One of the great pleasures of city of asteroids reflects on how this duo’s collaboration has changed over the decades.
Photo: Loïc Venance/AFP via Getty Images
“I was 17. He was the first person who wasn’t in my family and was over 20 who asked me a question and cared about what I was saying.” This is how Jason Schwartzman remembers meeting Wes Anderson so many years ago. Speaking at the Cannes press conference for city of asteroids Yesterday the actor added: “He was curious to know what interested me.”
One of the great pleasures of Anderson’s new film, at least for those of us who have followed their careers, is to reflect on how this duo’s collaboration has changed over the decades. Schwartzman’s feature debut came in Anderson’s acclaimed 1998 film, Rushmorein which he played precocious but underachieving high school student Max Fischer, a character who became instantly iconic, at least among a certain subset of viewers.
The actor appeared in many of the director’s later films (and even co-wrote a few), but city of asteroids feels like a full circle moment. In Rushmore, Max was confronted by Bill Murray’s Herman Blume, a melancholic, middle-aged, overwhelmed father and Vietnam veteran. Murray was 48 at the time of Rushmore; Schwartzman is now 42 and Anderson himself is 54. city of asteroids, Schwartzman is Augie Steenbeck, a melancholic, middle-aged and overwhelmed father; he’s not a veteran (unlike many of the dads in the movie), but he’s a war photographer and he’s seen his share of horrible things.
It was moving to see the actor and director speak at length about their work during the press conference. Anderson, who was 29 when Rushmore came out, also marveled at how young Schwartzman was when they first worked together and how long they had worked together. (“Longer than I’d like to think,” the director said with a chuckle.) He remembered that with Rushmore, Schwartzman shared some similarities with the character of Max. “We were using you because you existed in so many ways,” Anderson said, speaking directly to his friend and colleague. “You were different from the character, but you had so much character-related stuff that we could put in there.”
Anderson’s style evolved during this period, becoming more precise, mannered and elaborate (Rushmore is practically neorealistic compared to city of asteroids), and both its casts and themes have expanded. Many actors have come and gone from his company. But Schwartzman remained a constant. And in some ways it has also evolved. There has always been a streak of nervous calm in Schwartzman’s performances for Anderson – depending on the film, this can read as sadness or deadpan or sad deadpan – but it gains in complexity and tenderness. In city of asteroidsin which he actually plays two interdependent characters. Given the film’s framing device, Augie turns out to be a fictional character played by an (also fictional) actor named Jones Hall in 1955. Jones is somewhat childish, a far cry from Augie, the grieving and confused father. A common idea throughout the film is Jones’ questions and anxiety about how to properly convey Augie’s sadness; it’s part of city of asteroidsthe evocative connection of scientific curiosity with attempts to understand the human soul.
This, too, feels like a reflection of Anderson and Schwartzman’s relationship. At the press conference, the director said he now marvels at Schwartzman’s level of preparation, which Anderson largely fails to see. “Jason came with me on set in costume whether he was in a scene or not,” he said of the city of asteroids pull. “But I realized, at a certain point, that I had no idea of the work you had done and the preparation you had made.”
He recalled that at one point he asked Schwartzman if he could film a scene that was not on the day’s schedule. “I asked you to do a scene that we hadn’t planned to do, and you weren’t supposed to be working that day. Suddenly I said, ‘Could we go and do this? We can do it. do now. And you said, ‘I need an hour because of my business.’ And I realized he had a ritual of chores he did to get ready that I had no knowledge of! They were absolutely crucial to the character he was playing that I enjoyed him playing so much. Anderson continued, noting how far Schwartzman has come since their early days together, “How totally different, this person who was a teenager and now has mastered his craft and his medium in a way that I wasn’t even aware of. ”