The stars always come out for Wes Anderson, and so was the press conference in Cannes Asteroid Citywhich featured enough bold names to fill a bus, much like the film’s cast who arrived at the film’s premiere on the red carpet at Cannes on Tuesday night.
Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzman, Bryan Cranston, Stephen Park, Maya Hawke, Rupert Friend and Jeffrey Wright sat next to Anderson on a crowded platform to answer questions about the 1950s movie in which a group of precocious kids, geniuses and their dysfunctional parents visiting a small desert town for a stargazing convention, only to have a third-kind encounter with a spindly stop-motion alien.
Befitting the film, which is heavy on style and quirkiness but lacks much narrative depth according to most critics, Anderson and the cast kept it light-hearted while still providing some insight into the insanity and method of the iconic director.
Scarlett Johansson, who plays 1950s movie star Midge Campbell in the film, reflected on Anderson’s unique communal working style, which Johannson likened to a theatrical production.
“It’s not the familiar process of being on a sound stage and going to your trailer and having all this downtime, which is eating up momentum,” said Johannson. “It feels very alive like you’re working in the theater.”
Wright praised Anderson’s “incredible efficiency”, noting how every shot in his films was carefully planned and storyboarded in advance, in little “cartoons” Anderson produces, in which 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 outside of my family over the age of 20 who actually asked me a question and was interested in what I was saying and was curious about what I was interested in,” Schwarzman said. are all here because (Wes) wants to know more about all of us and he’s curious and he always sees things in us that we don’t.”
Cranston, who embodies a Playhouse 90 type television host in a black and white framing device in the film, made an effort to explain Asteroid City‘s complex story-within-a-story-within-a-story plot.
“It’s a movie about a television show doing a story in a theater. And I think it’s Wes’s love letter to performance art. He has put his arms around the three great mediums we are involved with.”
As if that were the last word on the subject, Cranston did something else: He had to get up and walk out of the room.
He previously noted that for the actors, it’s Wes Anderson’s world, they just live in it.
“It feels like Wes Anderson is conducting an orchestra. And we are all players of our particular instrument,” said Cranston. “We hyperfocus on our instrument and just present it without really knowing exactly how it’s going to fit together. And he’s conducting — a little less Bryan, a little more Scarlett at the moment, or whatever, making the adjustments as he goes. There is a part (in Asteroid City) where Auggie goes in and talks to the director and says, “I just don’t think I understand the part.” 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 movie meant to me. We go through life. We don’t know exactly what will happen, how long our life will be, who will be in our life, how it will all turn out. We just have to keep telling the story. Just keep going and be a storyteller.