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Director/write Wes Anderson and writer Roman Coppola created a rich tapestry of colorful characters in ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ with overlapping connections that draw us into the realm of the movieâs island community, New Penzance. The community is a richly realized place populated by rounded and complex denizens. Accordingly, actors were captivated by the story immediately. âIt takes you into a completely new world from the first page,â says Tilda Swinton. âA world that is as beautifully designed and completely conceived as this one is always going to be a thrill in cinema.â Bill Murray, who also appeared in âThe Darjeeling Limitedâ, adds, âItâs a really fine script. There is an electricity that moves through it; Roman and Wes are really wonderful together.â To film their movie about the discovery of first love and an adventure for two children, the filmmakers honed in on Rhode Island as an allpurpose location â after what producer Jeremy Dawson refers to as âGoogle-scouting.â
âIt was an unusual scouting process,â adds production designer Adam Stockhausen. âEveryone â myself, Wes, Jeremy, [co-producer] Molly Cooper â was in New York and researching islands.â Dawson elaborates, âThe story was written to take place on an island, and was envisioned as a New England coastal island. But we looked all over the world â albeit often from our living rooms â the Eastern seaboard, the West Coast, even the coast of Cornwall.â
With a modest population and few automobiles allowed, New Penzance lends itself to being a place that sparks the childrenâs imaginations and senses of adventure. Rhode Islandâs miles and miles of beautiful coastline and its contained geography sealed the deal, finalized through the Rhode Island Film & TV Office. The stateâs topography encompasses rolling fields and craggy ravines, points of elevation, forests and beaches, and rocky coves.
Among the stateâs many shooting locations for âMoonrise Kingdomâ were Narragansett Bay; the 1,800-acre Camp Yawgoog, lensed in just ahead of the summer season; and the historic Trinity Church in Newport, where George Washington was a parishioner. Particular care was taken by the cast and crew when working at the latter location, which was redressed twice as New Penzanceâs church; initially, for the pageant at which Suzy and Sam first meet one year before the main events of the story transpire, and then for the climactic sequence of the movie which brings their adventure full circle.
The filmmakers wanted the physical production to be focused, not bloated. Accordingly, there were no big trucks, and no actor or filmmaker trailers. Actors were encouraged to arrive camera-ready, requiring them to don their costumes in their hotel rooms before coming to set. Prudence Island, in Narragansett Bay, provided probably the most unique location for the production. Dawson comments, âThereâs no infrastructure there; thereâs one tiny little store at which to buy things. We had to get local environmental clearance to set foot on some of the pebble beaches, and charter a ferry boat to get crew members on-site. It pays off on-screen; Prudence really does lookÂ untouched.â
With Rhode Islandâs geographical versatility and the unitâs leanness, it wasnât uncommon for the production to move to and film at three or four different locations around the state on a given day â a park here, a beach there, a waterfall down the road. Anderson had prepared for this part of the process as well, with an advance shoot weeks prior to the commencement of principal photography; he recruited a skeleton crew and shot footage â much of it amidst natural foliage â that would be included in the finished film. This minimal unit enjoyed a great amount of freedom. Dawson remembers, âWe drove around in a van and just went around the state and shot, including with the child actors. The cameras were light and small, so we werenât bogged down with heavy gear.â
Image Courtesy of Â Moonrise Kingdom