Interview: Jason Schwartzman

By Katey Rich 2009-11-13 15:18:42discussion comments
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Amid all the famous voices in Fantastic Mr. Fox, from George Clooney to Own Wilson, there's one that's absolutely unmistakable. Jason Schwartzman has been part of two Wes Anderson films previously, including his screen acting debut Rushmore, and in this film brings all that familiarity with the director and patented awkward style to the character of Ash, a 12-year-old fox living in his father's shadow, who wants nothing more than to be considered a great athlete and get the girl.

Schwartzman gave massively long answers to every question asked at the roundtable earlier this week, so I've done my best to condense his thoughts into what mattered most for the film at hand. Read below for his effusive praise for Wes Anderson, his contention that doing this movie wasn't exactly like doing animation, and what he and Ash have in common.

What's it like working with Wes now, especially on an animated film?
Each time I've worked with Wes it's been so completely different from the last time, the movie and the situation we find ourselves in. Rushmore I was 17 years old, it was my first time ever acting. Darjeeling Limited we wrote this movie together, so we spent two and a half years writing it. It was a completely bizarre and beautiful and unique experience. This movie, there were no camera. It was just the actors, Wes and a sound guy. There's something familiar about working with Wes after all these years-- he's my best friend, and so many years of our lives have been shared now. We're always telling each other about what's happening in our lives, and what we're interested in. There's so much that we have in common that we like to tell each other about. I suppose there's a bit of a shorthand. But what's also interesting is every time we go to work together, the situation is so different that it's a real tool to have that kind of history and shorthand with someone. But ti doesn't make the situation any easier , because the work is always different. It's like a science experiment-- the variable is always the movie, we're the constant. With Wes you know it's always going to be an adventure.

Where do you see Wes a decade from now?
I don't know. That's what I love about Wes so much, is you think you maybe you have an idea of where he could go and what he could do, and you sit down and ask him what he's thinking about, and he tells you some of his ideas, and they're so exciting because they have a quality that's familiar, which is the part you can imagine. But they're on some new trip, or incorporating some new type of music. That's the exciting part about knowing him, his combination of the predictable and the unpredictable. Or his combination of the familiar and the unpredictable. He's never predictable.

How does he maintain that integrity?
Because he loves movies,. He loves making movies. If that was your entire life, you'd make your movie like everything depended on it. It really is a big deal if someone wants to change something, or if someone won't let him make it the way he wants to make it. He would take a bullet for one of his movies. Every decision is like his life depends on it. He's like Spartacus.

You've worked in short films, animated, TV with Bored to Death. What are the specific challenges?
They're all a challenge, and they're all a challenge in a really good way. I do like the feeling of working, I like working, and no movie is easy. Every day when I ride to set, I do always have that excitement. I don't know if I want to use the word nervous, but there's something in me that's definitely not the feeling I have when I'm sitting at home watching television or the wall. There is a feeling when I go to work of, ooh, what's going to happen today? There's always an element of surprise. It's an incredible line of work, because you never know who you're going to meet or what's going to happen.

I still feel llike I haven't done animated. I feel like animated is more like, the guy in the recording booth. I really want to do an animated movie too. This I feel like wasn't. It was all these actors together running around on a farm, digging in the ground and pretending to be foxes and howling, with a sound guy running after us with microphone. I don't even feel like I've done the traditional thing yet. This is like a one-off, unique, beautiful experience. I'm pretty happy that I've been able to work in such different areas that all share the same element of anything could happen. I like problem-solving with people I love.

Did your own awkward adolescence go into creating Ash?
Totally. When I read this character, I didn't think 12-year-old fox, I thought 12-year-old. Wants to be a better athlete, really likes a girl who doesn't like him back. His dad is this incredible figure, and he's different. I didn't hit a growth spurt until later, I didn't feel like I was a great athlete-- I wanted to be one. Really, I liked a lot of girls who didn't like me back, and I had that real experience. When I was doing the movie it wasn't difficult for me to tap into those. The only real difference between me and my character is I never went grumpy with it. I tried harder and harder. You become a clown, and you do a lot of things to your own detriment to get laughs. But my character doesn't want laughs. He's probably angrier.
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