Actor Jason Schwartzman is a Californian through and through. He was born in LA and is part of the storied Coppola film clan – led by Schwartzman’s uncle Francis Ford Coppola. Before he turned to film, he was a musician. And his band Phantom Planet’s most famous song? “California.”
But Schwartzman is Texan by association. He’s best known for his work with Houstonian Wes Anderson – and North Texas brothers Luke and Owen Wilson. One of the two films he was promoting at this year’s South by Southwest was filmed in Austin.
Rice asked Schwartzman how he would feel to be an honorary Texan.
“Well, it would be an honor to be an honorary Texan, of course – I would like to make myself an honorary Texan, if that’s what you’re asking. But I think someone’s got to put that on me. But if you – are you a notary public or do you have any power like that that you could make this official?” Schwartzman asks.
The interview was off to a charmingly awkward start, which is exactly what you might expect considering the quirky characters Schwartzman often plays. His first role was the lead character, Max Fischer, in Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore.”
“Rushmore” was filmed in Houston. Schwartzman says it was his first real introduction to movies, to Texas – and to adulthood.
“Yeah. I was 17 and I had a guardian because my mom had to stay back in California with my younger brother. So really that was my first taste of – kind of an independence – and just being alone and exploring a city, kind of stepping into a new phase of my life,” Schwartzman says.
Since then, Schwartzman and Anderson have worked on a number of films together – including the Academy-Award winning “Grand Budapest Hotel.”
“For whatever reason a movie can connect to a large group of people – that’s a mysterious thing and it’s cool when it happens because I’ve never really been a part of a movie that got seen by a lot of people at one time. Usually they watch it slowly – one person here, one person there … if you add it up, it’s a few people. But this was like all 20 of them at one time watching the movie.”
Schwartzman currently has one film on screens now and another headed that way soon. “The Overnight” is out now. It’s about two couples getting to know each other. He says he jumped at the chance to play overly-friendly Kurt.
“I loved it because it was an opportunity to do some really kind of bigger, comedic stuff,” Schwartzman says. “Like there’s big, I don’t know, tent pole or milestone moments – there’s just these giant moments in the movie that you hope are going to get laughs but in between are these really gentle moments between the characters.”
On the other end of the quirky spectrum is “7 Chinese Brothers.” It was shot in Austin with director Bob Byington – and is closer to a character study. Schwartzman says the movie is a little dark.
“It’s a movie about stasis and just how your life can just not really change or move along and really it’s about loneliness and, not to get down, but this is NPR so we can go there – it’s sort of about alcoholism,” Schwartzman says.
As the interview wrapped up, it was clear that serious or strange, Schwartzman loves what he does. He even offered to do a little acting for the Texas Standard.
“I’ll just sit here and you can record me sitting here…,” Schwartzman says.
You can hear the silence – and a longer version of this interview in the player above.