At just 13-years-old, Jared Gilman has already gone through a number of auditions, but also managed to land his first leading role, the role of the unpopular yet tenacious Sam Shakusky in Moonrise Kingdom.
Sam falls for Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) the moment he lays eyes on her. The romance heats up as the two send each other letters and eventually decide to run away together. Sam packs his wilderness survival essentials and ditches his Khaki Scout troop while Suzy puts her kitten in a carrier, takes her most prized books and hits the road. When Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton) and the Bishops (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) realize the kids are missing, they enlist in the help of Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) to track them down.
While Moonrise Kingdom rocks very familiar names like Murray, Willis, Norton, McDormand and more, Gilman and his young co-star, Hayward, undoubtedly steal the show. You’d think it might have been the slightest bit intimidating stepping in front of the lens for Wes Anderson and in the company of such monumental talent, but a lengthy audition process gave Gilman all the confidence he needed to pull it off.
This is your first feature, so how’d you get involved? Did you always want to be an actor?
Jared Gilman: I have a manager and I was going on auditions and I think it was like September 2010 I went on the first audition for this and then about six months later and three callbacks, on March 1st, 2011, I got the part.
So you knew you wanted to be an actor before this came along?
Yeah, I guess when I got my manager that’s kind of when it clicked.
Had you done any work before getting your manager? Maybe short films or something like that?
Do mandatory school plays count? [Laughs]
And I was also taking acting lessons and that kind of this, so yeah.
At what point in the audition process did you get to meet Wes?
I met Wes on the first callback. The first audition I had, it was a cold reading and it was like every other audition, basically. I went in, I said hi, I told the casting directors a bit about myself and I read the sides that they gave me and then about a couple weeks later, I got my first ever callback, which was really exciting. For that they had me paired with this other girl and they had us read about 30 pages from the script and that was when I first met Wes. And then I think it was another month or so later, I had a second callback in Wes’ office and he had me go over the same 30 pages, except it was just me and Wes. And then I think it was another month later, I had a third callback and it was with the casting directors, no Wes, just the casting directors, and they had me do some of the more emotional stuff and then about a month later, I got the part.
After going through all of those auditions and callbacks, what was it like when you found out you got the role?
My mom was picking me up from school, which she never does, and she called my dad and she said the reason was because we were buying a new dishwashing machine, so that was why she had to call my dad. And then while my dad was on her Bluetooth, my mom turns over to me and says, ‘Jared, we have some good news and we have some bad news.’ My dad starts talking and he eventually says that the good is, I got the part. And then I looked over at my mom and was like, ‘What’s the bad news?’ And then she said that I’m missing school. Then after that I just sat there in silence and then after that 30 seconds or so, I started screaming, crying, laughing all at the same time. I usually think of myself as a very contained person, but that was like one of the few moments in my life where I actually explode.
How about your character? Are you anything like Sam?
In a lot of ways I am very different than Sam. He’s very outdoorsy obviously and I’m very indoorsy. I’m a video game nerd/movie buff kind of guy. But, I do have to say, I can relate to Sam through growing up and fitting in, that whole concept. That helped me to relate to him.
How about the romantic aspect? You’re only 13, so I don’t know if you’ve ever been in love before, so did Wes or anyone give you some advice for that?
I just had the mindset that this is what my character wanted and I just have to face that and really believe that for my character.
And how about your relationship with the other troops? It must have been a blast to be on a set with a bunch of kids your age, so did you all become good friends?
Yeah, in real life, they’re very cool people. I was very friendly with them in real life.
Sam’s a bit of an outcast though, so how did that affect your work? Are you able to turn that friendship on and off?
Yeah, I was able to do that.
How you guys spend your downtime on set?
We had school. We had tutors and I had to do homework and stuff, so yeah, that’s kind of what I did when I wasn’t filming.
Anything for fun?
When I finished school we would go outside, throw frisbees, do hide and go seek and that kind of thing.
Did you actually learn anything about being a boy scout and camping while on set?
Yeah, I learned how to canoe and I also learned how to cook over an open fire and cook a fish. I also did some psychical training as well and I think that really helped me appreciate scouts that much more.
Does that make you want to trade in the videogames for camping gear at all?
I guess that kind of raised the percentage of that happening a bit higher, but that’d be a very tough decision for me. [Laughs]
How was it working with Edward Norton and Bruce Willis? Sadly Sam doesn’t have a father in the film, but it’s pretty cool that you get to have two father figures played by such amazing actors.
Yeah, they were all really great. They were all really kind and down to earth and they were all amazing. It was a real pleasure just to work with them and, yeah, Bill [Murray] was great as well.
Did they have any advice for you as an up and coming actor? Anything that really stuck?
Bill told me that I should hum in the mornings just to warm up my voice for when I’m filming. He also taught me how to tie a tie. I didn’t know how to tie a tie at the time because I never really had to wear a tie. In fact, the first time I ever saw a tie, I screamed and ran around the house yelling, ‘No tie! No tie!’ And when we were in the room, they were all women, so they didn’t know either and Bill happened to be right there so he looked over at me and said, ‘Jared, come over here. I’ll teach you.’ I went over and he taught me how to tie a tie.
How about Wes? How was it working with him?
Wes is great. He’s amazing. He’s brilliant. He’s one of the few true artists out there in a sense that he really knows how to take an idea and then turn that into a really great script and then take that really great script and paint a picture and really make that into a great movie.
What was his process like for having you get into Sam’s head? Did he have you do anything unique that you didn’t expect?
He had me watch Escape from Alcatraz because I think some of the characters are a bit similar in a sense that Clint Eastwood’s character is also like mine, very resourceful and very capable. To help us get into our characters, he had Kara and I write the letters that you see in the movie, the dear Sam, dear Suzy letters, except he would have us complete them. At first he had us e-mail the letters, but then midway through, he realized it’s probably better to actually have us do real snail mail and write them and send them to each other and that’s what we did and that helped us not only get into our characters and get to know each other, but it also really helped us get into that 1960s vibe.
Did you have a favorite scene to film?
I liked to film a lot of the stuff with the storm; that was a lot of fun. And I also really liked filming the scene when Sam and Suzy first meet. I don’t know why, I just thought it was a lot of fun to film that.
Was there anything movie magic-wise, a way they make something happen in the movies, that really surprised you?
They had to shoot in so many different forests and stuff that, at first, when we were filming, we had no idea how it would look like it’s the same forest, but it really came out well and I guess it really had to do with a lot of movie magic.
Sam’s also got some pretty cool costumes and props. Did you get to keep anything?
I didn’t get to take anything immediately after filming, but then a couple months later, they mailed me my backpack.
Any advice for a kid your age who falls for a girl with strict parents? I don’t know if running off into the wood is the best idea.
If I had to give any advice, it would just have to be to take the initiative and not be afraid.