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Asteroid City: The Unusual Way Wes Anderson Gave Bryan Cranston His Character's Direction

What would a sci-fi movie look like if it were made by Wes Anderson? The celebrated director returns to answer that question with "Asteroid City." As revealed by actor Bryan Cranston, a member of the director's deep talent reservoir, Anderson had already made one version of the movie before the cameras started rolling, giving Cranston a unique insight into the film and his own character.

The "Breaking Bad" actor told Collider in October 2022 that Anderson made a full-length animated version of "Asteroid City," with the director voicing all the parts before principal photography had begun. "Wes makes an animatic and voices all the characters in the animatic, what he calls the cartoon," Cranston said, noting that the cartoon helped him see the full vision for the character he plays.

"We watch the entire movie that he voices on a laptop and it's like, 'Oh, got it. I see where you're going,'" Cranston continued. "'I see what you're doing and let me see if I can hit that target, the character you've already created. Let me see if I can point my arrow toward it and hit it bullseye.'"

Wes Anderson's movies always have a distinct style and tone

While it may seem like overkill to fully animate an entire version of your movie before you create the actual live-action product, it's a technique that makes sense for Wes Anderson in the broader context of his filmography. Among his repertoire is an assortment of stop-motion movies such as "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Isle of Dogs."

Moreover, the director's signature style, so distinct that it has become fodder for many a Twitter meme, makes much more sense with Bryan Cranston's insight into the process. A common turn of phrase thrown around in film study is that every frame should be a painting. Anderson apparently took that advice literally. The painstakingly composed shots for which he is known were actually drawn beforehand.

His next film looks to be equally stunning from a visual perspective. The trailer for "Asteroid City" shows off an aesthetic that combines '60s era Americana with sparse landscapes and flashes of alien life-threatening to upend it. Cranston joins a cast that includes Jason Schwartzman, Edward Norton, Steve Carrell, Scarlett Johansson, Maya Hawke, and more. The film will premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May before a wide release a month later on June 23.