Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody, and Scarlett Johansson talk about their new collaboration.
A movie, especially one as complex as Asteroid City, requires a large team. Wes Anderson praised the Asteroid City actors as “one of the best casts I’ve ever had in any movie” when EW interviewed him about his latest project prior to its Cannes premiere last month. Along with movie stars like Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hanks, the stellar cast includes Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody, longtime collaborators with Anderson.
This is a true ensemble of supporting performances because of the stacked cast. However, Jeffrey Wright and Brody don’t mind that their roles in Asteroid City are smaller than in The French Dispatch.
Wright tells EW, “There’s a super strong sense that we’re part of a company.” While everyone else is presenting their side of the story over there, we are presenting ours here. At the end of the day, everything will come together in a remarkable and singular way that only Wes can. It’s primarily about our collective cooperation.”
The actors have ample opportunity to make an impression with just a few lines. Even a single line in Asteroid City can be packed with emotional weight or information about the person saying it, especially given the abundance of characters.
According to Brody, “There’s a huge amount of comedy and specific beats that need to transpire in a very short period of time.” That is evident in the writing, and then Wes provides us with animated storyboards, also known as animatics, which are extremely instructive. But when you’re on set and you know you’re moving at the speed that makes Wes happy, he’ll tell you to go even faster! It’s a lot of fun to try to capture all the nuances in these very specific, technical blocking moves.
Because so many actors are playing multiple characters at the same time, Asteroid City is even more complicated than other Anderson films. The portion of Asteroid City that takes place at a kids’ science convention in the American Southwest is actually a representation of a 1950s New York play. Therefore, Johnasson plays not only the 1950s actress Midge Campbell but also the Broadway actor who plays Midge Campbell on stage.
“Due to that aspect, this film required more preparation work: having to ensure that each individual is distinct,” Johansson claims. The person you’re portraying is a single character. After that, you consider how they are interpreting the character they are bringing to life. I believe it must originate from one location.
According to Schwartzman, “I wouldn’t think about Wes when I was thinking about the story, but I would think about Edward Norton’s character, because he’s the playwright.” So, what exactly was he doing? What was his goal with this?”
It would appear that the character played by Norton wanted to include a lot of young children in his play. In his story, a group of schoolchildren, their teacher (Maya Hawke), and a singing cowboy (Rupert Friend) become stuck in Asteroid City. EW learns from Hawke that adjusting to her first Anderson film was made easier by working with the enthusiastic young actors.
“It was actually an amazing way to enter an intimidating experience because I felt confident that I had something to offer within that sphere. Hawke explains, “I could play games with them.” I enjoyed working with them and quickly established a rapport. They are unbreakable. They are in it because they believe in their characters and the setting and want to be great. They strengthen your own faith even further.”
“They weren’t joking about or making fun of the process, as I might have expected from kids. Friend, who will also appear in Anderson’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar later this year, says that they took it very seriously. However, when they were required to dance, for instance, they let their hair down and displayed their exuberance. It was so enjoyable to watch that.
Asteroid City, on the other hand, managed to be remarkably cohesive despite having so many interconnected components. Johansson revealed to EW earlier this year that she filmed the majority of her scenes with Schwartzman as her main costar toward the end of the filming process. She was just as impressed as any other viewer when she saw how everything came together in the finished film.
Johansson says, “It was so beautiful.” I wasn’t there for the entire time, so there were a great deal of pieces that I missed. I was thrilled to finally see the intricate details of everyone’s performances. The mutual support between all of the characters and performances touched me deeply as well. I adored the fact that the whole thing felt very cohesive.
In theaters now is Asteroid City.