Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, other stars come out for Cannes premiere of Wes Anderson’s ‘Asteroid City’
CANNES — A bus full of celebrities poured onto the Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet on Tuesday evening for the premiere of director Wes Anderson’s new space-themed fable, “Asteroid City.”
As with his previous films, Anderson’s cast is a who’s who of Hollywood stars, including Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Adrien Brody and Margot Robbie.
Notably absent is Bill Murray, who has been in almost all of Anderson’s films but missed this one due to being sick from COVID-19 during filming.
Anderson told journalists on Wednesday that making “Asteroid City,” which features a quarantine scene, while pandemic protocols were in place had worked well for the cast and crew.
“Our set was enormous – it was a desert. But it was a closed desert that was there just for this little group of people and a camera in the middle of it somewhere to play these imaginary scenes, so I don’t want to say it was good for the movie but we used it in a way that wasn’t bad,” he said.
The film received a six-minute standing ovation following its world premiere at the plush Grand Theatre Lumiere.
“Asteroid City” is the name of the fictional town in the southwestern United States where the movie, set in the 1950s, takes place. Famous for its meteor crater and observatory, the town is hosting a convention for young scientists when a UFO disrupts the celebrations and upends attendees’ lives.
Schwartzman stars as Augie Steenbeck, a war photographer grieving the death of his wife, whose car breaks down in the town with his three young daughters and son in tow. His love interest is famous actor Midge Campbell, played by Johansson, who is in town to attend the convention with her daughter.
This main story line is encased in a complicated framing device in which it is actually a stage play, and the process of putting on this play is the focus of a black-and-white TV program with an unnamed host played by Cranston.
“It’s Wes’ love letter to performance art, and he wrapped his arms around the three major mediums that we are involved in,” Cranston told journalists on Wednesday.
Johansson, who had only previously worked with Anderson on his animated film “Isle of Dogs,” said the way “Asteroid City” was filmed, with a real set, felt similar to doing theatre.
“Because you have the whole tangible space, it’s not the familiar process of being on a sound stage and going back to your trailer and all this down time – all this stuff that eats up momentum,” said Johansson, who has previously worked on Marvel superhero films heavy on CGI, such as Black Widow.
“Asteroid City” marks the third time the director, known for his unique visual style, has competed for the festival’s top prize. His last entry was 2021’s “The French Dispatch.”
Anderson teamed up to write “Asteroid City” with Roman Coppola, with whom he has collaborated in the past on movies such as Oscar-nominated “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Isle of Dogs.”
The movie received mixed reviews, with critics praising its visual detail and style but deducting points for being light on emotional content.
Britain’s The Guardian newspaper gave it four out of five stars while Variety wrote it “looks smashing, but as a movie it’s for Anderson die-hards only, and maybe not even too many of them.”
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