jason schwartzman on wes anderson, bill murray and francois truffaut
After a screening of 'Rushmore,' the actor takes a break from writing with Roman Coppola to talk to Ivy Film Festival over Skype.
With a delighted "jeepers!" Jason Schwartzman's furrowed brow and wide-eyes filled a huge screen at the Ivy Film Festival, the largest student-run student film festival in the world that each year holds Q&As via Skype with actors, directors and other influencers in the industry. Last year, the festival Skyped Wes Anderson, who took a break from a dinner party to talk cinematic stylings, his casts of misfits and his prolific career in film. Hugo Guinness (co-writer of The Grand Budapest Hotel) also joined in for a chat.
"The secret, I don't know…'' muses Jason, his voice filling the auditorium. ''I guess you've just gotta find something you love to do and then… do it for the rest of your life." For the precocious prep-schooler Max Fischer, played by Jason in Anderson's Rushmore, that something wavered between several quirky afterschool activities—bee keeping, stamp collecting, playwriting, building an aquarium or wooing a beautiful teacher. Like Max, Jason says he has always done everything passionately, even if he wasn't good at it. What stuck was music and acting. Here's what he thinks about both:
"Music has been the most important thing to me because it was always portable. I was born in 1980, so ever since I've lived, there has been a way to have music with you wherever you go. Cassette tape, CDs… Music was something I always gravitated to and I always had it with me at a young age. Though VHS and stuff was around, movies always felt way more distant. You had to set it up and watch it. It felt very professional. I could take music with me and walk around with it. It felt more intimate—although I only learned the word 'intimate' a few months ago. Even now, you have music with you everywhere you go. In fact I'm listening to music on these headphones, I'm not listening to you."
On His Favorite Films
"There are many, like the movie Mishima. I love that movie—Paul Schrader. And I love, obviously, the films of Francois Truffaut - the movie Stolen Kisses. It's odd because Jean-Pierre Léaud, that actor, is in a lot of Truffaut movies. He might be my favorite actor and I don't even speak any French! So I don't know if he's saying his lines correctly or truthfully… I just love who he is as a person, as a charismatic figure. He's someone that I always watch over and over and over again as an inspiration. And obviously Al Pacino…"
On The Characters He Plays
"I try not to intellectualize it too much, but that's what I end up doing. I did a movie that's not out yet, 7 Chinese Brothers—it wasn't until I did that I had an epiphany about my own work. In that movie, I play this character who really doesn't do much the entire movie. He's living in a daze. I realized it was really hard for me to do that job because all the other characters I've done have a huge goal and are driven towards something. For the first time, I played a character who had nothing that he was interested in. The characters I've played are in pursuit of something specific and put a lot of energy towards that."
On Working With Wes
''When we get to the set it's the greatest because he has it so figured out in his head and at the same time wants you to play around. That's fun for me. When we shot the go-kart scene in Rushmore, I remember us driving around and there's an empty go-kart and Wes was like 'Come here.' I followed him and the two of us drove our go-karts off the set into the suburban streets of Houston, driving around smiling and whistling and stuff. He still keeps that feeling on every movie. There's a feeling of excitement he brings to the work."
On Working With Wes' Troupe Of Actors
"Bill Murray is a god-like figure among all of them! Typically [on films] there is a tendency to separate. Movies with certain budgets have trailers, actors stay in hotels and it's very spread out. You really don't end up spending time with people most times. And for Wes, that's the opposite feeling that should be on a set between people working together. He wants everyone to be together, to be a community. So there is one communal green room—everyone is jammed together, no one is walking away. And at night, like on Moonrise Kingdom, he rented a house and all the actors lived in a house with him. On Grand Budapest Hotel he found a small hotel in Germany and basically rented it out so it was just for the actors and the department heads. It was a camp-like experience. Everyone comes back after work and sits in a big dining room together and eats and talks. The movie doesn't stop when you wrap for the day. It goes on to the hotel and into the night."
On Making Music
"At night, after I eat until lying down, I like to do music. That can be recording music, learning someone else's music, not really listening to music. It's usually something tactile. It's like a ritual that I like to do every night as my way to blow off steam. I try not to put too much pressure on myself, it can be all versions of terrible. I do that long enough, collect enough snippets of things, until I can start thinking about maybe making an album out of it. But it's not like I wait around for a song to come around, I try to do it every day as an exercise."
On Speaking At Ivy Film Festival
"What is the best is talking to you guys right now. It's so fun because you are interested in things. It's very helpful—it's the worst when you feel that everyone around you is uninterested or not fascinated by anything. That's when things are low. But when there's a room full of people like you who are fascinated and interested, that's when I feel excited. Probably more excited than I've felt all day."
Text Elizabeth Woodward