You’ve got to give it to him: whether he’s playing an overly ambitious private schooler or a struggling writer-turned-detective, actor Jason Schwartzman is a pretty loveable guy. Perhaps that’s the reason director (and longtime pal) Wes Anderson continues to cast the 32-year-old in his films, including his most recent flick Moonrise Kingdom which came out on DVD and Blu-Ray earlier this week. We caught up with Schwartzman to talk about the movie, discuss his new music project with composer Woody Jackson and lament the cancellation of his hit HBO’s series Bored To Death.
In the film you play a scout leader, Cousin Ben. Did you have any interest in the boy scouts when you were younger -– is that something a young Jason was dying to sign up for?
Jason Schwartzman: Yes I did. But then I resigned pretty quickly. I got into it, I was very excited, I joined with a bunch of friends and I remember even going to the place where you get your outfit –- “the dealers”. And on the different mannequins of boy scouts you can see all the different awards and merits you could get and you can see what they’re all for, and I was like “What’s that?!”…it all was blowing my mind, I just couldn’t wait to achieve all those things. Then we went camping, overnight camping. I really wasn’t into it. Because before bed everyone told ghost stories, and it seemed like no one had a problem with it. Everyone was like ‘ok good night’. Everyone just went to bed in the woods.
But not you…
Schwartzman: I was terrified. I spent the whole night awake in my tent. I just felt trapped, and I’m like “I’m out of it. I’m out of this”
One of my favourite scenes from the film was when Ben sort of faux officiates the marriage between Sam and Suzy and then demands a jar of coins as payment. How do you imagine he would’ve spent the money?
Schwartzman: I don’t know. When I read the script I sort of felt as though Ben was kind of like Han Solo. I feel like he is bartering and there is money because, for him, money is sort of like a sign of respect and he’s not going to do stuff for free. What’s he going to do with that money? I don’t know. He’s probably going to stash it.
It seemed like a very fun cast. Do you enjoy working with the same crew when you’re working with [director] Wes Anderson?
Schwartzman: I love it. For me the great thing about it is when you work with so many of the same people they have seen you at your lowest, most embarrassing moment of acting. Like, saying a line and it’s immediately like “CUT!”, that’s embarrassing. And when you’re friends with people (and a lot of the crew are friends) you have been in so many odd positions together that it just allows you to go into the work more quickly. That’s what I feel.
While filming Moonrise Kingdom I was also shooting Bored To Death during the week and we had a hiatus starting on Thursday, so we shot Wednesday night, I finished at 3 in the morning, got in the car, drove to Rhode Island and started shooting Thursday morning at 7am — I got out of the car, got dressed, and we just started shooting. It would’ve been almost impossible for me to do — well, not impossible — but it would’ve been much scarier to do that with a director I hadn’t already worked with.
To say that Anderson has a cult following would be an understatement. What do you think it is about him that draws audiences back time and time again?
Schwartzman: I don’t know. I think that for me (if I can speak in terms of music for a second) there are some bands where every record you would just buy [it]. Like, I don’t have to listen to one ounce of music, I’ll just go buy it. Because you’re curious to see what they’re up to, how they’re evolving and also how they’re honing what they’re doing. Like, for me, expanding and honing and focusing are the same thing. And I think that Wes is doing both. I think the films are growing and the styles are changing and getting deeper, and at the same time its also getting more and more focused and honed. His style and what he likes things to look like and his sense of humour and stuff — I think fans like that because no one else can do it like he can do it. He has a signature.
Wes was talking about how he has been criticized for [it], someone said, “All of your movies are the same,” or something like that, “Why don’t you change it?” And he said, “I can’t really change it…it’s just what comes out of me.” It’s like if someone said to you at age 40, “Change your handwriting”. He’s said “I just hope people like my movies and that one day if they bought them on DVD they would just sit up on the shelf of their little collection of movies that all sort of go together.” [Maybe] people like him because there is this feeling of a collection of little ideas.
I was extremely disappointed to learn that Bored To Death wasn’t picked up by HBO for another season. How did you feel when you found out?
Schwartzman: I felt pretty sad because I had so much fun doing that show. Going to work every day with Zach [Galifianakis] and [writer] Jonathan Ames was like the greatest thing. We all got along and I think we all just wanted to make each other laugh. And the hours are so long on a show like that, because they’re so ambitious -– they’re trying to get out on location in the city and all that stuff, and trying to shoot in Brooklyn — so you’re spending all this time together and I would say no matter how exhausted I was when I got home, the next morning when I got up I was like “I cannot wait to go to work.” So yeah, I was sad because I’m going to miss seeing my friends that often. But I also have to be so thankful that I even got to do it in the first place.
Can we expect anything new on the music front? Anything going on with you and Coconut Records in the near future?
Schwartzman: Well, right now I’m writing a record and I just scored a movie called Goats. You can get it on iTunes.
— Adrian Brinkley