Purple Magazine
— S/S 2008 issue 9

Wes Anderson

interview OLYMPIA LE-TAN and OLIVIER ZAHM 
polaroids by WARIS AHLUWALIA

Back in Paris after presenting The Darjeeling Limited at the Venice Film Festival WES ANDERSON took some time off in his adopted city for a discussion about his mentors, actors, friends and the difficulty of writing good roles for women.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Are you going to wear those headphones for the interview, Olivier?
WES ANDERSON — I think it’s a good idea. I’d like to do the whole interview with them on. It seems more scientific. Have you ever seen the photos of Truffaut and Chabrol recording their long interview with Hitchcock? They all have headphones on, which are connected to the tape recorder.
OLIVIER ZAHM — So you’ll be taking the role of Hitchcock for this interview, Wes?
WES ANDERSON — That’s right!

OLIVIER ZAHM — I’m a bit more like Chabrol.
OLYMPIA LE-TAN — I’ll be Truffaut.
WES ANDERSON — Good. Maybe that’s the best role.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Sorry, I’m not so technically minded.
WES ANDERSON — No? That recorder looks very high tech.

OLIVIER ZAHM — I bought it the day my girlfriend dumped me. I needed to spend some money!
WES ANDERSON — To make yourself feel better….

OLIVIER ZAHM — So, Wes – it’s a beautiful fall day in Paris. We’re very flattered that you visit our city so often. What attracts you to Paris?
WES ANDERSON — Well, it sounds terrible, but almost always the thing that attracts me to a city is the movies I’ve seen that were shot there. We just did a movie, The Darjeeling Limited, in India. The reason I wanted to go there was the movies I’d seen of it, some of which, strangely enough, were made by French filmmakers. The documentaries Louis Malle made about India in the late ’60s or early ’70s, for example, are very good, and I love Jean Renoir’s The River. That’s really the movie that made me decide to go to India. I knew Paris long before I ever came here, through movies, and it turned out to be exactly what I expected — just what it was in the movies. So I really loved it.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — You like the cinematographic aspect of Paris, then?
WES ANDERSON — That might be stretching it a bit, but it does seem that when I finish what I have to do, I come back to Paris. It’s like coming back home.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is Paris quieter than American cities? Is it easier for you to work here?
WES ANDERSON — It’s much quieter, yes. I prefer every individual aspect of a day I spend in Paris to a day I spend in New York. What I have for breakfast, where my breakfast comes from, what I see out the window, even just the architecture. The view out my windows in Paris is really beautiful. I like my apartment in New York, but when I look out the window all I see are new buildings popping up everywhere. And Stuyvesant Town! I don’t have that many friends in Paris, but the friends I do have here I really like, and I’m always happy to see them.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do you consider yourself a New Yorker?
WES ANDERSON — I don’t know. I guess so. I’m really from Texas. I lived in L.A. for a few years, and then I moved to New York. But I don’t know if I’m anything. I’m an American.

OLIVIER ZAHM — For better and for worse!
WES ANDERSON — Exactly.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Let’s talk a bit more about France. Do you plan on using French actors or actresses in your next movies?
WES ANDERSON — I would like to make a movie that’s all in French, but that might be a mistake because I can’t speak French — I don’t know if I would be able to judge whether someone is good or not when they’re speaking French. But anyway, I would like to make a movie here.

OLIVIER ZAHM — The way you use the American language is very precise. Dialogue is really important in your movies.
WES ANDERSON — But trying doing it in French would probably be a disaster! We did make a movie here, actually. I don’t know if you’ve seen it.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — The short film, Hotel Chevalier?
WES ANDERSON — Yes, the short we made with Natalie Portman and Jason Schwartzman at the Hotel Raphael.

OLIVIER ZAHM — What about French actors? Do you plan on working with Jean-Pierre Léaud?
WES ANDERSON — [laughs] Jean-Pierre Léaud! Do you know him?

OLIVIER ZAHM — Well, I met him once. He tried to steal my girlfriend in a bar. He’s definitely still around.
WES ANDERSON — Jason Schwartzman and I really relate to him. He’s one of our inspirations. We talked about him often back when we did Rushmore, which is about ten years ago, and again for this movie. Actually, I just met an actor that I like a lot, Mathieu Amalric, outside in the street, in front of the hotel.

OLIVIER ZAHM — He’s the best!
WES ANDERSON — He’s great. He was just right there on the street with Mira Nair, who made Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake, and Salaam Bombay! 

OLIVIER ZAHM — Mathieu is hilarious. Totally free. A really interesting actor. He performed brilliantly in his friend’s film, Roi et Reine. I can’t remember the director’s name. He’s Mathieu’s closest friend….
WES ANDERSON — I also really love the actor in De battre mon cœur s’est arreté, Romain Duris. He was really great in that. Let’s see, who else is there…?

photo Waris Ahluwalia

OLIVIER ZAHM — The way that you cast male actors is really good. You always make great choices. 
WES ANDERSON — But I need to write a good women’s part.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Maybe you’re not so good with women….
WES ANDERSON — It’s funny. Owen Wilson and I have been talking a lot lately, trying to think of good female characters. I was actually having this very conversation with Owen in a house in L.A. recently — I looked around and there were about 11 guys there. I was like, “Why can’t we come up with any good female characters?” So, yes, I agree.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Gwyneth Paltrow was a really good choice.
WES ANDERSON — Yes, she was.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Anjelica Huston, too.
WES ANDERSON — But, you know, they’re people that really put themselves into a part, and that makes the part interesting, whether it was going to be or not. Some of that stuff comes from real people, and is modeled on real people. But, tell me, who are the most interesting French actresses right now?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — French actresses? There are no interesting French actresses. Apart from Catherine Deneuve, that is.
WES ANDERSON — What do you think about Ludivine Sagnier?

OLIVIER ZAHM — She’s great.
WES ANDERSON — She’s pretty good. The woman who’s in Sur mes lèvres is good, too. What’s her name again? You know, she played opposite Vincent Cassel.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — I never watch French movies. Not recent ones, anyway.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Ludivine is great.
WES ANDERSON — Vincent Cassel is great too. Who are the others? There’s the guy in the Chabrol movies, Benoît Jacquot?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — You mean Benoît Magimel.
WES ANDERSON — Ah, oui! Benoît Magimel. Yes, Benoît Jacquot is the director, and a good one, too. Did you ever see his movie, Le Septième Ciel? Seventh Heaven? It’s really good. One of my favorites. You should see it.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — You know more about French movies than we do.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t go too deeply into French movies because you know them better than we do. It’s embarrassing.
WES ANDERSON — I know someone you won’t like, someone I’m a huge fan of — Agnès Jaoui. A lot of French people are not as into her as I am. You don’t like her?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Not really, no.
WES ANDERSON — That’s exactly what happens every time! I talk to people about her here, and they’re just not into her. Is she too “pop” or something?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — She’s a bit grand public. How do you say “grand public” in English?
WES ANDERSON — Oui, oui, je comprend. Grand public. Elle est trop grand public. Well, you see, I was introduced to those movies in a different context — at the New York film festival — and I loved them. Le Goût des autres, Comme une image — those are both really good. You’re not into those?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — No!
WES ANDERSON — Really? But why? What don’t you like about these movies?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — I would never watch movies like that. Not even on a plane.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Olympia is so snobbish.
WES ANDERSON — Who do you think are the most interesting filmmakers nowadays?

OLIVIER ZAHM — The guy I mentioned earlier….
OLYMPIA LE-TAN — The guy who did the film with Mathieu Amalric?
OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes, him. What’s his name?
WES ANDERSON — Who?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — You know, the guy he was talking about earlier who did the film with that guy you just bumped into on the street … It’s all very clear! [laughs]
WES ANDERSON — Yeah, everyone will understand that — “Mathieu Amalric’s friend is one of the best young directors around right now!” [laughs]

OLIVIER ZAHM — I like Olivier Assayas, too.
WES ANDERSON — Yeah, I think he’s great.

OLIVIER ZAHM — He’s a direct connection to the Nouvelle Vague and Les Cahiers du cinema.
WES ANDERSON — That’s right, he used to write for Les Cahiers du cinema. It’s amazing that the guy who made a movie like Clean also made Les Destinées Sentimentales, with Emmanuelle Béart. When you see Les Destinées, you think the director must be about seventy years old. But in a good way. Because it’s a very quiet, mature film.

photo Waris Ahluwalia

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — People probably expect the same of you.  
WES ANDERSON — What? That I would make a quiet, mature film?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — No. That you would turn out to be seventy years old! Given the esthetics of your movies, that is.
WES ANDERSON — That’s probably true, except that no seventy-year old people seem to go see my movies! The studio is always telling me they want me to emphasize young people, that they’re the ones that seem to respond to me, and I think it’s true. A lot of older people watch my movies and think, “I have no idea what this guy is doing. This makes no sense to me.” Maybe a lot of young people think that too! But I like to think that I’m making movies that people will like a lot in ten years. The ones who don’t like them now — well, I’m hoping we’re going to catch up to them. But that’s just something I’m clinging to. Not that there aren’t some people who do like them now.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Well, we certainly do. But, we’ve noticed that there’s a bit of conflict between the generations in your movies. The adults always seem to be quite immature and irresponsible. Lost in their own problems. The kids are generally clever geniuses who speak and behave like grownups. It’s a bit of a reversal of the ages.
WES ANDERSON — Why is that?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Well, that’s what we’d like to know!
WES ANDERSON — Don’t you feel that we get more and more confused as we get older? This is my experience. When I did my first movie, Bottle Rocket, I felt really confident. It was when I felt the most secure, like I knew all the answers. I was like, “Wait until people see this movie. They’ll go crazy for it!” But when people saw the movie they didn’t respond to it at all. Really didn’t like it, and that had a huge effect on me.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — I don’t understand why they wouldn’t like it. It was hilarious!
WES ANDERSON — They hated it!

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Everybody?
WES ANDERSON — Everybody! We had a screening in Santa Monica for 385 people. Basically there was one person who filled out the card and said all these nice things. One person really liked it and wrote an essay about it. Everybody else hated it. A third of the audience left during the movie, and that was that.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — So how did you get the budget for your next movie?
WES ANDERSON — Well, fortunately one of the people who liked it was the head of a big studio.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — That is fortunate! Can you tell us a bit about your personal life? What kind of upbringing did you have?
OLIVIER ZAHM — Because families are so important in your films.
WES ANDERSON — Well, in most of my movies the families are pretty well-to-do. That’s one big difference between the ones in my movies and in my real life — I never thought of my family as well-to-do. Also, in my movies the family environment tends to be more dramatic. My family doesn’t really have the kind of problems the families in my movies have.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Thank God!
OLIVIER ZAHM — So you had a quiet childhood, basically?
WES ANDERSON — A very regular American, Texan childhood. I have two brothers. One older, one younger.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Did your brothers choose artistic careers?
WES ANDERSON — My older brother is a doctor and my younger brother Eric draws and writes. He’s done a lot of illustrations and things for my movies. Different stuff related to my movies. He made a book called Chuck Dugan Is AWOL and just wrote a script for it. Maybe they’ll make a movie of it. It’s a novel with….

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — With maps?
WES ANDERSON — Exactly! A novel with maps!

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — See? I’ve done my homework!
OLIVIER ZAHM — How did you first get into film? Did you write plays as a child?
WES ANDERSON — That’s exactly right. I wrote plays.… Something just occurred to me. I’ve said most of these things before in one place or another, but not this. In fact, I’m not sure if it’s good for me to mention it now….

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — [laughs] So this is an exclusive!
WES ANDERSON — This is late breaking exclusive news! The first play I wrote was actually heavily plagiarized from a short story that my older brother wrote. I think I’m ready to go on the record with that!

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Does he know?
WES ANDERSON — When he saw the play he must have known.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — But he never said anything?
WES ANDERSON — He never said a thing. He let me have the material. That’s the only thing I ever took from him. I think I modified it slightly in a way that might have made it more commercial.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — How old were you?  

WES ANDERSON — Probably in fourth grade, so I must have been eight or nine. My brother’s story was about all these guys in different fancy Italian cars. My only change was to make them all Maseratis. I called it The Five Maseratis. Doesn’t really sound like great material for a drama, just a bunch of cars. But it was more of a setting.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Well, you were only eight years old. Was it as elaborate as the plays that Max Fischer and Margot Tenenbaum wrote?
WES ANDERSON — I did try to do a play of Star Wars that was quite elaborate, but it didn’t come off. It didn’t work, didn’t really succeed. It wasn’t well written. But the costumes were good.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Did you make them yourself?
WES ANDERSON — I worked on them with some other people. But we didn’t actually perform the play. It just wasn’t a very good adaptation.

Photo by Waris Ahluwalia

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — I really loved the bullet holes in Margot Tenenbaum’s zebra suit. I love that detail.  
WES ANDERSON — Oh, that’s nice. Funny — nobody’s ever mentioned that to me. It makes me think of when we first tried putting blood on it. The blood didn’t work, so we ended up using cut out bits of red felt that we sewed on, which was better. It’s nice that someone noticed that.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — It was really cute.
OLIVIER ZAHM — You met Owen Wilson at college and started writing your first films with him. Tell us about that. Did you share the same ambitions? Were you both planning a career in movies?
WES ANDERSON — Kind of. But we never thought of it like that. I really wanted to make movies, and Owen really liked movies, but at that point we both really wanted to be writers. I had made some little films and had written one really terrible, incomprehensible script. But what I really wanted to do was write novels. When Owen and I first got to know each other we were both writing short stories, and helping each other write them. Somewhere in there I had an idea for a movie, which turned out to be Bottle Rocket, so we invented it together. I asked him and his brother Luke to be in it, but Owen felt that it would have been unprofessional. He wanted us to try to get famous actors, or at least people who knew how to act. But I knew it was a good idea, and that he and Luke would both be good.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s interesting that your first step into cinema was with a friend. Actually, it seems like you’ve developed a kind of family around yourself, sort of like Cassavetes and Truffaut did. They often worked with the same actors, and a community of artists evolved around them. Is this something you consciously try to do?
WES ANDERSON — Well, there are things in Cassavetes’ and Truffaut’s work that
I like enough to imitate. But developing a community of artists around me is something I never planned to do. Every time you make a new movie you think, well, who’s going to be good for the job? We know someone who does this or that pretty good so let’s bring him back. Who’s going to play this part? That’s a great part for this guy. You end up using the people you know. You’ll have some parts that you don’t know who’ll be good for, or maybe the person you’ve used before isn’t available. So you meet some new people and then for the next movie you want them back. It kind of grows. It’s nice every time you start a movie. It’s like a reunion of all the people you know. Usually everyone has gone off and done other things. Except for me, that is! Everyone gets back together again, and I like it to be fun.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — It’s like your little circus troop.
WES ANDERSON — Yeah, it’s a bit like that. You know, if it wasn’t for the fact that I cast a lot of the same actors, I think people wouldn’t really notice. Because most filmmakers have crews they use repeatedly, but it’s a little less common to use the same actors over and over. There were people who worked on the movie I made in India that I would definitely use again. Sanjay Sami, for example, who was our key grip. He had techniques I’ve never seen used before, like his “rickshaw dolly” that I think he had built himself. It had a camera on a rickshaw pulled by a man. It’s a great idea, a great tool. When I first heard about it I thought, “We are going to need that!” There’s a scene in which Bill Murray is running with suitcases. You see him running but he’s actually pulling the rickshaw! He’s the whole crew during that shot! I didn’t even need to hire someone to pull it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Sounds good, and inexpensive. Now we’re going to introduce a new theme in this interview….
OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Oh, yes! The psychoanalysis of your movies!
WES ANDERSON — Oh, no! Will it be shocking?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — No, not really. But a little personal, perhaps. It’s about the father figures in your films. Why do they always have to be such assholes?
WES ANDERSON — Well, let me say that my real father isn’t. But I have had a lot of mentor figures in my life. It’s always been an important thing for me. The people you really admire can seem larger than life.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Can you name some of your mentors?
WES ANDERSON — Well, considering the way you set it up, it might upset some people….

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — No, no. We said “asshole” but in the actual question we prepared the phrase is “a very sweet asshole that we end up growing attached to.”
WES ANDERSON — [laughs] Well, in that case, I have had different mentors, but they’re not assholes. They’re more like people who made a huge impression on me, and are like father figures. Kit Carson, who really helped Owen and I get Bottle Rocket going, for example. He’s a real movie guy and a writer, and wasn’t like anybody else we knew. He had all kinds of stories about his experiences in the movie world that were really interesting. He’s a real character and made a giant impression on us.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is he an actor?
WES ANDERSON — Yes. He was in David Holzman’s Diary. Have you ever heard of it? It’s worth seeing. It was made in New York, but there is a French aspect to it. It’s directed by an American, Jim McBride. Kit is the main guy in it. In fact, the role defines him. Another mentor of ours was Jim Brooks, the producer of Bottle Rocket. Actually, he made it all happen. He taught us how to write a script. We had a script that was very long and unclear and he taught us how to make it work. I’ve used things he taught me for everything I’ve written since. Then there’s Bill Murray, who was in Rushmore. He had an influence on my writing for the other movies, too.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Is he like his character in Rushmore in real life?
WES ANDERSON — Well, I didn’t know him before we made Rushmore, so I don’t know, but I would say that he brings a lot of himself to parts like that.

OLIVIER ZAHM — But these are all real life mentors. In most of your films you have a father figure who is a central element of the story.
WES ANDERSON — Yes, it’s definitely a recurrent thing. In the new movie we specifically tried not do it again. So the father died. But without us planning it the movie did end up being all about the father anyway.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Your father figures are always played by legendary cult actors.
WES ANDERSON — You mean like James Caan, Bill Murray, and Gene Hackman?

OLIVIER ZAHM — Yes. We’d like to see you cast Alain Delon in one of your movies.
WES ANDERSON — Does he still act in movies?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — He does TV now.
OLIVIER ZAHM — People like Seymour Cassel bring back all the nostalgia of acting.
WES ANDERSON — Seymour is in every one of my movies except this last one. There wasn’t really a part for him. I haven’t spoken to him in a while. I’m going to call him afterwards. Actually, Seymour is the one who’s most like my father. His character in Rushmore is the most like my father — especially the way that he treats his son.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Why is Max so mean to him? It almost made me cry.
WES ANDERSON — I know. Max is mean to him. It’s horrible. He has an illusion of what he wants his life to be like and his father doesn’t fit into it. But he figures that out. He wants some glamorous kind of thing — the world renowned neurosurgeon father. But someone like that would have been more like Gene Hackman’s character and probably would have been awful to him. He doesn’t know how good he has it.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Is that how it felt when you were a kid?
WES ANDERSON — Well, my father wasn’t a barber, for one thing. No, I was always impressed with what my father did.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Which was?
WES ANDERSON — Advertising. I was always very excited about it because he had artists working for him and people writing for him. It was exciting for me to visit his office. So these characters in the my films take a little bit of one thing and a little bit of another, but its mostly imaginary. In the ways that it’s not imaginary I’d probably better not go into.

photo Waris Ahluwalia

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is your father sometimes inspired by your creativity?  
WES ANDERSON — That’s an interesting question. I don’t know. I’m going to see him on Thursday and I’ll ask him. I’ll email you back about that.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Let’s talk about women.
WES ANDERSON — Oh boy!

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — We noticed that there’s never a typically hot chick in your movies. The women are always superior intellectually. Very chic and elegant. Sometimes snobbish.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Very complex women.
OLYMPIA LE-TAN — There’s never an obviously sexy woman.
WES ANDERSON — You should see Hotel Chevalier.  

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Is that going to debunk our whole theory?
WES ANDERSON — I’m not sure. It might actually support your theory. But a female character in it is definitely sexy. She’s intelligent. But dark.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Cate Blanchett’s character in The Life Aquatic is one of those cold intellectual women, too, isn’t she?
WES ANDERSON — Yes, she is a bit aloof. Maybe more so than I had written her. I actually imagined that character being not quite so reserved — that was Cate’s interpretation, which I liked. She was great, but it was slightly different than what I pictured. I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m saying anything bad about Cate Blanchett. She’s amazing!

OLIVIER ZAHM — In The Royal Tenenbaums, Anjelica Huston is a real woman. Her emotions are not faked and we’re really moved by her. You can see that she still loves her husband when she says, “I haven’t fucked in 17 years.” It’s no joke — we believe it.
WES ANDERSON — Yeah….

OLIVIER ZAHM — And Gwyneth Paltrow — when she hides the fact that she’s smoking, it’s a metaphor for her own sexuality. She has affairs all the time but you tell us that story in two minutes. She misbehaves sexually but you skim right over that part of her life.
WES ANDERSON — Right. We don’t waste anytime on that. It breezes by.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — It seems like you don’t really like talking about sex in your movies.
WES ANDERSON — You really should see the short! The short is all sex! And the new movie has some elements about it that are much more overtly sexual than my previous ones. But it’s funny. In Rushmore there was a scene written in which the teacher was naked, and I decided not to do it. In The Royal Tenenbaums there was nudity, but I cut it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Can I reformulate my question about women? I don’t mean that because there aren’t any hot chicks in your movies that your movies aren’t about sexuality. Maybe they are, but in a more complex, less obvious way. There are no erotic scenes — no hot kisses — but the women in your movies introduce an unexplicit sexual tension. How do you picture women’s sexuality in your films? How do you write a woman’s role?
WES ANDERSON — Well, when I write a part I never try to construct a character. It usually starts with a specific expression of something or someone. The complexity comes from whatever is complex about that person in real life. I don’t like to try to be theoretical about it. Because if I can explain what our idea is, it’s not going to be interesting. If you can reduce it to that, why bother? I like someone telling me something about the character that doesn’t ruin it for me. The best thing about writing is when you feel that the characters are real people. And you do, because you spend all your time on them. You get really attached to the characters. I think other writers would say the same thing.

OLIVIER ZAHM — That’s a good answer. But in the context of all the pornography that’s around these days your films and your sensibility seem to be quite distant from sex. You keep the imagery of sex away from your movies. Love is also quite problematic in your films.
OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Yes, it seems like the proper couples are always falling apart or are quite unhappy. When two characters are really in love it’s always in a forbidden way — in incest, friendship, or an unfortunate, impossible triangle.
WES ANDERSON — Yes, there’s always some big problem.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Like a man’s wife dying in a plane crash.
WES ANDERSON — [laughs] It’s true.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Why are you so pessimistic about love?
WES ANDERSON — Well, those affairs that are incestuous or something probably wouldn’t have worked out in the end either. My point of view is that I’m optimistic but I’ve never been in a relationship I felt was going to last forever.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Do you believe one exists?
WES ANDERSON — I do. Well, I hope so, anyway. How do you feel about it?

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — I’m still optimistic, but it takes time. I just haven’t met the right person yet.
WES ANDERSON — And you, Olivier?

OLIVIER ZAHM — I’m idealistic, but it doesn’t last more than….
OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Oh, Olivier’s more complex than the characters in your movies!
WES ANDERSON — [laughs] He could be the model for one of them!

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Olivier believes in love but not in monogamy.
WES ANDERSON — That’s complicated. That means the other person has to make a choice, and almost always the other person believes in monogamy.

photo Waris Ahluwalia

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — You’re very jealous, though.
OLIVIER ZAHM — Not in a bad way, I’m not. But if you’re in love, you’re jealous.
WES ANDERSON — Jealousy … that’s not good. There’s no good way to be jealous, is there? Or maybe it’s not always a bad thing. Maybe there’s a good a type of jealousy — when someone you’re in love with is very jealous it can make you feel more….

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Loved?
WES ANDERSON — Yes, loved. She’s really jealous so she must really love me….

OLIVIER ZAHM — If you become nicer to the person you’re with because you’re jealous, then jealousy can be interesting.
WES ANDERSON — Have you ever reacted that way? Become jealous over someone and then tried to be nicer to her to keep her close?

OLIVIER ZAHM — Well, if the person you’re in love with goes off with someone else for a night or more there must be a reason, and if you love them you have to try and understand that reason.
WES ANDERSON — Right. That’s very sophisticated. I feel that too, intellectually. Knowing the way people are, that’s probably the best way because it leaves room for people’s flaws and for what everybody wants at a certain moment. But I’m too jealous a person to be that open. I end up combining jealousy and secrecy. Even if there’s an agreement to put everything on the table I tend to want to hide it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — If you hide it your life becomes a nightmare.
OLYMPIA LE-TAN — If you don’t hide it your life becomes a nightmare!
WES ANDERSON — But if you hide it you put a great deal of stress on yourself.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Yes, but I still think it’s easier.
WES ANDERSON — Have you ever seen La Peau Douce? It has a very good depiction of some of these issues.

OLIVIER ZAHM — So you don’t have a pessimistic view of love?
WES ANDERSON — I don’t think so. But I feel like I’ve been a bit detached the last couple of years, in a way that I don’t expect to continue. That’s a cryptic thing to say. I don’t know what it means exactly, but I feel like I went through a period of withdrawal. I don’t want to stay that way.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Maybe it’s good to be that way. Love always happens when you don’t expect it.
WES ANDERSON — Yeah, I think you’re right. It just has to sort of happen because it really is unusual to find someone that you’re really going to click with.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It’s a very rare thing.
OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Are you Jewish, Wes?
WES ANDERSON — No, but I feel kind of like I almost am. For one thing, all my movies seem to be pretty Jewish. I mean Jason’s character in Rushmore — he must be Jewish. And the family in The Royal Tenenbaums is a Jewish family.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Chas looks particularly Jewish. And at the end of the movie doesn’t Gene Hackman say something like they’re half Catholic, half Hebrew?
WES ANDERSON — He says they’re part Hebrew, part Mick — half Mick/Catholic, half Hebrew. We actually state it in that one.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Do journalists and film critics ever make parallels between you and Woody Allen?
WES ANDERSON — A little bit. Well, they used to, anyway. More so when we did The Royal Tenenbaums. I think when I did The Life Aquatic they forgot about Woody Allen. That one was just too weird for them.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Have you ever met Woody Allen?
WES ANDERSON — No. Maybe I was introduced to him once in a restaurant, but I’m not positive about that. There’s this restaurant I’ve seen him in a couple of times. Maybe we shook hands, but that was the extent of it.

OLIVIER ZAHM — It would be a good idea to give him a part in one of your movies.
WES ANDERSON — Yes, that’s a great idea. But he doesn’t act in other peoples’ movies that often.

OLIVIER ZAHM — He might make an exception for you.
WES ANDERSON — I wonder why he doesn’t do other people’s movies. I can’t speak for him, but maybe if someone gives him a huge paycheck he’ll play in their movie. Or maybe he does it for other reasons. I don’t now.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Would you ever act in someone else’s movie?
WES ANDERSON — Nobody has ever offered me a part.

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — Would you consider it?
WES ANDERSON — My first reaction is that I wouldn’t want to act in anyone else’s movie. But then you can’t really say for sure until someone comes along and says they’ve got this great part for you. Then your vanity kicks in. So who knows?

OLIVIER ZAHM — We saw you in the Amex commercial. You were really good.
WES ANDERSON — Thanks. That’s a French commercial. It’s local!

OLIVIER ZAHM — Why are there always underwater scenes in your films?
WES ANDERSON — I don’t know. In The Royal Tenenbaums we had a little one. In Rushmore there was one inspired by The Graduate.  

OLYMPIA LE-TAN — There was one in Bottle Rocket, too.
WES ANDERSON — That’s right. The scene in the swimming pool. I haven’t seen that movie in a long time. I don’t really remember all the details.

OLIVIER ZAHM — Is it purely esthetic? Or is it more about escape?
WES ANDERSON — It’s not a cinematic type of thing; it’s more about the writing. There are only tiny bits of the movies that take place underwater. We do go underwater a certain amount of times in our lives.

END

 

[Table of contents]

S/S 2008 issue 9

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