knew I’d get at least two. Jason has a way with metaphors.
MTV: You started writing this together in Paris, and then you continued writing in India. How much of the film was dictated by the trip?
Schwartzman: When we went to India, Wes kept saying, “Say yes to everything,” just like in the script. So we were half living the script and half writing it. We would engage in things way more than we normally would.
Anderson: Most of what’s in front of the camera is what we discovered there.
MTV: This film returns to some of the themes that appear in most of your work, namely absent fathers.
Anderson: I’ve been thinking about this recently. There are a lot of things that, from one movie to the next, are related. I kind of like following a train of thought and developing an idea. I like the idea of, after I make some more movies, they can all sit on a shelf together and they sort of fit together.
MTV: Do you worry about repeating yourself? Do you ever compose a shot or write a line of dialogue and think, “I’ve done this before”?
Anderson: I do worry about repeating myself, because I know that I am doing something the way I would do it. But then I think, should I do it the way I wouldn’t do it? It’s a dilemma. And I really think the best answer for me is, I should try to make it the best it can be and do it the way I like it the most. I’d rather do that than force myself to be something normal. Maybe my way is worse, but at least it’s personal to me. It’s based on all my own experiences and my own approach that’s formed by God knows what.
MTV: “Darjeeling” marks four Wes Anderson films in a row with Bill Murray. What power do you have over him?
Anderson: We keep going back to him for more stuff. We always want him.
MTV: Is it implied that his character in this is the father?
Anderson: People have said that.
MTV: Was that your intention?
Anderson: We didn’t have any intention.
MTV: Was it discussed with Bill?
Anderson: No. Jason, [co-writer] Roman [Coppola, who is also Schwartzman's cousin] and I discussed whether people might think that. But that was about as far as we ever went with it. My one conversation with Bill was, “We have this thing you could do if you want to come to India. It’s kind of a cameo. It’s actually more of a symbol.” I think he was interested in being a symbol.
MTV: The short prequel, “Hotel Chevalier” [which has been screened with "Darjeeling" at festivals and is available for free on iTunes], was shot over a year before the film, even though it also stars Jason’s character. How exactly did it come about?
Schwartzman: I remember Wes calling me on the phone and reading it to me. He said he had written this short story that he wanted to do with me and Natalie Portman. And he wanted to do it immediately. I don’t know how soon after was the idea that this guy in this short film is Jack Whitman. It was totally helpful for me to go back a year later and work on “The Darjeeling Limited.” You can imagine things as an actor but it’s really great to remember it as an actor. I actually wish that from here on out I could shoot tons of things a year before I do the actual movie.
MTV: Wes, did you consider shorts for Owen’s and Adrien’s characters too?
Anderson: We thought about it, but the short we made with Jason and Natalie wasn’t written to fill a formal spot. We just had it. Then I thought, “I just like that we have the one that we made.” The other ones would have been because we felt like we owed shorts to those guys.
MTV: Have you ever thought about writing another story with the Max Fischer character for another film or book?
Anderson: [He pauses.] Hmm. In a way a lot of these characters are connected.
MTV: Do you imagine them all inhabiting the same universe?
Anderson: I do sometimes feel that characters from “Rushmore” could go into “The Life Aquatic” in a very natural way, and there aren’t many other movies they could go into and feel like they weren’t out of left field.
Schwartzman: It would be great to see them meet.
Check out everything we’ve got on “The Darjeeling Limited.”
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