It’s fairly common knowledge that the key movers and shakers in turning Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson‘s Bottle Rocket (’96) into a “go” feature were the late Polly Platt, producer-screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson and concert promoter and Woodstock ’69 maestro Michael Lang. In the wake of Platt’s death, I thought I’d re-tell the story one more time for the record. I discussed it with Carson today, and heard from Anderson online. Lang didn’t get back.
(l. to r.) The late Polly Platt, Wes Anderson, L.M. Kit Carson, Michael Lang.
Bottle Rocket was green-lighted because Carson slipped the 13-minute black-and-white Bottle Rocket short — directed by Anderson, co-written by Wes and Owen and exec produced by Carson and Lang — to Platt in early ’94. The short had just played at Sundance, and Platt was involved in cutting the doomed musical I’ll Do Anything with director James L. Brooks.
Carson had seen a few minutes of rough footage that Anderson had shot, and convinced Lang to invest $7500 to pay for the short’s production costs.
“Polly was the person who persuaded Jim Brooks to watch the Bottle Rocket short during lunch break,” says Carson. “They were in the editing room on I’ll Do Anything, and she stuck the tape into a VHS player and and made him watch it. When it ended Brooks looked up and said, ‘What’s anybody waiting for? Make a deal. This is a go picture.’ No-shit-thanks, Polly Platt, for this movie.”
“Wes and Owen had showed me some rough footage,” Carson recalls. ” It wasn’t even a cut-together film. I got Michael Lang to write a check for $7500, and we took that and re-shot the short.” Current Sundance honcho John Cooper was a programmer at the time, and he told Carson’s partner Cynthia Hargrave that the short “‘has to be 13 minutes and no longer” so that’s the length they cut it to.
After the Sundance showing Carson sent the tape to Platt at the recommendation of producer Barbara Boyle, who’s now a senior professor/chair/something-or-other with UCLA’s film program.
Bottle Rocket being greenlighted by Brooks and Columbia “was a major moment….a comet coming out of the universe and hitting Wes Anderson on his left shoulder,” says Carson. And yet despite this history relations cooled between Anderson and Carson during shooting, and pretty much ceased after the film was released. Vague vibes, no reciprocity or keeping in touch over future projects.
“My favorite moment with Wes — relatively recently, I mean — was around the time of the release of The Darjeeling Limited,” Carson relates. “I was on the phone with Roman Coppola, and he said, ‘Someone wants to talk to you.’ And Wes got on the line and said, ‘Roman says I should say thank you.'”
I wrote Anderson about this anecdote and he wrote back as follows: “I don’t recall the conversation Kit refers to but I was very happy to see him in LA during that time and [I] still miss him.” Anderson, currently shooting Moonrise Kingdom in New England, said he’d rather not be quoted about Platt’s passing. “Some people have been asking me for comments but really don’t wish to share anything for now,” he said.