Jason Schwartzman steps off The Darjeeling Limited

From the minute TF walks into the room, we like Jason Schwartzman. He’s relaxed, friendly, and open – he asks if we're okay, thanks us for our time, then asks me if we mind if he puts his feet up. We don't, especially as what follows is one of the most relaxed interviews we've ever conducted...

Wes Anderson has said that Rushmore was based on his and Owen Wilson’s experiences when they were teenagers, how did it feel to be playing a younger version of those guys?

When I first read the script for Rushmore I had never read a script in my entire life, it was the first script I’d ever read, and I remember reading it thinking this is the kind of movie I would love to go and see, this is very funny to me, and very much the things that I find entertaining.

And I remember I had never acted before and I was going in to audition for it in the next couple of days and my feeling was ‘I’m not going to get this part, but whoever does, I can’t wait to go and see this movie.’

So I didn’t know much about Wes or who he was or what he looked like or anything. And I didn’t know it was a version of Wes, or Owen or them combined – I still don’t know how much really is. I’m sure in some ways it is. I never thought of it as playing Wes, I always thought that Max Fischer was his own guy.

Wes said that he spent a year looking for Max, but thirty seconds after he met you he knew that you were the person – what did you do in that first audition?

Well, that’s a really good question – I have no idea. I mean, I had never tried acting before I had never even really considered it a possibility, I walked into the room – like I said, I had just read the script maybe four days before, five days before, I had never auditioned for a movie in my life.

I remember I asked the casting director, I said ‘Hello, my name is Jason Schwartzman, I’m coming in on Friday, and out of curiosity, what does one wear to an audition?’ And she said ‘Whatever makes you feel comfortable’ and I thought to myself, well, that’s interesting, I’m never actually going to be really comfortable, so I’ll just go balls to the wall.

So I wore a blazer, I made my own patch, I went full out in khaki pants – I remember thinking, ‘when I walk in, well I’m not going to be good at the acting, but I’m definitely going to be memorable’. And then I remember walking in and there were five other kids dresses exactly like me. But they didn’t have the patch.

And Wes is all about the details, isn’t he?

(winks) He’s all about the details. So I walked into the room, and there he was, and I remember being taken aback that he was so young, and I remember we talked for 20 minutes about shoes, not even about the script.

I was more nervous than you could imagine walking in, and talking to him, I felt like ‘Oh, this guy is great’ and I also felt like, I don’t think I’m going to be in this movie, but I hope that this guy and I could exchange phone number, because I would love to be friends with him, he finds great things funny. ‘I thought was instantly ‘Wow, what a great guy’.

Now, The Darjeeling Limited, Wes said that the film wouldn’t exist without you and Roman, that the three of you poured your own personal experiences into the script - could you tell me what experiences you contributed?

I’d hate to. Because my only fear is... I like how it is now, three of us are equally responsible for the script, and it’s all three of our points of view, but the second I raise my hand about certain places, then I feel like it incriminates me – because the movie is /so/ personal, the great thing about having two other writers, is you don’t have to be the bad guy.

Which kinda leads me to my next question – have you have you ever had an ex-girlfriend like Jack’s?

(Jason shrugs)

Jack carries an iPod around with him, which is kinda modern for a Wes Anderson movie – what were the last few albums you put on your iPod?

Let’s see, before I go on a trip I always fill up the iPod with things – I don’t know about you, but I always battle back and forth with, well, I’m going to go away for a while and most of my music is on a hard drive, so it can’t fit on a computer, so I can’t keep changing it in the hotel room, I can’t replenish it, so whatever I commit to on my iPod is going to be my thing.

I always battle back and forth; at the end of the day, I wanna listen to things that I know, that I’m familiar with, or do I wanna listen to new things and be forced into that corner. This particular trip, I’ve put a little of both.

It’s Beach Boys, Beatles, Belle And Sebastian, Panda Bear – Person Pitch is the name of the album – Sufjan Stevens, the Strokes always. But there’s sub-divisions, like I’m not familiar with The Beach Boys Love You record and I know Sunflower and Surf’s Up and all those ones I know pretty well, but even 15 Big Ones and all those later Beach Boys records that I don’t know well, that’s what I put on my iPod, so I’ll be forced to hear records that I know I’m not as well versed in. Beatle-wise I put on all the anthology stuff, so I could hear different version of the songs. So I went for a new familiar mix.

Wes said that you were involved in production, location scouting and so on, did you enjoy that part of it?

Yeah, to me, aside from the writing, that’s was the part when I felt the most like I was privy to something special. First off, it never felt like we were writing a script it felt like we were writing a movie, because it was like, ‘we’re going to make this movie’ that was the understanding, as opposed to ‘let’s write a script’. It always felt like this thing, whatever we were writing, would end up being the next thing we all do.

And I was writing it with Wes and Roman, who are both filmmakers, so it was nice – this didn’t happen too much in the writing, but often enough to be beneficial to me, or at least educational – we would be writing a scene and I’ll say ‘wait, how do we get a camera in there?’ and they’d be ‘well, maybe we can build a dolly’ so while we were writing it we were talking about the best way of shooting it, talking about the lenses; already talking in a way technically that made me go ‘wow, I wouldn’t even have thought about that’ and just the fact that if you write this one little thing, the it makes the budget ten million dollars more!

All these things that you can only know from making a movie. But then, like you say, talking about Wes, I did go out to India early, and I was just basically included on every meeting and location scout and discussions of shots and lenses and costumes, it was just so wonderful to have someone say ‘what do you think, Jason?’ I just stayed quiet most of the time, and just kinda watched it all, but it was really informative.

Did it give you the directing bug?

Yes and no, because I’m a very indecisive person and I don’t think you have to be too decisive, I know indecisive directors, but what I was seeing in India , there were a lot of questions. Did you see Wes’ American Express commercials?

Yeah, yeah.

It seemed just like, times a million – ‘which one do you want, the red one, the green one, the green one…’ there’s a million decisions and they’re scary because they’re permanent, scary.

Was shooting Darjeeling like going traveling, did you get to see much of the country?

Personally you mean?

Yes, personally.

Just being in India was amazing, we got around when we were writing the movie, we had five weeks of writing and we travelled North, West and East and everything, but the shooting we were in Jodhpur, and so we were really stuck there, because we were shooting five day weeks and at the weekend you don’t want to travel around, you were exhausted. I got out to the city a lot, I was very bad about being respectful to rest, I didn’t rest that much. We’d work Monday to Friday, then Saturday morning I’d be up at 8 in town, walking around, looking for instruments, or looking for scarves, whatever, just looking. I feel like I saw a lot of where I was living.

You make music – how’s Nighttiming going?

Thank you for asking, it’s going cool. I didn’t expect to have made a record, I’ve been writing songs on and off for a couple of years, but it was always in my living room, just doing little demos. And when I had a certain amount of them, I was a little confused about what to do with them, these were home recordings – and I don’t mean home recordings with a nice microphone, I mean bad, demos, ideas, sketches.

I went to my friend who produced one of the Phantom Planet records that I’d made and I said to him ‘Should I sell these songs to other bands? What becomes of these songs, do they sit in my computer for my life?’ And he said, ‘ Well, you shouldn’t sell them, because the bands you’d want to sell them they’re not interested in buying songs from other artists, they want to create their own songs’ so I said ‘What do I do?’ And he said ‘Well, why do you have to know that, why can’t you just go and record the songs for fun and just have them. You could flesh the ideas out’ They were really just these little acoustic version of things.

That was the revelation to me, because when I was in my band, we were going to studios that cost money and record labels were paying for those studios, and when you go into a studio for a record label, you go in with the songs rehearsed and done, with the green light that you’ve got some songs that’ll bring them a return on their money. And I was in the mindset that you’re not allowed to record music unless it’s to be heard. So I was like, ‘Wait, of course, he’s absolutely right, I can just go and play music in a recording studio.’ Because I don’t have a band, I could take my time. It’s hard to multi-track to hear all the music together, so it was nice to be in the studio, I could do the bass part, I could do the drum part, I could hear how they all sounded together and I could take away things, so I used the studio like it was my band.