I was lucky enough to speak to Norton in Cannes this week and he filled me in on what it was like working with Wes Anderson and also provided a few sparse details about the next instalment in the Bourne franchise, The Bourne Legacy.
Working on Moonrise Kingdom as part of an ensemble.
It’s great fun. I came up in the theatre, so it feels a lot like being in a theatre company. I’m still in a theatre company in New York so it’s very familiar and fun.
Wes Anderson’s way of working.
It’s not that much different… Sometimes things get as much dictated by the schedule you’ve got. This was a short schedule but then when we did The 25th Hour that was a very short schedule with a very precise director, Spike Lee. I think the common thread in those is that directors who are very specific in their style like Spike and Wes are very often the ones who are very rigorous about rehearsal and preparation so that when they get there on the day they know exactly what they intend to do and they’re able to do it very efficiently. And that’s how they’re able to make films in one third of the time that big bloated Hollywood movies do it. Wes’ process is great. It’s all very familiar, rehearsals and discussions. And one thing he does that I think is amazing is that if there’s a sequence in which he really needs the cast performing within a specific set of planned shots they animate the whole thing so that you can watch it and there’s no fuzzyness, you know exactly what you’re doing. It’s great, it’s very easy.
Wes’ description of the film as like memories he wished he had.
Yeah, I heard him say that and I think that’s a great way to put it. The kind of adventure he would dream of. I don’t think most of us were brave enough to actually run away the girl we had a crush on. I don’t think any of the ones I knew would’ve come with me.
Periods of absence from working in feature films.
I’ve never had the goal to make sure I never fall out of people’s short list of y’know… I don’t know, I don’t even think twice about whether I’ve been in a film in a given year. That would be too workmanlike a way of thinking about it.
Sometimes there’s a lag time with things we were doing last year will come out this year. The year before last I spent most of the year writing a mini-series for HBO and building a theatre in New York. So I didn’t happen to make a film.
The HBO mini-series he’s been working on.
It’s a mini-series that Brad Pitt’s company and my company have been producing for HBO that I did a lot of writing on two summers ago. It’s still to come. It’s called Undaunted Courage, it’s about the Lewis and Clark expedition, the famous expedition. The famous American explorers.
The main reason for working on Moonrise Kingdom, to work with Wes or the character.
A little bit of both, maybe mostly Wes and my love of his films. But I liked the part. He’s a funny character.
Getting into the character.
I think it’s a mistake if you think of the fact that Wes’ films have a lot of humour in them. If you think that means you have to give a comedic performance it’s a mistake because the trick to his characters, I think, is that they’re incredibly sincere and serious and there’s humour in that. The humour comes from characters who are so serious they’re funny. You have to play it straight and in some ways that makes it not that much different from anything else. I mean, if someone said we’re going to do a very improvisational comedy then that’s a very different sort of pressure but actually the way Wes makes movies is more like making a drama.
What Wes is like as a director.
The great thing about Wes is that his script’s are highly specific and they’re really good. It’s very relaxing, you’ve got good stuff to work with. He’s got a great warm, collaborative and encouraging energy but he’s very specific about what he wants and the good news is that really he’s very articulate. Some directors, I think, have great ideas but don’t have the facility for communicating to actors. Wes is a great communicator. He’s just very good at expressing what he wants, in a way that’s easy to fulfil.
The Bourne Legacy.
The Bourne Legacy I was mostly interested in because of Tony Gilroy. I thought Michael Clayton was a great film and I liked Duplicity and I think Tony’s got a quality I like where he goes back again and again to the same themes. Tony’s got a great sharp sense of the way that corporations are starting to run everything, including government. He’s pulled this theme across a number of films and he pulled it into this one in a way that’s really interesting. I thought what he was imagining was really smart.
Jeremy Renner as Matt Damon’s replacement.
He’s not really a replacement, it’s an extension. The story keeps unfolding out into new characters. It’s sort of like Babel, Jeremy and Rachel and I are all, sort of, in separate parts of the film. I only actually have one scene with Jeremy. He’s great, a terrific actor.
His role in the Bourne Legacy and whether he’s a bad guy.
It’s very shades of grey. You can decide.
Moonrise Kingdom is out in cinemas 25 May