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We Got to Chat with “The French Dispatch” Star Stephen Park [Interview]

Stephen Park has been doing a lot with a little screen time for decades now. His latest appearance is in Wes Anderson‘s latest film, “The French Dispatch.” You may recall him first entering the scene on the sketch show “In Living Color.” The brainchild of the Wayans Brothers, the show was a starting point for the likes of Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, Jamie Foxx, and even Jennifer Lopez has roots on the show. 

Park was the lone Asian actor on the show. Just like he is the first Asian actor to feature in a Wes Anderson movie whose character gets a name and dialogue. For the purposes of this we aren’t counting “Isle of Dogs” here. It features animated characters that are exaggerating the interpretations of humans. There’s definitely a whole conversation to be had about representation in that film. 

You can also listen to our interview on Apple Podcasts.

As with “The French Dispatch,” Park also has a pivotal moment in Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing.” In that film he plays Sonny, a neighborhood grocer. While “Do the Right Thing” explicitly tackles race, Anderson’s films tend to be less grounded in current conversations. We talk about some of the probable reasoning for this in the interview. 

(From L-R): Hippolyte Girardot, Stephen Park, Jeffrey Wright and Mathieu Amalric in the film THE FRENCH DISPATCH. Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2021 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

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“The French Dispatch” dips a TINY baby toe into that world through the eyes of Park’s Lieutenant Nescaffie. Nescaffie is a “police chef” (you’ll find out what that entails upon watching). While we wish the character’s storyline didn’t center around their other-ness, Park handles the scenes with aplomb. 

“The French Dispatch” feels somewhat unlike other Anderson movies. He breaks it into three smaller stories. Everything centers around the staff of the European based missive, the titular “The French Dispatch.” Those preparing for a larger narrative to play out should re-route their expectations. Each story is loosely connected at best. It feels like Anderson had three separate ideas and figured the device of having each be an “article” would suffice. 

While the plot may be a little different than some of Anderson’s other fare, there are still many components that fall within the auteur’s definitive style. Between the attention to detail in the sets, to the music, and use of animation. It also features a bevy of Anderson’s regular players. Also some new faces to his retinue. It stars Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Liev Schreiber, Elisabeth Moss, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Saoirse Ronan, Christoph Waltz, Jason Schwartzman, Tony Revolori, Rupert Friend, Henry Winkler, Bob Balaban, and Anjelica Houston. 

Given the more vignetted structure of the film no one performer has an excess of screen time. Park has faced similar circumstances before. While not an ensemble film, one of his defining performances comes from “Fargo.” He stars as Mike Yanagita in the Coen brothers midwestern set film. The scene is set apart from much of the rest of the film, yet Park leaves an impression in it that is memorable to this day. He uses the same efficiency in “The French Dispatch.”

Anderson and Park are set to re-team for Anderson’s next film, “Asteroid City.” “The French Dispatch” is out in theaters on October 29, 2021. 

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