The stars always come out for Wes Anderson, and so it was at the Cannes press conference for Asteroid Citywhich featured enough bold-faced names to fill a bus, much like the one the cast of the film used to arrive at the red carpet premiere of the film in Cannes Tuesday night.
Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzman, Bryan Cranston, Stephen Park, Maya Hawke, Rupert Friend and Jeffrey Wright sat alongside Anderson on a crowded platform to answer questions about the 1950s-set film, in which a group of precocious kid geniuses and their dysfunctional parents visit a tiny desert town for an stargazer convention, only to have a close encounter of the third kind with a spindly stop-motion extraterrestrial.
Befitting the film, which is heavy on style and whimsy but, according to most critics, lacks much narrative depth, Anderson and the cast kept it light, while still providing some insight into the madness and the method of the iconic director.
Scarlett Johansson, who plays 1950s movie star Midge Campbell in the film, reflected on Anderson’s unique communal way of working, which Johanson compared to a theater production.
“It is not the familiar process of being on a sound stage and going to your trailer and having all this downtime, which eats up the momentum,” said Johannson. “It feels very vibrant much like you are working in theater.”
Wright praised Anderson’s “incredibly efficiency,” noting how every shot in his films was carefully planned and storyboarded ahead of time, in little “cartoons” that Anderson produces, where the director voices all the characters himself.
For Schwartzman, who plays Augie Steinbeck, a recently widowed war photographer, Anderson’s curiosity has been the driving force of his entire career.
“I was 17 when we met [on 1998’s Rushmore] and he was the first person that wasn’t in my family that was over the age of 20 that actually asked me a question and cared what I said and was curious about what I was interested in,” said Schwarzman. “My feeling is that’s why we’re all here. Because [Wes] wants to know about all of us and he’s curious and he always sees things in us we don’t see.”
Cranston, who embodies a Playhouse 90-type television host in a black-and-white framing device within the movie, took a shot at explaining Asteroid City‘s complex story-within-a-story-within-a-story plot.
“It’s a movie about a television show doing a story on a theater. And I think it’s Wes’ love letter to performance art. He’s wrapped his arms around the three major mediums we are involved in.”
As if that were the last word on the subject, Cranston did a bit: Making to get up and walk out of the room.
Earlier, he noted that, for the actors, it’s Wes Anderson’s world, they just live in it.
“It feels like Wes Anderson is a conductor of an orchestra. And all of us are players of our particular instrument,” said Cranston. “We hyper focus on our instrument and just present it without really knowing exactly how it’s all going to piece together. And he conducts — a little less Bryan, a little more Scarlett at this moment, or whatever, making the adjustments as he goes. There’s a part [in Asteroid City] where Auggie goes in and talks to the director and says ‘I just don’t think I understand the play.’ And the director says ‘Well, you don’t have to, just keep telling the story.’ And I think that, in a nutshell, is what the film meant to me. We go through life. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, how long our lives will be, who will be in our lives, how it’ll all play out. We just have to keep telling the story. Just keep moving forward, and and be a storyteller.”
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