What was it like to shoot your movie in India?
India gets under your skin. It is filled with colors like no other place. People look at you as if you are the craziest person they have ever seen. I like the idea of being a foreigner, and having so much positive feedback. India is a very vibrant place. You are never alone in India. India influenced the form as well as the content of our movie. Our policy was not to control what we find there, but to look and see what we could discover. In the finished movie, we would freeze-frame a shot and we'd be surprised to see who was in it: a man walking by with a barrel in the corner, for example. We did not control it. India became the subject matter. None of us is an expert of India
Can you speak about your use of setting?
I like trains, and I liked the idea of having a set moving across the country. We made the sets spontaneously while in India. One of our rules was to make it as personal as we could. It was all discovery, and getting locals to paint the sets. For example, one day, we got the idea to have locals paint elephants on the train. My set producer Mark Friedberg created on the spot. I did not want to go to India and have this be a continual struggle. We had to face surprises.
Can you give an example of a surprise?
In one village we shot in, we had to take the dead child into a home to be cremated, but no villager would allow us to do this in their houses. That scene was important for the movie, so we had to find a solution. The villagers built us a home overnight, and they decorated it and painted it as if one of their own houses. This solution was unexpected. Why did I need the scene with the dead child? I needed it to happen to turn the movie l80 degrees.
What about the music?
The music comes from Satyajit Ray's movies. Indeed, Ray's movies are what made me want to go to India in the first place--as did Jean Renoir's movie "The River". Ray wrote the music for his own films. We also used music from Merchant Ivory.
What inspired you to make a film about three brothers?
I always wanted to do a film about three brothers because I am one of three brothers. We grew up fighting and yet they are the closest people in the world to me. Of course, all the characters in the movie are fictional. The next movie I am making is even more fictional: I am making a movie about a family of foxes!
How did you write the script?
I went to Rajasthan with two friends, Jason Schwartzman and Roman Coppola, and we wrote the script over two months; we wrote it on the train and put everything into the script. I printed out pages everyday. But then I short-circuited the printer! I liked doing this movie in circumstances I could not control. .
Why do you begin your movie with a short about Paris?
I made the short separately, and only later did I see how the two went together. We started incorporating things from the short into the movie. Not everything was well-conceived. The way the movie itself starts with Bill Murray was meant to be like that from the beginning. I found Bill in the West Village and said, hey would you like to play not a cameo role, but a symbol. He said: "Playing a symbol, I like that.' The ideal thing is to see the short one day, and the movie the next.
What does the journey through India mean for the
brothers at the end?
The brothers start off not open to each other. They are controlled. Things happen unexpectedly to them, and this throws everything over. They learn to approach each other in a different way. They learn to approach death in a different way too.
Your movie spoofs conventional Western experiments with spirituality in India, but nevertheless has a spiritual component, perhaps in its own creativity?
Yes, we performed every kind of ritual in India, from snakes to yoga. But our biggest ritual was the making of the film itself. Making a movie together is the most moving experience. I met and worked with people I want to keep for my next films, such as our key grip, Sanjay Sami.
The morning before I spoke to Wes in Venice, I went swimming in the Lido because I had a migraine----because slept in a new bed last night, a wonderful American woman having graciously opened her palazzo in Venice to me, just in the spirit of sharing (she herself paying 3000 euros for the week), after I found myself on a canal curb at midnight waiting for a man named Dante who had screamed, "Bring me the money! Bring me the money!", who never showed up because he "was eating dinner", and then two Venetian boys lent me a cell phone and a cigarette, and I called this American woman....
She spoke over breakfast about her philosophy of "visualizing and making the universe happen," and then we took the vaporetto together in the morning to Lido, where I met Todd Haynes, after twenty years (old college mates), and felt happy to see him with the same young look and view: "Bob Dylan is a chance to live the myths of America past and future," he said.
Then went swimming in Lido.
The masseuse in the Excelsior hotel said she would see me immediately for a massage, as I had an interview with Wes Anderson and my head was pounding, but midway through I felt bad about paying 50 euros so extravagantly and stopped the massage, and she said, "But I can't leave you with a migraine! My daughter is a poet, and she writes such sensitive poems..." So she acupuncture-pressed my hands and then blowdried my sea-wet pants so they would not be too embarrassing for the interview.
The hairdresser in the hotel salon caught me as I was leaving with sea-salted wet hair and said "You cannot leave like that!" He sat me down and coiffed my hair, for free, and told me that art today was terrible, that the best art is the art of the heart, so simple, that all humans were the same, with a simplicity in their heart, and this was what the old films had, and he himself was one who believed in art that made us remember the magic of the moment!
Then sat down with Adrien Brody and he said that to be an actor is to create magic. How so? I asked. How do you make that happen? And he said: "to be open. You are open and then all clicks."
He smiled and winked.
Wes Anderson agreed that the spirituality of his film voyage to India lay in precisely the making of the film: to be with a group of people and make a film: that, he said, eyes glowing in happy near tears, is spirituality!