The Hot Seat: Jason Schwartzman
The indie-film star conquers his fear of the great outdoors in Moonrise Kingdom.
Tue May 22 2012
RECOMMENDED: Full list of Hot Seat interviews
It’s been 15 years since your debut in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore. What’s it like working with him after all this time?
Working with Wes always ends up becoming more than a movie. It always seems to be an adventure of some kind, and, uh—I’m sorry, can you hear my baby in the background? [Gentle cooing. Phone cuts off.]
Hi, I’m so sorry about that. Working with Wes—it doesn’t really feel like coming back, because we’ve never really stopped collaborating in one way or another. He’s one of my best friends in the whole world, and also a mentor. It’s not really a return to Wes, it’s just a continuation.
What is it about his particular style of filmmaking that appeals to you so much?
I like movies and I like stories, and I like a certain—I like all different kinds of movies, but the ones that he makes and the way that he blends things together, the cocktail of comedy and not-comedy…I like the drink that he makes.
In Moonrise Kingdom, you play Cousin Ben, a Khaki Scout who performs a rush wedding for two runaways. Was it weird to pretend-officiate the marriage of two 12-year-olds?
Sometimes when you’re working, there’s a lot of pretending. But in this case, I really was talking to two 12-year-olds, trying to get them to understand the hugeness of love and marriage. Sometimes you’re sitting there and talking to them, and their eyes will start to look around; their attention can be short. It really is good to be like, “Hey, hey, listen to me. I’m talking about this. This is big.” It was fun. All I was thinking while we were doing it was, I wish you the best.
Were you in the Boy Scouts growing up?
I was in the Boy Scouts for the equivalent of the white belt in karate. Like, the lowest level. Basically badgeless.
So you didn’t do very well?
I didn’t take to it like the other kids did.
I was too afraid of ghosts to be a good Boy Scout. Sometimes the nighttime, camping, the forest—it can play games. It can put the whammy on you.
Did the cancellation of Bored to Death surprise you, or did you and the cast always think of it as a cult show with a very selective audience?
Like some of the work that I’ve done with Wes, that show sits in a special room. Certain experiences of my life, they’re more than the experience. Wes’s movies become more than movies—they become these incredible situations. That’s the thing about Bored to Death. It’s more than a show in my mind. The entertainment industry is very capricious and mysterious. I’m just happy that we got to do the pilot, that we got to make a season and another one and another one. And that Jonathan Ames, who is a writer that I’ve loved for many years, got to meet a larger or different audience. I think we made a bunch of strange little stories that are odd and delicate and really funny.
You seem to have a very singular style that you’re able to carry out—not just in your work with Wes, but in other small projects, like the iPad commercial you did for The New Yorker last fall.
I don’t know if I have a singular style, I just start to work and whatever happens, happens. The New Yorker is a great publication and they were doing an app and they basically said, “Would you be interested in trying to explain how this app works to people?” They were really cool, because they gave me a list of requirements that they needed to explain to people about how to use the app technically. We need to show people that you swipe it, that there’s a table of contents. So they said, “That’s your frame, those are your dots, but feel free to connect them how you would like.” I said, “Well, we’ve got to do it with [my cousin] Roman [Coppola], because he’ll know how.” There is a way to do things in five hours with four people just running around, you know what I mean? When you see kids running around with cameras making 8mm movies, it was just like that. We were just a bunch of kids trying to make a funny video. And I learned that the iPad can withstand a lot of water! I went in the pool many times, and the shower, and it never broke.
I’m curious—does Wes give you sartorial tips?
The only thing I’ve ever asked him is: “Is this too tight?” And the answer from Wes will always be no.
Just in terms of pants?
About anything. That’s involving tightness.
Moonrise Kingdom opens Fri 25.