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Wes Anderson discovers precocious duo for ‘Moonrise Kingdom’

PARADISE FOUND:Two preteens (KarHayward Jared Gilman) share summer idyll “Moonrise Kingdom.

PARADISE FOUND:Two preteens (Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman) share a summer idyll in “Moonrise Kingdom.

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Updated: July 6, 2012 10:18AM

NEW YORK — She’s an avid reader who likes to have a notebook handy to jot down her thoughts.

He’s a movie geek and budding filmmaker who favors “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Caddyshack.”

She admires Emma Stone and Emma Watson. He thinks Tom Hanks is “awesome.”

Together, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward will likely be in the running for this summer’s most romantic movie couple. Certainly, the seventh-graders are shoo-ins for the youngest, as they make their film debuts in “Moonrise Kingdom,” the latest wistful fable from director Wes Anderson.

As the 12-year-old runaways Sam and Suzy, whose disappearance in the summer of 1965 upends life on a rustic New England island, they head a cast that includes adult stars Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand and Bill Murray. But it’s the kids who own the picture.

Seated at a cafe table tucked safely away from the bustling Waldorf-Astoria lobby, the pair (now both 13) appear fearless and focused. Kara is exceedingly ladylike and poised in her green knit Rachel Roy shift, while baby-blue polo-shirted Jared has grown 5 inches and his voice has deepened since the shoot last year.

He is still more boy than man. When Jared mentions a recent film obsession, the superhero spoof “Kick-Ass” (2010), he feels obligated to politely mouth the second half of the title.

Compared to the outdoorsy Sam, who admirably organizes the pair’s getaway and is skilled in canoeing, fishing and cooking, Jared says he is very “indoorsy” and prefers hitting golf balls over pitching tents.

For macho inspiration, Anderson asked him to watch “Escape From Alcatraz” (1979), the prison break-out flick with Clint Eastwood. “It was for his looks,” Jared says of studying the star’s squinting visage while declaring it “an amusing film.”

For someone who is fond of using the same actors, Anderson took quite a chance casting two unknowns. But he insists it was worth the effort to hand-pick fresh faces for his most personal tale yet. “This is very much a fantasy I had at the time I was their age,” says Anderson, 43, speaking of an early crush. “But it was nothing I acted on.”

Kara looks crush-worthy in “Moonrise Kingdom.” Her heavy eye shadow recalls Gwyneth Paltrow’s Margot in “The Royal Tenenbaums.” She did her own hair and makeup on the film. “They wanted it to be very authentic,” she explains. “I don’t think Suzy ever heard of makeup remover. She is trying very hard to look beautiful and older ever since she met Sam.”

Kara, who lives outside Boston, has been a member of Mensa since she was 9 (but she doesn’t know her exact IQ other than “it’s in a category above exceptional”). Sam, who hails from South Orange, N.J., counters that he is ambidextrous. There’s evidence that both are quick learners in dealing with difficult inquiries, relying on such safe comebacks as “That’s an interesting question” or “I’ll have to think about that.”

They even breeze through chatting about sharing their first onscreen smooch. Anderson thought he captured a magic moment. “I told the cameraman, ‘It feels like Jared is a man now. Something happened.’ But when asked if it felt like something real, they said, “No, no, no.”

While both Jared and Kara are at ease in each other’s company, there is no whiff of puppy love. Unlike Sam and Suzy, they are in no rush to settle down. Not only is eighth grade on their agenda, they also hope to attend college. Plus, both seem bent on pursuing more acting opportunities.

Besides, if you can fool your director with your acting, you can probably convince anyone.

Gannett News Service

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