Jason Schwartzman on ‘Listen Up Philip,’ Those ‘Jurassic Park 4′ Rumors and Being Related to Nic Cage
It’s a weird thing how casting rumors get started and then just mysteriously fade away. Late last year, there were rumors that Jason Schwartzman was in talks to join the cast of ‘Jurassic World,’ which was interesting because Jason Schwartzman has never done a movie like ‘Jurassic World’ before. As it turns out, as Schwartzman explains here, his brother, John Schwartzman, is the cinematographer on ‘Jurassic World’ and somewhere along the line the two names got switched. Though, that didn’t mean Jason Schwartzman didn’t enjoy being in those headlines and just maybe fueled them a bit with some well-placed non-answers.
Jason Schwartzman is, however, in director Alex Ross Perry’s ‘Listen Up Philip.’ Schwartzman plays the title role as a misanthrope author who does a good job of making most people’s lives miserable during the process of publishing his second novel. Schwartzman, who is, in person, incredibly polite, is surprisingly good at playing an asshole – to the point he found it strangely cathartic.
Ahead, Schwartzman also talks about working with Tim Burton in the upcoming film ‘Big Eyes’ – a director Schwartzman’s admired since childhood – and explains what it’s like being related to Nicolas Cage.
You played possibly your most earnest role in ‘Saving Mr. Banks,’ 'Listen Up Philip’ might be your most cynical.
Yeah, yeah. This character is without a doubt, well, he’s weird: He’s both earnest and cynical.
During a photo shoot he admits, “I’m an asshole.”
He gets it. “Yeah, I’m an asshole, right? Is that what you’re probably all saying?” In previous things I’ve done, I feel like I’ve had dialogue just as biting sometimes.
What’s an example?
Well, in ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,’ I play like a true villain.
That’s a little different.
It’s different. And that character is also kind of passive-aggressive at times. And this character is kind of the most sincere, non-filtered. Whenever there was a moment we tried to put something in that maybe “a different side of Philip,” or maybe something that would make him sympathetic, it actually made it worse. It made him seem passive-aggressive, so he seemed crueler, in a way. He’s like a vodka or gin or some kind of hard spirit because, wine, that can sneak up on you.
Champagne can sneak up on you.
Yeah, and that’s kind of a different kind of cruelty. This is like, you drink it, you have a glass of Philip and you sort of know where you are – if that makes any seems, I’ve never tried to make that metaphor before…
You should do that with every movie now.
I’ll try it. I will.
Use it during the ‘Big Eyes’ press tour.
I will! “It was like an anisette.”
I could watch Philip just walking around New York City being a dick to people. If he had a reality show, I would watch it.
Oh, I would, too. Yeah, I think there’s something about him; he’s so extreme. And you really don’t know how he’s going to react in certain situations and I think that it’s enjoyable to watch it.
You looked like you were having fun.
I think in a lot of ways it was cathartic for me. Not that I had a bunch of stuff I wanted to say to people … it was weird how it felt, to say things and not care what they thought -- to not worry about those social manors.
You seem to work with good directors. Is that by design?
It’s great being associated with Wes Anderson, but do you wish you got more credit with working with a wide array of directors?
I don’t care. I don’t think about it.
I guess that’s my job, to think about your legacy.
You think about it and I’ll be there for you. No, but, ultimately, I think where I sort of come from is because I’m not a trained actor...
You’re being modest. People enjoy your acting.
But I can tell, if they have a technique they can fall back on when in doubt. And my technique is this super luxurious thing of working with and connecting to and exchanging ideas with these guys, these directors. So, the most important thing for me is that relationship.
And your next movie is a Tim Burton movie, ‘Big Eyes,’ which doesn’t look anything like a Tim Burton movie.
If Tim Burton wasn’t associated with it, I would have loved it and thought it was great. But the fact that he was involved with it, you can kind of imagine how he would do it, because even though he has a certain style and genre, this fits into it in a weird way -- these artists and their fascination with these big eyes. Meeting him, for me, was a big thrill…
You had never met him before?
I think I had shaken his hand once. For me, I remember when I was much younger, there was an MTV news film profile on him a long time ago, in the mid or late ‘80s. He was kind of giving a tour of the area he grew up in. And I didn’t grow up in suburbia like that, but he was dressed in black and he was talking about being an outsider and that it was OK. It was nice to hear that because I didn’t go to a school where you could be an outsider or an insider – it was sort of like everyone was a fighter. But, I felt sometimes kind of distant. And he’s like the first person that I remember who said that thing about you can go on to be who you want. I always remember that – and I told him that when I met him, just how much that meant to me.
About a year ago when you were promoting ‘Saving Mr. Banks,' there were these rumors that you were going to be in ‘Jurassic World.’ People asked you about them, including me, and you were really coy. You are not in ‘Jurassic World,’ what is the story behind that?
What happened was, my brother, John, shot that movie. And I think it was mis-reported that it was me. And, honestly, it was just so funny that that would happen. I’ve never been rumored for anything, so I started saying, “That’s fun. I can’t really comment because I don’t really know what you’re talking about, but it’s fine, we can talk about it. I just don’t have any answers.”
Which fuels the fire.
Yeah, I was kind of confused because I didn’t know about that. Then I thought, Wow, this is exciting. This is something I don’t know about happening here. But, it was really just more about my brother shot it and I bet you it was just a misunderstanding.
That’s kind of amazing.
It’s the best.
You got to be in headlines for two weeks.
I felt like, when you see those kind of headlines, I was part of them for a second! It was pretty funny.
You should have kept it going, “I’m in there somewhere, keep an eye out.”
“Look, I could give you an exclusive, I can neither confirm nor deny that I’m in it because I haven’t seen the final cut.”
I hope someone reports this.
I hope that people can find me in that movie. I’m there. I’m there.
I’ll look for you.
I’ll look for me, too.
You have your franchise.
I’ve got it, and America has it, and the world has it.
I have a stupid question.
I like stupid questions.
What’s it like being related to Nic Cage?
I would ask the same question of me if I were you.
People don’t associate the two of you as relatives.
For me, it sounds like a doe-eyed thing, but the truth is that I grew up and Nicolas was working a lot when I was growing up so I didn’t see him that often then. But, he was an enigma. And cool. And I remember when ‘Vampire’s Kiss’ came out, I saw it. I was probably too young to see it, but I saw it when it came out. And I remember thinking, This is incredible. This person is amazing. And I didn’t really even connect it that it was someone related to me. I used to watch that movie and rewind it and fast forward it and pause it and read the lines. I was obsessed with it. I mean, I saw him recently. It’s crazy because I admire him so much.
People would pay good money to be a fly on the wall during a conversation between Nicolas Cage and Jason Schwartzman.
There were no walls where we were!
Then he asked you how ‘Jurassic World’ was going.
And I told him, “You’ll have to buy a ticket like everyone else, my friend.”
Mike Ryan has written for The Huffington Post, Wired, Vanity Fair and GQ. He is the senior editor of ScreenCrush. You can contact him directly on Twitter.