Home » Scarlett Johansson & Jason Schwartzman Share Their Favorite Memories from ‘Asteroid City’ – Exclusive Interview

Scarlett Johansson & Jason Schwartzman Share Their Favorite Memories from ‘Asteroid City’ – Exclusive Interview

by Yasmine Kandil
A postcard themed graphic of Scarlett Johansson and Jason Schwartzman from Asteroid City highlighted with vintage colors for our exclusive interview.

At the very core of director Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City lies Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman), a recent widow and war photographer who is accompanying his son Woodrow (Jake Ryan) to the Junior Stargazer convention held in the titular Southwestern town. Staying in the cabin next door in the only motel in Asteroid City is famed actress Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson) and her daughter Dinah (Grace Edwards). When the town gets quarantined due to an unexpected otherworldly visitor, the pair, and even their kids, form a unique bond, sharing many therapeutic conversations through their cabin windows. 

Asteroid City is Wes Anderson perhaps at his most metatextual, with the pastel-colored sci-fi and western-inspired script actually presenting a play within a movie to the audience. Forming the fictional story of “Asteroid City,” written by playwright Conrad Earp (Edward Norton) and narrated to the viewer by “The Host” (Bryan Cranston) of an anthology TV series, is a star-studded ensemble cast featuring Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Maya Hawke, Rupert Friend, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Tony Revolori, Sophia Lillis, Jeff Goldblum, and more. Scarlett Johansson and Jason Schwartzman play their in-story roles as previously mentioned as well as Mercedes Ford and Jones Hall respectively, the complicated leading actors who are part of the “Asteroid City” play in 1950s New York.

Jason Schwartzman’s history with Wes Anderson dates back to his acting debut in the filmmaker’s 1998 film Rushmore, where he received critical acclaim for his portrayal of the lead character, Max Fischer. The actor has gone on to work with the writer-director on a plethora of his films, including The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Isle of Dogs, and The French Dispatch. Scarlett Johansson, on the other hand, began her acting career at a young age and received widespread acclaim for her portrayal of Charlotte in Lost in Translation. Over the years, Johansson has become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and has cemented herself in pop culture through the role of Natasha Romanoff, better known as Black Widow, in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Unlike Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson marks her first on-screen collaboration with Anderon in Asteroid City

Asteroid City has just set a new box office record for Wes Anderson, a good sign for the current state of independent cinema and a testament to the film’s emotional reach. In this exclusive interview, Scarlett Johansson and Jason Schwartzman reflect on Anderson’s directorial style and ability to captivate audiences with his distinct vision, highlighting the subtle messages and existential themes present in Asteroid City and offering a glimpse into the behind-the-scenes moments of this unique cinematic world. The duo perfectly captures all the comedy and dramatic emotion imbued in the script, especially those of grief, so it would be a no-brainer to see them side by side in another Wes Anderson project down the line.

Jason Schwartzman and Scarlett Johansson share a romantic moment from their distanced motel windows while the empty dessert glows on the horizon behind them in ASTEROID CITY.
Jason Schwartzman & Scarlett Johansson in ‘Asteroid City’ courtesy of Focus Features

Exclusive Interview with Scarlett Johansson & Jason Schwartzman for Asteroid City

Do you have any favorite memories from your time on the set of Asteroid City?

Scarlett Johansson: Gosh, favorite memory. I mean, the whole experience was for me burned bright and quickly. I think I was there for three weeks and because I hadn’t been there for the whole film – I was there for just my chunk of it – I worked very fiercely for three weeks. I was immediately thrown into this world that had been established months before, so it was very surreal. The whole experience was incredible. Every day was very, very exciting. That and running on the treadmill next to Jeff Goldblum. 

Jason Schwartzman: What was that like?

Scarlett Johansson: It was inspiring.

Jason Schwartzman: He has a huge gauge. 

Scarlett Johansson: Massive. For every one of his steps, I took like four.

Jason Schwartzman: Wow. And he’s just walking?

Scarlett Johansson: He was just slowly walking.

Jason Schwartzman: He’s on a nine incline just warming up (Both laugh). I didn’t work out with Jeff Goldblum, but I’ve seen him work out. There was actually a moment when we had been working and Scarlett arrived. We had shot some stuff and then we went back to get the set sound of the scene, so we were waiting for the sound department to arrive. It was just Wes, Scarlett, myself, and maybe Roman (Coppola), and we were just in our little cabins talking and waiting. It was so nice, we just sat there for like 45 minutes in Asteroid City. It was towards the end of the movie so it was kind of like…

Scarlett Johansson: Had that eerie sort of bittersweet feeling. 

Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, it had a kind of Twilight feeling about it. It was nice just talking. It’s rare to be on a set in your costumes, in a set, but not doing the movie.

Scarlett Johansson: Then we got to do the whole vocal part of it, which was interesting too. We just went through with Wes and did many takes of the scenes just talking through them because he doesn’t do any ADR in post-production, so he wanted to capture the dialogue that way and it was really great. 

Wes Anderson can be quite subtle with the messages he infuses into his stories, so what are you hoping audiences will take away from Asteroid City?

Jason Schwartzman: For me, I think that the first thing is, like all Wes movies, I love the surrender to this world and its rules, and trying to understand this new landscape. Once you just go with that, it’s my favorite thing in the world to meet all these characters because there’s so much care that goes into them and it’s really a wonderful story about a group of people kind of jammed together who wouldn’t normally be jammed together. They are learning about themselves and each other, and then also infinity.

Scarlett Johansson: I think the film has an existential quality to it. I agree with Jason, I think just being able to sit and let the movie wash over you and also take from it in return – living with those characters and these vulnerabilities that are exposed as they encounter one another which ends up telling you a lot about themselves. Having that audience experience where you are able to be self-reflective through that process, that to me is how I like to watch movies as opposed to trying to dig out the message in there. It’s more about the connective tissue in between.

Jason Schwartzman: Now, that’s well said.

Asteroid City is now playing in theaters everywhere!

Follow Senior Film Critic Yasmine Kandil on Twitter: @filmwithyas

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