- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Flipboard
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Tumblr
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
Given his growing tendency to line up half of Hollywood to appear in his films, anyone cast in a Wes Anderson movie might worry just how much screen time they’ll end up getting.
Not Fisher Stevens.
After minor roles in The Grand Budapest Hotel (a concierge), Isle of Dogs (the voice of a mutt called Scrap) and The French Dispatch (an unnamed magazine story editor), he’s now set to make a similarly background appearance in Asteroid City, Anderson’s latest, and featuring arguably the director’s most ludicrous array of top-tier talent to date (a list so long, it may test the wide lenses of Cannes’ red carpet paparazzi when it bows May 23). And very happily so.
“I’m around. I mean, you’ll see me in the film. But I wouldn’t say it’s my Oscar-winning performance,” Stevens tells The Hollywood Reporter, adding that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it or not, his Asteroid City role meant he was able to run away with the Wes Anderson circus once again, this time to Spain for several weeks (and to the “cool city” of Chinchón).
“I’ve got to be honest: You do some jobs just to work with certain people,” explains Stevens. “Wes hasn’t given me big parts, but he’s given me great opportunities to hang out with him and be part of this ensemble.”
Alongside Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Bryan Cranston, Margot Robbie, Steve Carrell, Hong Chau, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman, this preposterously extended ensemble also included Stevens’ “best friends” Matt Dillon and Liev Shrieber. He also spent time with Jarvis Cocker and Brazilian musician Seu Jorge (names so far down the cast list, they, like Stevens, didn’t even make the latest Asteroid City poster).
“But it was just a blast,” he says, adding that, as Anderson’s friend — a relationship that was borne from the 2005 Noah Baumbach comedy-drama The Squid and the Whale, which Anderson produced and Stevens was originally set to produce (until his financing fell through) — he got to go location scouting with him a few times and see cuts of Asteroid City.
“I just think that he’s one of the greatest artists of our time,” he says.
To Stevens, any opportunity to spend time in Anderson’s world is clearly a blessing. He recalls making what he happily describes as the “worst movie of my career,” the infamous sports biopic United Passions, about the founding of soccer’s governing body FIFA (which financed the feature, something he says he didn’t know at the time). Atrocious though it may have been — “I think it was the lowest rated film on Rotten Tomatoes” — the much-derided project brought him to France, where Anderson had moved in 2005, for nine weeks. “And I’d say one of the greatest adventures of my life was in Paris when Wes was living there. I hung out with him quite a bit.”
Stevens likens the creative experience of working on an Anderson film — “which is like a traveling theater troupe” — to that on the set of Succession, now coming to an end after four triumphant seasons. Although he admits it’s a “shame” that the show is wrapping up just as the story begins to peer behind the slithery facade of his comms chief and Waystar Royco survivor Hugo Baker — “I’m starting to get some great shit!” — he greatly admires writer Jesse Armstrong for making the decision. Not that it wasn’t emotional on the final day of filming.
“Most of us wrapped the same day, and we were all just weeping,” he says. “We were all crying, and that rarely happens. I was only with the show for two and half years, but it was really sad.”
Talk of Succession spinoffs has been shut down, but Fisher already has one he wrote for Hugo. Just for himself, mind you. “I do that whenever I get a part, I write a bio,” he says. “And yeah, Hugo’s got a plan. I can’t tell you the plan, because I don’t want to give it away. But I think he’s going to succeed.”
Both Asteroid City and Succession have, in their separate ways, helped feed the many other facets of Stevens’ impressively wide-ranging output.
A renowned multi-hyphenate who frequently skips back and forth in front of and behind the camera, he has starred in 1980s classics (Short Circuit) and contemporary prestige TV dramas (The Night Of ), directed black comedies (Stand Up Guys, starring Al Pacino)
and Broadway shows (John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown), and produced and exec produced everything from music comedies (Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion) and thrillers (Swimfan) to cult TV docuseries (The Tiger King).
In the last decade and a half, he has also become known as a celebrated and award-winning environmental documentarian. In 2009 Stevens produced the Oscar winner for best documentary feature, The Cove, highlighting dolphin hunting practices in Japan, and since then directed Before the Flood, the Leonardo DiCaprio-fronted feature about climate change, followed by And We Go Green, charting the rise of Formula E electric car racing, which DiCaprio also produced.
For his latest project, We Are Guardians, Stevens’ Asteroid City-forged friendship with Jorge led to an assist with the soundtrack. “He found us [Sao Paulo-based musician] Pupillo, who plays percussion on it … and that’s all out of meeting Wes.”
The film, which recently premiered at the Hot Docs festival in Canada, explores the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, following the unique and inspiring efforts of an Indigenous person and an activist as they fight to protect it. There’s doom and gloom about the extent of the destruction, but also positivity and hope.
“We’re not saying we have all the answers, but there’s definitely things people can do and pressure people can put on,” says Stevens, who produced the film (Indigenous filmmaker Edivan Guajajara directed alongside Chelsea Greene and Rob Grobman). “And I do believe that we show a different side of the coin with the loggers and landowners.”
We Are Guardians also marks the first film out of the blocks for Highly Flammable, Stevens’ newly launched production company with partners Maura Anderson and Zak Kilberg. “This is my third film company now, and I feel so much wiser now and know more, and have much more experience, but I’m always learning,” he says.
Highly Flammable’s focus will be across the board — scripted, unscripted, TV, features and more — and will act as a vehicle for Stevens’ directing and producing work. Upcoming projects include a podcast he recently directed about Argentinian journalist Miriam Lewin, who exposed the atrocities of the country’s military junta (and testified at their trial), with Alexis Bledel playing Lewin, plus a documentary about the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club in New Orleans, directed by newcomer Matthew Henderson (which Stevens says is “going to be fucking great” and should be ready for summer festivals).
And the company’s first project now comes with some A-list support to help spread its message. Thanks to Stevens’ ongoing friendship with DiCaprio, the star — also in Cannes with Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon — has just come on board We Are Guardians as exec producer.
“The dream comes when a guy like Leo puts his name on it, and hopefully that’ll help us sell it and, you know, people follow Leo,” he says. DiCaprio, Stevens claims, also knows the Guajajara Indigenous group in the Brazilian rainforest that We Are Guardians focuses on. “He’s done a benefit for them, but just having him attached is great, and he’s been a great partner before,” he says.
It was DiCaprio who actually sparked Fisher’s latest high-profile project as director — one several worlds away from the Brazilian rainforest and one he says he’s currently a “little swamped with.”
A Netflix doc series peering into the world of David Beckham might seem an unlikely gig for Stevens given his body of work (and as someone from a country where Beckham’s celebrity status hasn’t been under such a prolonged microscope as in the U.K.), and he himself says it’s an “inter- esting choice.” But the Brit soccer star — who also produces —was given a special recommendation.
“The story I was told was that David was hanging out with Leo, and asked him who he should get,” Stevens says. Beckham had also just watched Before the Flood and Palmer, the 2021 Justin Timberlake drama that Stevens directed. “He liked the emotion in the movies and wanted to make something emotional. I also feel like they wanted an American because we don’t have so many preconceived ideas about him.”
Although Stevens admits to going into the project not knowing anything about Beckham, he has been a committed English soccer fan for at least 20 years, inspired by the first documentary he produced, 2006’s Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos.
However, in a move that will likely appall even the most casual fan, Stevens has changed teams several times, starting with Chelsea (thanks to Cosmos co-producer John Battsek, who also produces the Beckham doc), then across London to Arsenal (“I married into an Arsenal family”), and now Liverpool. As might now sound predictable for Stevens given the caliber of his acquaintances, this somewhat unorthodox (not to mention sacrilegious) team switching came about because he happens to be close with Mike Gordon, president of the U.S. conglomerate that owns Liverpool.
“Once Mike took over at Liverpool I moved … I just love the team and the stadium,” he says. “But, yeah, English people hate me.”
Thanks to Stevens’ new friendship with Beckham — who, alongside Victoria Beckham, invited him to take his camera deeper into their lives than any have been before (“Their pitch to me was that ‘nobody really knows who we are’ ”) — he could well make the near heretical leap from Liverpool to their archrivals Manchester United.
Not that anyone will mind, especially for someone whose boundless creative energy and enthusiasm appears to constantly draw new friends and collaborators into his orbit. And it’s these relationships that have helped ignite such a kaleidoscopic body of work, from docs to features to podcasts to extended trips to Spain with a large assortment of very famous Hollywood stars.
“It’s really a good time for me in terms of diversifying,” Stevens says. “I’m curious. I like to make change. I like to tell stories. And
I love acting. So I get to kind of do everything at this point in my life. I feel so blessed.”
And in Cannes, Stevens might not be anywhere near the top billing for Asteroid City (and how the organizers arrange the film’s red carpet photos and seating is anyone’s guess). But it doesn’t matter at all. His wife, the South African filmmaker Alexis Bloom, is also at the festival with her documentary Anita, screening in Cannes Classics (the day before Asteroid City, on May 22) and exploring the story of Rolling Stones’ muse and ’60s “It” girl Anita Pallenburg. Then there’s DiCaprio, whose movie Stevens says he hopes to watch.
No doubt more friendships will be made in Cannes, ones that will possibly lead to future filmmaking opportunities or simply small parts in exciting projects that take him on more overseas adventures.
As Steven says: “Sometimes you just want to be part of something.”
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day