Cannes 2023: Wes Anderson Says Pandemic Lockdown Helped Inspire Asteroid City

It is set in a remote desert town where a group of child geniuses are gathered for a science contest that’s interrupted by an alien visitor, leaving them locked up.

Cannes 2023: Wes Anderson Says Pandemic Lockdown Helped Inspire Asteroid City

Photo Credit: YouTube/ Focus Films

Tom Hanks in a still from the Asteroid City trailer

  • Asteroid City is a bizarre and knotty tale set in a remote desert town
  • Anderson says he wanted to pay homage to actors
  • The film stars Steve Carell, Margot Robbie, Scarlett Johansson and more

Wes Anderson's new film puts Westerns, theatre, 1950s Americana, and an alien into a blender for another of his atypical — and star-packed — concoctions that he says is about "reckoning with forces beyond your control".

As always, Asteroid City, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday, features a roster of actors that reads like a Hollywood phonebook. Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, and Margot Robbie — newcomers to the Anderson family — join past collaborators Scarlett Johansson and Edward Norton and regulars like Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, and Tilda Swinton in the film.

The one-of-a-kind director never seems too influenced by events in the real world, but he told AFP the COVID-19 pandemic did have an impact. "This movie is certainly informed by the most bizarre viral moment in recent history," he said. "Writing it during this pandemic, in the middle of the most locked-down lockdown, we were not sure we would ever go out again — so I think that's sorta in it.”

Hanks is 'intimidating'

Asteroid City is a bizarre and knotty tale set in a remote desert town where a group of child geniuses are gathered for a science competition that is interrupted by an alien visitor, leaving them locked up in quarantine. But in typically convoluted Anderson form, the desert story is presented as a play being performed in New York.

Anderson says he wanted to pay homage to actors, who remain something of a mystery to him, even after working with the biggest names in the business. "Many of the actors are my friends now, but nevertheless they are different on set," Anderson said. "Actors recognise something in each other that normal people don't go through — this thing of being the one who everyone is going to watch. It has this interesting strange effect. It became part of what the movie is about."

Working with Hanks was a joy, he told AFP, though he was initially nervous. "He's a wonderful actor but also a huge movie star... it's intimidating.”

"But his manner on set is: you suggest something and he says 'Sorry, I should have thought of that.' That encourages you to be better because you're empowered by this person with such an aura."

Scarlett's smokey voice

One person who is glaringly absent is Bill Murray, who has appeared in all of Anderson's films since Rushmore in 1998. "Bill was cast in a part but then he got Covid three days before we were supposed to shoot," said Anderson. "We replaced him very quickly with the wonderful Steve Carell who was great."

Luckily, Murray's health improved to come hang out on set for the last of the shoot, he added, and Carell turns in a hilarious cameo as a hotel owner.

What Anderson often loves most about his actors is their voice, something he discovered when he cast George Clooney as the lead in the animated film Fantastic Mr Fox. "Only when I recorded George did I realise how much it's about his voice. And that kinda applies to the majority of actors — so much depends on the voice."

Johansson, who did voiceover for Anderson's Isle of Dogs (2018) "has this wonderful, slightly smokey voice," he said. Arguably, no director has ever had a style that is so immediately recognisable as Anderson's: the symmetrical playhouse-like sets, bright colours, deadpan irony. He can't help it.

"There's a way I do scenes that is just me," he said. "It's more like a condition than a choice."

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(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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Asteroid City

  • Release Date 25 August 2023
  • Language English
  • Genre Comedy, Romance
  • Cast
    Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Steve Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon
  • Director
    Wes Anderson
  • Producer
    Wes Anderson, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson

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