Director James Gray‘s Brad-Pitt-in-space movie, Ad Astra, is doing pretty well at the box office and with critics. Yet despite the obvious appeal of seeing Cliff Booth venture out into the farthest reaches of the solar system to look for his missing father, one of the film’s most talked-about scenes concerns a very short cameo. While speaking with IndieWire during a recent Q&A, Gray revealed the (literally) delicious story behind the cameo’s creation.
So, how did a heavily New York-accented Natasha Lyonne of Russian Doll and Orange Is the New Black fame become the Mars welcoming committee for Pitt’s sad astronaut? The smell of Gray’s cooking. “Every Sunday night I make dinner. It’s a tradition we like. It’s a nice thing and we invite people over and have a lot of guests. It’s a wonderful thing,” said Gray. “One day I’m walking down the hall and I see Natasha Lyonne walking towards me, and she says, ‘Honey, I know who you are. You’re James Gray… I’m smelling it. Every Sunday, I smell it. What’re you doing to me?'”
After playfully accusing Gray of targeting her with his weekly dinner tradition, she invited herself to the next one. That’s when he told her his new film was “Brad Pitt goes to space.” Her response? “Brad Pitt goes to space? What am I doing in it? I’m in it. I’m in it.” The director subsequently cast Lyonne in the film and, much to his and the crew’s delight, she practically stole the show during her one day of filming. “I kept seeing the cameraman keep putting the camera on Natasha Lyonne,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Listen, buddy, I got Brad Pitt in the movie. Don’t go to Natasha Lyonne.'”