The Cast of ‘Asteroid City’ Discusses the Film’s Themes

Before Asteroid City hits theaters everywhere, I had the chance to interview Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzman, Maya Hawke, Rupert Friend, Adrien Brody, and Jeffrey Wright in person! The film is currently in select NY and LA theaters.

ASTEROID CITY takes place in a fictional American desert town circa 1955. The itinerary of a Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention (organized to bring together students and parents from across the country for fellowship and scholarly competition) is spectacularly disrupted by world-changing events.

Courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

“The kind of idea of a tragedy or some pain in your life, but the idea that, you know, just keep doing it, just keep living, don’t stop, just keep going,” Schwartzman answered when I asked which of the themes stood out to him. “My character, who’s also an actor, at a certain point leaves this movie and goes back to his non-play version and asks the director, ‘I don’t understand what it’s about,’ and he’s like, ‘You’re doing a good job, just keep doing it.’ And I think there’s something about just keep doing it that’s really beautiful and it’s about grief, that it’s okay to move on. So moving forward isn’t a negative, it is the only way and it’s what you choose to bring with you.”

Johansson continued, saying, “I don’t know whether it’s a theme or just a kind of — I don’t know, one of Wes’ interests, I think, is how actors rely on one another in this way, we create this environment that we live in that’s this kind of insular thing and we literally are like leaning on each other and kind of falling asleep, waking up in a new body, in a new place, interacting with one another and that celebration of that process I think is… I don’t know whether it’s a theme in this movie, but it feels like it’s celebrated in this film. We’re actors playing characters, my character is also developing another character, that art as a way of life is something that I really warm to.”

“There’s something about yearning to me in the film. There’s this feeling of unrequited, people sort of missing each other. You know, Jason and Scarlett are always apart and does it get consummated and if so, how? He’s lost his wife,” Friend shared. “Our characters have this kind of ‘will they, won’t they’ feeling, so this unrequited yearning that seems to be in there somewhere, for me.”

“The part that gets my heart going the most is the group of kids, the stargazers, and the kind of dream they have, their intelligence, and their energy to save the world or change the world or get the truth out. And there’s something about that that is so optimistic under these kind of like lost adults who are kind of missing the opportunity for their own happiness in a lot of places,” Hawke expressed. “Then there are these kids who are like, ‘We’ve got to get the news out there. We’ve got to invent a new thing,’ and then my favorite moment in the movie is where they’re trying to decide what to put on the moon like it’s also important and the thing they decided to put on the moon is like, ‘I love this girl,’ and that’s the point is meeting each other, connecting with each other, and loving each other.”

Courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

“I think what the film does so well and so beautifully is through all the lightness and vivid storytelling visually, it references harder elements to come to terms with, which are communal elements of grief and how we are not alone in that, and that it unites us and I thought that that was really beautifully done. There’s also an element of this child-like enthusiasm that Wes has and I have, and I think we all strive to have that you lose as an adult in many ways and I think being an actor affords you an ability to keep a certain playfulness in your mindset,” Brody explained. “But how the children here, these kind of bright young stargazer children, have to outsmart and outwit the adults and the authority that supposedly has all of our well-being, you know, our best interests in hand, but really it speaks to all of those things and how these kind of young people are the future and have the ability to… they’re the leaders really.”

“I think the story of the children is a central one, obviously, but the celebration of idealism and this starry-eyed optimism. And also, I think for Wes too, it’s a mess, it’s all going to hell, but there’s still something beautiful. There’s something beautiful there that needs to be seen, that needs to be acknowledged, that needs to be touched and celebrated. I think there are many things within this film, so many, it’s a wonderful meditation,” Wright told me. “Part of Wes’ mission is to celebrate the beautiful, the beautiful that was lost too perhaps as we kind of trudge down the road toward modernity or something.”

Courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

I spoke with the talented actors about the story’s many different themes, which play they would like to see the full creation process of, their characters, and more.

Watch my full interviews below: