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Interview: Jason Schwartzman

The indie comedy wunderkind talks Moonrise Kingdom, Bill Murray, tequila, and more.


Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Moonrise Kingdom is out on DVD today. How would you describe the movie to someone who hasn’t seen it?
I would say that it’s an incredibly funny and poignant film about young love, and the dreams that you can have when you’re young. It takes place on an island, and is about a 12-year-old Khaki  Scout who meets a 12-year-old girl on the other side of the island, and they fall in love and hatch a plan to run away from their lives; they’re not having good lives at home. It’s also about all the adults—who are in various stages of love falling apart—chasing them. I’ll just say it: It’s a giant adventure-chasing movie centered on 12-year-olds who are in love.

You’ve worked with director Wes Anderson on many films, including Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, and Moonrise Kingdom. Are you guys real-life besties?
Well, Wes is 10 years older than me; I met him when I was 17. I was a musician making an album, and had never really thought about being in movies. But I met this casting director who asked if I’d ever been an actor, and I went to this audition [for Rushmore], just really thinking it would be more of a good story to tell people—hey, I auditioned for a movie!—but I got the part, and that’s the first time I met Wes. And I would say that from 17 until now, he’s been one of the most important people in my life.

You and Wes often work with Bill Murray. Do you have a favorite Bill Murray movie?
That’s really difficult. That’s like asking if I have a favorite Beatles album. Stripes is great, and so is Groundhog Day, and I loved him in The Man Who Knew Too Little, Meatballs, Ghostbusters... I am also a huge fan of Scrooged.

And What About Bob?
HUGE What About Bob? fan. My good What About Bob? story is that for a summer I worked at this small tennis center, and on the weekends they would show a movie in the rec room—which was a huge room with a film projector—and I tore tickets for the whole summer. But because it wasn’t like a professional theater, it wasn’t like a new movie was out every week, so What About Bob? played for whole month, and I took tickets and would watch the movie. I love that movie. It’s a deep, deep, deep love. And actually one of his best performances is also in Tootsie.

Yeah, I guess I can’t really think of any bad Bill Murray movies…
I feel like I literally just recited the whole IMDB list.


Photo courtesy of Focus Features

Is it true that you only spent three days shooting Moonrise Kingdom?
Yes. Oh god it was so awesome. At the time, I was shooting this show called Bored to Death for HBO—which has since been, um, not on television—and they were shooting Moonrise Kingdom in Rhode Island, and on the TV show we had a hiatus that started on a Wednesday, and I had to be back to work on Monday. So Moonrise Kingdom was able to make my shooting days on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. That week I shot Bored to Death til 3am on Wednesday in New York, and then I got in a car and went to Rhode Island, got there at like 7, and started shooting.

That sounds pretty great.
It was the best. I think that it would have been much, much more difficult if I was working with a director I’d never worked with, but Wes and I have worked together a lot, and also a lot of the crew is the same on Wes’s movies—same cameraman, same person who does the sound—so there’s a feeling of, “Hey, how are you, good to see you!” It’s just great. And also Wes has gotten into not a lo-fi way of shooting, because the movie certainly wouldn’t be described as lo-fi—but I would say there’s a kind of elimination of excess, of the “bigness” of a movie set. Typically if you were driving on the street and someone was shooting a movie you’d start to notice all these trucks and tables and all this stuff. But if you saw Wes shooting this movie, you’d be like, “Is someone doing an interview over there?” There’s like a guy with a boom, and a camera. It’s very small. And I love that. And even though Wes’s films are so meticulously made and everything is so considered and plotted out and thought-about, there’s also a non-preciousness when you start working. It’s like, let’s just go, let’s just start. So I got there, and I put on my Boy Scout outfit. At first I was like, “Did they give me one of the boys’ outfits?” because it was so tight. I’ve NEVER worn shorter shorts. And then Wes is like, “Hey, you’re here, great! Let’s just start shooting this scene!” And the next thing I know, we’re shooting. So it was a fun-filled three days.

Your uncle is director Francis Ford Coppola. Do you get an endless supply of free wine from the Coppola family winery?
No, I don’t.  If we want wine, we just go to the store and buy it. If there was like a party I’m sure I could order some, but free wine would be wasted on me.

So you’re not a big drinker?
I love wine, but I’m not an aficionado of wine. I am a bigger fan of tequila. There’s this stuff called Maestro Dobel—oh god, it’s the best. Have you heard of it?

No, but we do have a full bar here at the office …
Well you should get Maestro Dobel. I love it. And I usually like añejo tequila, which is the darkest, but this is like an añejo-reposado-blanco blend, so it’s clear. But it is smoother than the drum tracks on “Thriller.”

What do you think your character from Rushmore, Max Fischer, would be doing right now?
Gosh, I can’t answer that question. I’d have to consult Wes. It’s too intense. But I think it’d be safe to say that no matter what he’s doing, all of his effort is going into something that nobody else’s effort is going into as intensely. And he’s plotting something. He’s got many notes. He’s not idle—he’s progressing.

This question comes from one of our Facebook fans. If you played Harold, who would you cast as Maude?
Wow. I don’t know. I can’t even touch that! Harold & Maude was already made, and I don’t even want to tamper with or destroy the image of that movie by putting me in it. But we could tell that reader that maybe a way of asking that question in the future, if they ever talk to another actor, would be: if you were Harold for Halloween, who would be your Maude? That could be good, right? I just thought of it. Maybe I’m just feeling cocky, but I feel pretty good about it.

Moonrise Kingdom is out on DVD now.
 


Photo courtesy of Focus Features
 

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