Wes Anderson has heard that AI-generated parodies of his cinematic style are metastasizing online. His response during a call last week from New York is one of wry resignation.

“I thought: Oh, my God!” Anderson says with a warm laugh. “What I’d like is to have some kind of AI attorney who could just do some algorithm that makes me get paid for every single one of these things somehow.”

“Even the power of artificial intelligence, I don’t think, is going to get me paid for any of this.”

Anderson’s true artistic concern is keeping a healthy mental distance from such reductive AI content. You can be a genius of a stylistic auteur — at any point drawing fertile ideas from Akira Kurosawa, Billy Wilder or Chuck Jones — and still find your textured aesthetic diminished to what feels like an algorithm-driven filter. So Anderson averts his eyes and doesn’t view them.

When he is making a movie, “The process begins with usually nothing, but I have all kinds of different inspirations — it’s such a kind of intuitive process,” says Anderson, speaking ahead of this week’s opening of his 11th feature film, “Asteroid City,” whose Southwest desert setting drew partial inspiration from rugged mid-’50s American film classics. “Sometimes I feel I’d [like to] keep the sanctity of my workspace a little bit and not get distracted.”

Not that an A-list filmmaker of Anderson’s distinctive cinematic style can avoid being spoofed. He is one of the relatively few living directors whose aesthetic is so widely recognizable that he has long come in for parody. Earlier this year, some of his signature elements — including symmetrical composition, foregrounded faces and yellow fonts — fueled a trend of fan-made TikTok videos that Anderson appreciated.

Not that he watched (“I have not in my life yet seen a TikTok of any kind,” the director tells The Washington Post). But he appreciated, because the short, simple parodies seemed to come from a place of joyful engagement. “I love the people who do things like that — that’s my real feeling,” says the director, valuing that fans find aspects of his work that inspire. “I just kind of let them do it in their space and I don’t really interact with it.”

Yet Anderson takes a much dimmer view of generative AI tools that have wantonly scraped millions of images without permission. Even as some artists pursue litigation against AI companies, online AI-generated parodies of well-known filmmakers and illustrators reproduce by the day, increasingly untethered from the truth of the source material by such creatives as Quentin Tarantino and Hayao Miyazaki, who has called all AI animation “an insult to life itself.”

“An artist or illustrator has a particular hand that they’ve developed and they find their set of ideas — they find their voice,” Anderson says. “And I don’t know how good AI is at creating a voice.

“Once it’s given a voice, you can do anything you want with it — that is a bit disturbing. And it feels like: Can that be legal?”

That is the flattening effect of amateur AI spoofs, as if Anderson were simply the sum of his cinematic tics, his authorial presence cut to a caricature of an empty suit, be it a seersucker, a fox-colored corduroy or Tom Wolfe white. (Even when he has created stylish commercials for actual clothiers such as H&M and Prada, Anderson’s filmic visions are expertly layered.)

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Many of the AI-generated, dead-eyed spoofs are fake movie trailers that purport to render film franchises — including Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter — in Anderson’s style. They feel more like a sendup of a spoof of an SNL parody.

The French-based filmmaker is famed for visual ideas that run through much of his work, including what he calls his “overt theatricality.” He often deploys bright tints reminiscent of such influential directors as ’60s-era Jean-Luc Godard, and he relishes imagery that evokes nostalgic longing. Those elements are certainly on display in “Asteroid City,” including the sky blues and lemon yellows and lime greens common to American-made cars at mid-century.

Some of the digital imitators lean into Anderson’s signature primary colors and symmetry, albeit on an elemental level. Robert Yeoman, the director of photography on Anderson’s nine live-action feature films, says of their beautifully symmetrical composition and staging: “We always find the center of the space, and we’re very careful about that. The distance is measured out from the camera to the edge of the walls because oftentimes when Wes shows up on the set, the first thing he says is: ‘Are we centered?’”

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And from that locus spins out the director’s artfully intricate visions. Anderson’s deep frame often becomes filled with visual action deftly occurring along various planes — a cinematic sophistication not apparent in prompt-driven parodies.

“Let’s type in ‘symmetrical,’ ‘bright pastels’ and ‘nostalgia,’ ’Star Wars’ and ‘Wes Anderson.’ Done. Then upload it,” says Wally Koval, mocking the high-speed simplicity of AI imitation. He is the founder of Accidentally Wes Anderson, a popular travel-photo community.

Those videos operate at “the surface level of what people think Wes Anderson is” without “going behind the facade with a deeper understanding of the storytelling space and underlying narratives — that’s where the true beauty is,” says Koval, whose Instagram account for Anderson fans has more than 1.8 million followers. Koval and his wife, Amanda, based in Brooklyn, also published the best-selling “Accidentally Wes Anderson: The Book,” for which Anderson wrote the foreword.

Anderson parodies, of course, have been produced for decades, including SNL’s 2013 faux horror trailer “The Midnight Coterie of the Sinister Intruders,” and CNN’s 2016 “The State of the Union Address as a Wes Anderson Film,” which sent up the director’s use of such elements as forced perspective and slow motion. Other videos have focused on specifics, such as Anderson’s idiosyncratic overhead shots of hands. Even a superhero mash-up video like “What If Wes Anderson Directed X-Men” was drawing millions of viewers years ago.

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As “Asteroid City” trailers gained views earlier this year, the fan-made TikTok videos featuring aspects of Anderson’s style began going viral, with the subjects often going through their quotidian activities such as grabbing lunch, and sometimes special events such as the birth of a child. The trend grew so much that cast members from “Asteroid City,” including longtime troupe member Jason Schwartzman, appeared in their own TikTok.

When asked whether he’d watch a recent viral TikTok that purports to be in his style — if a link were sent to him — he declines with sly warmth: “I would say don’t send.” His apprehension is partly artistic in nature. “Sometimes it’s taking some aspect of what I do and kind of reducing it,” says Anderson, noting that people have mentioned the videos to him. “I don’t want to watch somebody else doing me and then I have someone fill me with self-doubt.”

Yeoman has watched a couple of these TikTok videos — “It’s like an homage to Wes in a way that’s very flattering,” he says — yet they’re “a little overdone” for his taste. He’s ready for the trend to “move on.”

Anderson has approved of Accidentally Wes Anderson, where people submit stories along with photos that evoke Anderson’s style, in what Koval calls “the intersection of distinctive design and an unexpected narrative.”

Anderson tells The Post: “I love the places that they discover. What is depicted is essentially architectural things, and I really like the images and it seems like, yes, those are places I want to go.”

Beyond how online culture interprets his work, though, the director hopes that when watching such films as “Asteroid City,” filmgoers appreciate the interlocking character arcs and the richness of the performances. He also values that each time out, he seeks new challenges, such as how to shoot a wide-open desert set built outside Madrid, with constructed Southwestern designs that nod to Looney Tunes Road Runner cartoons as much as such ’50s films as “Ace in the Hole” and “Bad Day at Black Rock.” And he relishes that he and co-writer Roman Coppola were able to create a rich starring role for his frequent collaborator Schwartzman, whom Anderson first worked with on “Rushmore,” when the actor was only 17.

Depth of space. Depth of narrative. And depth of relationships.

Some film experiences, not even social media can flatten.


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