Spain has doubled up on the screen of the American West for decades, whether you realize it or not. This is especially evident in the classic spaghetti westerns of the 1960s, directed by Sergio Leone, Sergio Corbucci, Giulio Petroni, and more. Although these are Italian productions directed by Italian directors, they have most often been shot in Andalusia, the southernmost region of Spain. Its mountainous, rocky terrain with a dry climate made it an excellent place to replicate what these Italians believed to be the American West. While it’s certainly similar, there’s something a bit heightened and unreal about the setting, which makes for some dramatically compelling places.
The Western elements of “Asteroid City” are not meant to resemble the real thing, as the conceit of the film is that it’s actually a live-action TV play, rather than just a story that happens. . Exploiting the country that had so reliably provided this heightened sensitivity to the American West makes perfect sense to achieve the desired effect. In a behind-the-scenes featurette of the film, Wes Anderson explicitly states that he wanted a “slightly overdone desert”, and if you go to the real place, you won’t really get that overdone. You’re just going to get the real thing, and with every new feature it takes its style away from the real thing.