/Asteroid City Co-stars Maya Hawke, Rupert Friend Arent Ruling Out Alien Life

Asteroid City Co-stars Maya Hawke, Rupert Friend Arent Ruling Out Alien Life

“Asteroid City” actors Maya Hawke and Rupert Friend are open to the idea that there’s life outside of Earth.

The pair are part of an all-star cast in the latest sci-fi comedy-drama from Wes Anderson, whose film navigates the mayhem that unfolds after Junior Stargazers and Space Cadets make their way to a convention in a small 1950s desert community.

Friend picked up the lap steel guitar for his role as the singing cowboy character Montana while Hawke’s character, teacher June Douglas, develops an interest for Montana as she tries to cope with the chaos unfolding in the town — and in her class — around her.

The two sat down with HuffPost to talk Tom Hanks, their thoughts on dancing in public and their experiences on set with the “Asteroid City” filmmaker (the following has been lightly edited for clarity).

This film plays with the idea of whether or not there’s life in outer space. Just [recently], reports have surfaced of alien sightings in Las Vegas and a former U.S. government official has claimed that America has a UFO retrieval program. Do either of you believe in aliens?

Maya Hawke: I just heard about this alien sighting today. I definitely think it’s totally possible there are aliens. I’m highly doubtful that they have come to Earth. In the last couple hundred years, at least.

Rupert Friend: I definitely think there’s more to life than just this big blue marble and the things on it. I’m not sure why they would come just now and not previously to now, unless maybe to watch this film.

I wanted to ask about your musical number in the film. I saw that you [Rupert] picked up the lap steel guitar, what was that like working with [professional] musicians?

Friend: Daunting but exciting. I grew up playing in bands as a kid but it was very much [a] “you hum it and I’ll pick it up” sort of thing. It wasn’t formal, and I’ve certainly never seen a lap steel guitar, so it was a daunting challenge. But if you’re going to play with anyone, play with someone who’s better than you and that raises your bar. Maya plays music professionally, and I never have but I have to say doing that number live, which we did, was as close as I’ll ever get to probably being a rockstar even.

Hawke: There’s one of those great expressions that if you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room. Like if you’re the best musician in the room, you’re in the wrong band. It’s great to have people around who are better than you, who inspire you to be better. That’s how it feels acting with Rupert.

Rupert Friend (second from right) stands among cowboys played by Pere Mallen, Jean-Yves Lozac'h, Jarvis Cocker and Seu Jorge as he looks on at Maya Hawke, who plays teacher June Douglas in Wes Anderson's latest film "Asteroid City."
Rupert Friend (second from right) stands among cowboys played by Pere Mallen, Jean-Yves Lozac’h, Jarvis Cocker and Seu Jorge as he looks on at Maya Hawke, who plays teacher June Douglas in Wes Anderson’s latest film “Asteroid City.”

Courtesy of Pop. 87 Productions/Focus Features

There’s also another cowboy, a famous cowboy, on the set. Tom Hanks, Sheriff Woody. Did you talk to him about [his role there]?

Friend: Tom Hanks is the most wonderful raconteur and has the most incredible fountain of knowledge and so can speak on pretty much any topic. I’m not sure you could ever stump him. So you get him talking about mid-20th century Americana advertising or iconography or typewriters or the Stetson company. He’s got a story. He can do all the voices. He’s a wonderful dinner guest, put it that way.

Maya, I saw fans of yours once failed their finals to see you perform and on Instagram, you offered to organize a makeup test for them. How would you see a side mission with you as a teacher play out?

Hawke: The other thing I wanted to do other than be a working artist, if I could, was be a teacher. I love — partly because I think that’s also a performative thing, in and of itself — teaching. It’s a performance, it’s storytelling, it’s conveying information and it’s the other thing I wanted to do. I’m not very educated, but I still would want to do it in some way in my life down the road in case if I collect
enough life experience that I have something valuable to say. I would love to, I don’t know, teach an acting class someday or something like that.

You guys danced at Cannes this year, also in the film, that’s a very prominent scene there. Have either of you ever square danced, do-si-doed, line danced?

Friend: There’s one thing I can advise anyone who thinks they’re bad at dancing or is bad and wants to get better, which is you just have to go for it which is all I had is Wes saying “Let’s do it” and Maya saying “Let’s do it” and then you do it. But it’s not something that I do, or practice, or know how to do and I’m really horrible at it.

Hawke: I think you’re wonderful at it. I also personally identify as being horrible at it. What are you going to do?

Friend: It’s like the biggest fear, public speaking and dancing, dancing in front of people.

Hawke: But it’s really fun whether or not you’re good at it, and if you let go of this idea that you have to look good or be good, or whatever good means, then it’s just great.

Rupert Friend and Maya Hawke dance on the red carpet at the premiere of the film "Asteroid City" at Cannes Film Festival last month.
Rupert Friend and Maya Hawke dance on the red carpet at the premiere of the film “Asteroid City” at Cannes Film Festival last month.

Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Did that mentality play a role in dancing on the set or dancing in the scene here? It seems kind of [improvised]?

Friend: It was, yeah. It wasn’t something that was choreographed or scripted necessarily in a specific way. It was something, it was written in the script but it just said “they dance.” It was a very simple instruction and Wes just gave it over to us.

Hawke: I feel like you have to hold on to the privacy of the moment even in a public format where it’s like you’re being watched by a camera and you know you’re being watched by all these people. But if I was really just with Rupert in a desert and the music was playing, I would, of course, dance and I would dance without being self-conscious, and I would dance loosely. And so you have to hold onto that privacy, even though you know you’re being watched or else you betray the story you’re telling.

This is your first time working with Wes. What was that like, even just going into a troupe of actors that have worked with him in the past?

Hawke: It’s really nice not to be the smartest person in the room. Not that I ever am, but just to be surrounded by that much talent, that much intelligence, and that much care is so exciting. And to get to be a part of something that I’ve been watching my whole life is these Wes Anderson stories unfold and
to play even a small part in the unfolding of one is a total dream come true.

[Rupert,] this is your second time working with Wes and you’re working on [his upcoming adaptation of “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.”] Did that play a role, given your time [with Wes for] “The French Dispatch”? Did that play any influence in your approach toward this film or your future one?

Friend: “French Dispatch” was a scene really in a dream sequence thing but it enabled me to get a glimpse of the way that Wes works and to meet his wonderful crew and see how they work. And so coming into this one, I had some experience of that, which was really the experience of a joyful process
and the idea that we were going to do it again was delicious.

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