CANNES, May 23 (Reuters) – A busload of celebrities swarmed the Cannes Film Festival red carpet on Tuesday evening for the premiere of “Asteroid City,” director Wes Anderson’s new space-themed fable.
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 starred in all of Anderson’s films but missed this one after falling ill with Covid-19 during filming.
Anderson told reporters Wednesday that while pandemic protocols were in place, making “Asteroid City” a quarantine scene worked well for the cast and crew.
“Our set was huge — it was a desert. But it was a closed desert, and it was just for this small group, and there was a camera somewhere in the middle playing out these fantasy scenes, so I don’t want to say. It was good for the film, but we’ve misused it,” He said.
The film received a six-minute standing ovation following its world premiere at the plush Grand Theater Lumiere.
“Asteroid City” is the name of the fictional city in the American Southwest where the movie takes place in the 1950s. Famous for its meteor crater and observatory, the town hosts a conference for young scientists.
Schwartzman stars as Augie Steinbeck, a war photographer grieving the death of his wife whose car breaks down in town with his three young daughters and son. His love interest is famous actor Midge Campbell, played by Johansson, who is in town to attend a convention with her daughter.
This main story line is tied into a complex framing device in which it is actually a stage play, and the process of putting on the play is the focus of a black-and-white TV show with an unnamed host played by Cranston.
“It’s Wes’ love letter to performance art, and he’s wrapped his arms around the three main mediums we’re involved with,” Cranston told reporters Wednesday.
Johansson, who has only worked with Anderson on his animated film “Isle of Dogs,” said the way “Asteroid City” was filmed felt like doing theater, with a real set.
“Because you have a whole solid location, it’s not the familiar act of being on a soundstage and going back to your trailer — all of that eats up momentum,” said Johansson, who previously worked at Marvel. Superhero movies like Black Widow are heavy on CGI.
“Asteroid City” is 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 in Oscar-nominated films like “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Isle of Dogs.”
The film received mixed reviews, with critics praising its visual detail and style, but deducting points for being light on emotional content.
Britain’s The Guardian gave it four stars out of five, while Variety wrote that it “sounds great, but as a movie it’s only for Anderson die-hards, and there aren’t many of them.”
Reporting by Miranda Murray, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien
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