The Kids Are Just Right
Casting newcomers and known stars for MOONRISE KINGDOM
After being hand-picked by Wes Anderson, MOONRISE KINGDOM’s young central couple get the lesson of a lifetime working next to stars like Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and more.
It could have been a risky proposition for a film director to cast in key roles two newcomers with little or no experience.
But, as MOONRISE KINGDOM producer Jeremy Dawson notes, “Wes Anderson trusts his instincts, so it came down to whom he felt he could visualize in these two roles – and, once again, he’s hit it out of the park in terms of the casting.”
Youngsters Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward won Anderson over at different junctures of what was an extensive casting process.
After an initial audition and three more callbacks over the course of six months, Gilman remembers, “I was getting in the car with my mom on the way home from school, and I asked her if she had any news. She didn’t answer; she called up my father instead, and he pulled a Ryan Seacrest [/American Idol results buildup] on me, before he told me I got the part. I screamed, I laughed, and I cried. It was probably the happiest day of my life.”
Hayward’s mother was more straightforward in delivering the good news. The actress recalls, “I had just come home from school, and my mother said, ‘Guess what?’ and I said, ‘What?’ and she said, ‘You got the role.’ It took me a minute to digest. It was thrilling. My little five-minute video from the open call got me the movie.
“I love my character. Suzy Bishop is misunderstood at home; she is among three little brothers, a father with issues, and a mother who is having an affair. She’s very sensitive yet also a tough girl.”
Gilman saw his character of Sam Shakusky as “a good kid with amazing scouting skills; he’s earned all these badges. But he’s mistreated by his foster brothers – Sam is an orphan – and by the other Khaki Scouts. He meets Suzy at a church pageant and, over a year, they create a plan to run away together.”
Despite being new to films, the two young stars applied themselves with aplomb and dedication. Both of them memorized the entire script as preparation before arriving on location.
“People tell me I have a good memory,” states Hayward. “So that didn’t really take me long. I read it over until I finally knew it.”
For Gilman, the process was by necessity a little lengthier. He explains, “I had to memorize some of the script for the callbacks. Then, before filming, I went to several rehearsals with Kara for which I memorized basically all of my part. By the time we started officially shooting, I really had the script down; it was recorded read onto a file, and I listened to that over and over again on my phone.”
The young stars would also rehearse together in the production office before going to the set. But preparation entailed much more than merely learning their lines; Anderson wanted them to explore their characters, to feel comfortable in their skins, and to understand who they were and why Suzy and Sam do what they do. So, he assigned the kids some homework.
Gilman recounts, “I took canoeing lessons, a couple of karate lessons, and learned some cooking – there’s scenes where I have to cook over a fire.”