‘Asteroid City’ Takes Wes Anderson’s Filmography to a New Frontier

Wes Anderson has gone under the sea, into a foxhole, and to an island inhabited entirely by dogs, so a jaunt into space may have been inevitable. With Asteroid City, the Academy Award-nominated filmmaker’s 11th feature film, he’s making his first foray into sci-fi, bringing along a typically impressive cast of A-listers and his signature formalist look.

Set at an observation astronomy gathering in the 1950s,  Asteroid City has echoes of Moonrise Kingdom, which was set in the ‘60s and told a similarly intergenerational story. The young actors include Anderson favorite Tony Revolori, It star Sophia Lillis, and Stranger Things’ Maya Hawke.

“Junior stargazers, space cadets. Each year we celebrate ‘Asteroid Day,’ commemorating September 23, 3007 BC, when the Arid Plains meteorite made Earth impact,” says Jeffrey Wright’s character. The first trailer also hints at the arrival of an alien lifeform, and a government-mandated lockdown in Asteroid City.

The rest of the cast is stacked even by Anderson’s starry standards, featuring the return of regular Wes players (Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, and Willem Dafoe), as well as several new additions to the  WACU like Tom Hanks, Hong Chau, Margot Robbie, and Steve Carell. (The trailer hints at a romantic subplot between Schwartzman and Scarlett Johansson’s characters.)

Also present? Bryan Cranston, who first worked with the director on the stop motion animated film Isle of Dogs. In a November 2022 interview with Collider, he talked about the unique experience of working on the Asteroid City set, noting the strong camaraderie among the cast and saying it was “like fulfilling an actor dream camp,” but also talking about the challenges of operating under such a fastidious filmmaker.

“When you work for an auteur like that, it is a big trust exercise. We did this movie coming up, Asteroid City, in Spain, and it wasn’t easy work,” Cranston said. “Working for Wes is not easy. It’s very detailed and very specific, and so you really have to concentrate hard. What offsets that is the congeniality and the togetherness of the experience.”

The movie bears Anderson’s signature bright, highly exposed colorization, as well as his penchant for whimsical, symmetrical framing. Robert Yeoman, who worked with Anderson on most of his films including The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums, serves as cinematographer. Alexandre Desplat, who won a Best Original Score Academy Award for The Grand Budapest Hotel, handles music for the film.

Asteroid City, which comes out June 22, is one of two projects the filmmaker has slated for release in 2023. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, his adaptation of a Roald Dahl short story, will follow, and is set to star Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel, and Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role.

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