Interview: Kara Hayward on Moonrise Kingdom

The other young star of Wes Anderson's latest talks about her screen debut working with the acclaimed director.



How many kids get to have their first-ever kiss directed on screen by Wes Anderson? As one half of the star-crossed lovers in Moonrise Kingdom, 12-year-old Kara Hayward got to share in that very experience -- along with, you know, making her screen debut in a Wes Anderson film. Not that we're envious. At all. In the director's latest whimsical journey, Hayward plays Suzy, the moody older sister -- a pamphlet on the family fridge reads "Coping with the Troubled Child" -- in a mildly dysfunctional clan parented by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. Obsessed with girl's own adventure novels, Suzy soon embarks on one of her own when she falls for orphan Sam (Jared Gilman) and the two elope to an orchestra of adult chaos.

A couple of weeks back we talked with Gilman about Moonrise Kingdom, and this week it's Ms. Hayward's turn. Here, we had the chance to chat with the young actress about how she got the role, what it was like working with Anderson, and her plans for the future. And that kiss, of course.


This is your very first film, and it's a great one -- so congratulations are in order. Tell me, how did you get involved with a Wes Anderson movie?

Kara Hayward: Thank you! I heard about the open call from my dance teacher, who mentioned it. So I decided it might be something I might want to take a shot at for fun. And so after the open call I got a call asking me if I wanted to meet Wes Anderson -- so after I met him I got another call saying you had the job.

Were you a fan beforehand?

Yes, I was. I had seen Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Darjeeling Limited before I even knew about this.

So this was pretty exciting.

Yes.

What was your favorite out of those three?

I might have to say Darjeeling Limited. I loved that.

Had Jared been cast when you went in for your interview?

I believe he had already been chosen, yes.

When did you two first meet?

It was the month prior to filming. What they would do is that they had us come down to Rhode Island every Monday for rehearsals; so that's when I first met him.

What did you first think of him? Be honest.

[Laughs] He was nice! He was very nice. He seemed very talented, and I was just excited to work with him.

What was it like filming with Wes? For instance, is it hard to hit your marks when his camera's so meticulously plotted out?

I don't think it's quite hard to hit your marks. I think that he is so talented that he really makes it very easy to do anything. He's brilliant and so, so kind. He's amazing.

Did Wes show you any other films to give you an idea of what he was going for in this?

I did watch a film called Melody once. That was a lovely film.

I love the end of that film -- it's kind of anarchy, with the kids running riot among the teachers and blowing up a car.

[Laughs] Yes. That was a lot of fun. I love the ending. It was very sweet. It was a touching story.

They get married in that one, too. Unofficially.

Yes. [Laughs] We also saw a film called Blackjack, an English film. It did inspire me personally, on just how to bring my character Suzy to life, really -- just how to get into that, how to really improve on the way I was going to do it. That made me a lot better by the time I was ready.

How did you and Jared get on as the movie filmed? There must have been a lot of implicit trust to act out that story with each other.

He's a very nice guy. We became good friends. We could really trust each other by the end of the film.

Was it shot in sequence?

It was not. That was something that actually kind of surprised me, 'cause I didn't know much about the filming process. So that was one of those things that I found very interesting.

Because you had to access different parts of Suzy's character at different emotional moments. How much are you like her in real life?

In some little details. She likes animals and reading, but otherwise, we're quite different.

You don't seem as troubled.

[Laughs] Yes. It's very interesting to portray someone so different from who you are.

She has some similar traits to Margot Tenenbaum. Did you feel that? Did you go back to any of Wes's films to study up on the characters?

Honestly, I watched Wes's films because I like Wes's films. [Laughs] Really I just played the scene the way I would play it and then Wes would make his little tweaks to the scenes. That's pretty much how I acted scenes. She does have some similarities to Margot Tenenbaum. They do have their own secrets. They've got the eye makeup. [Laughs]

It almost feels like all these characters exist in the same universe.

Yes. He does create quite a vibrant world for them to live in.

How much of Suzy is on the page, when you read the screenplay? Does the character emerge more on set?

I think Suzy is a very complex person. They did describe a bit of her in the script, but really it's when you begin to act as her that you can start to see what she's thinking inside her head, and just her entire world.

Were all her books real or were they made up?

[Laughs] No, the books were not real, they were made up. They're beautiful. The covers were all designed by different artists and they're very talented; very amazing the way they did that. But no, those were fake books. I wanted to read them.

I hear that your screen kiss was saved until right at the end of filming.

Yes, it was.

And it was your first kiss, too.

[Laughs] Yes. It was.

Were you nervous? I mean, granted a lot of people would love to have their first kiss in a Wes Anderson movie.

[Laughs] It was... I mean, it was all very -- it was saved to the end, I believe, for purposes of we trusted each other and you know, we were very comfortable with the crew and the camera and everything. And we were acting. It was just another scene. It was very protected.

First kiss, no big deal.

Yeah. [Laughs] We didn't care. Just another scene.

Now, your on screen dad is played by Bill Murray.

[Laughs] Yes.

It's safe to assume that he seems like a pretty cool guy.

Bill is the best. He's great. He's absolutely fantastic. On and off screen he's hysterically funny and everyone loves him. He's absolutely a ray of sunshine.

What was your favorite moment working with him? Everyone loves a good Bill Murray story.

Everyone does love a good Bill Murray story. There was the one time we were doing a photo shoot and they put a giant tuba on his head -- and he began to play. He was actually very good.

[Laughs] Bill Murray, accomplished tubist. I'm not surprised at all.

Yeah. [Laughs] He can do anything. He seems very musical. He had a guitar, and he could play that. He was very good. He can do everything I think.

Do you have a favorite scene in the film?

I think the one scene that I really enjoyed filming was this one between myself and Fran McDormand, where it was this very touching mother-daughter scene that showed the two characters at their most vulnerable points.

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