The stars of Wes Anderson’s new film “Moonrise Kingdom” are unknown young actors whose stage experience previously amounted to school productions and summer camp plays. Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman play Suzy and Sam, misunderstood children from dysfunctional families who make a pact to run away together. Sam abandons his Khaki Scouts troupe, and hightails it into the wilderness with Suzy, a fantasy novel enthusiast with a penchant for blue eye shadow.
On their adventure, a story of first love unfolds, as Suzy and Sam stake out in the woods of a New England coastal island. Against the backdrop of the 1960s, as only Wes Anderson can envision it, Hayward and Gilman explore the universal themes of love and coming of age through offbeat characters and clumsy kissing scenes.
You have both never acted in a film before this. What was it like going from theater to film?
Kara Hayward: It’s a lot easier scene by scene. In a play you only get one chance, and you have to get it perfect. In a film you can change and fix it whatever way you want, so really, there’s a pretty big difference. It’s a lot more fun, because on a movie there is a bigger cast and crew, and you are surrounded by more people.
Jared Gilman: You’re not allowed to mess up in theater, and if you do, it is going to be embarrassing. But in film, if you make a mistake you just do it over again. You can just do another take.
What advice did the more seasoned actors on set give you?
Hayward: They were so sweet and kind and so down to earth. It was very easy to talk to all of them. It wasn’t their advice so as much their example. Fran McDormand liked to run lines with me before scenes. It made me understand the reactions the other actors are giving so I could play off of them better.
Gilman: They were all great. Bill Murray told us to hum in the mornings to warm up our voices, and that really helped. He also taught me to tie a tie, which was cool.
Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman in "Moonrise Kingdom" (Photo by Niko Tavernise)
How did you prepare for your roles?
Gilman: I had to take canoeing lessons and cooking over an open fire lessons. I had to learn how to flip a fish. I also had to do physical training. Wes had me watch “Escape from Alcatraz” because Clint Eastwood’s character in the film was similar to Sam, in the sense that they are both resourceful and capable.
Hayward: I had to learn to write left handed, which was very hard. I did pretty well at first, but now I’ve completely lost the skill.
What was it like working with Wes Anderson?
Hayward: He’s so kind. He’s just an amazing person. He’s so talented in the way he can take these brilliant ideas and turn them into an amazing story, and then bring it to life in such a beautiful film. His style is different; it really makes you think.
Gilman: He’s one of the few true artists out there.
How did you balance school and filming?
Hayward: If we had time between scenes we’d go to school. If there were days on set when they didn’t need us, we would go to school with the tutors. I really loved the tutors.
Gilman: The tutors were on set with us, and my teachers emailed them whatever work I had to do, so it was fine.
Wes Anderson didn’t have you rehearse the kissing scene beforehand, was it awkward at all?
Hayward: No, not at all. It was just another scene. These kids are cast out; I don’t think they are going to have much experience kissing other kids, so this is their chance.
Gilman: You have to do what your character wants to do. Our characters wanted to kiss. You can’t argue with your character.
Sam and Suzy are both quirky characters. Were they difficult to relate to at all?
Hayward: In some ways I related to Suzy, in her love of books and animals, but otherwise we are very different people. But that’s one of the biggest things about acting. When you’re playing a character, you don’t have the same life experiences, but you try to feel the way they feel, and you can understand them better.
Gilman: You have to find out how to become the character. My character is real outdoorsy; he could survive on his own. I am really indoors-y. I am a video game and movie buff, and this keeps me in my little boy cave. The one way I relate to my character, though, is that he wants to fit in. I understand that.
Do you think you will continue to act in film?
Hayward: On “Moonrise” it occurred to me I want to make this into a career. I think I would like to do a variety of genres in film. I would like to act, and maybe in the future write, or direct, maybe dabble in those things.
Gilman: I got a manager, and I thought since I was going out on auditions I should do this for a living. Then there was this moment on set when I realized I was having a lot of fun, and I really wanted to do this forever. I want to do different stuff, but I want it all to be just as good as this film. I want to be consistent.
This is a film about children, but why do you think adults will enjoy it?
Gilman: There is the whole theme of growing up, and I know adults can relate to that, since everyone has to grow up. There is also of course the theme of love.
Hayward: I think young love is a thing adults can relate to. I think they will remember how it felt when they were young and love felt like it could take over their whole lives.