The Making of “Asteroid City” Involved Actually Building Asteroid City

From farm to desert town and back again

asteroid city town
It went way beyond the standard set design
Universal Pictures

Even by the standards of Wes Anderson’s filmography, with its meticulously detailed production design, Asteroid City stands out because of how locations factor into the story (or stories) being told. It’s not surprising that some of the sets and props ended up being shown as part of an interactive exhibit in London once filming wrapped. But it turns out that those sets are only the tip of something much larger.

In an interview with Amy Peacock at Dezeen, Asteroid City production designer Adam Stockhausen explained the process of making the movie’s world a reality. Part of that included, well, building a real-life Asteroid City, utilities and all. “We ended up doing underground engineering work to bring in power, plumbing and sewers so that the place functioned as the city, rather than just being a set that was dependent on infrastructure elsewhere,” Stockhausen said. The buildings and utilities weren’t the only aspect of the location that was constructed; the desert landscape that surrounds the town was also the work of the production design team. This isn’t the only instance where a film’s production included that level of detail — Jacques Tati’s satirical comedy Playtime took a similar approach decades ago.

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For those looking to visit Asteroid City in real life, Stockhausen has some bad news — the end of production also saw the location being turned back into the farmland it was prior to the film being made. That said, the level of detail that he alluded to in the Dezeen interview begs one more question: does this mean that the vending machine designed to make a perfect cocktail actually exists? All we’re saying is that there might be some money to be made in licensing that technology out.

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