"Mozart in the Jungle," for the second year in a row, holds the title of Most Critically Acclaimed TV Show To Be Released in The Last Week of the Year. The Golden Globe-nominated comedy starring Gael Garica Bernal, Malcolm McDowell, Lola Kirke, Saffron Burrows and Bernadette Peters (among many others) continued, in its second season, to delve behind the curtain of a New York symphony, but also expanded its scope by bringing in new characters and traveling to new locations.
The Amazon Studios original series, based on the book by Blair Tindall, is executive produced by Paul Weitz, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman (the latter two being, in case you weren't aware, cousins), who collaborate intensely together on the show.
Indiewire got Weitz and Coppola on the phone during the Christmas break to learn more about shooting in Mexico City, what the show has in common with the films of Ernst Lubitsch and what it's like to write at Talia Shire's dining room table. An edited compilation of their thoughts is below.
A Story About Artists
ROMAN COPPOLA: Ultimately, this is a show about people. It's a big family of artists coming together to do this endeavor, and the relationships between them. So, that could be transposed, I suppose, to some other setting. But we do get inspiration from the classical music, and the things that spark the stories come from that. Although, of course, there are relationships that exist beyond the work that they do. But I feel it springs out of this endeavor that they're all embarked on.
PAUL WEITZ: [The show] needs this beautiful music. The whole show is scored with classical music. There's a certain amount of contemporary stuff, but there's a point in the last episode where Bernadette Peters turns to Malcolm McDowell and says, "Have I killed the thing? Have I killed the thing that I love the most?" And Malcolm says, "You can't kill that. It was here a long time before you were here and it will be here a long time after we're gone."
The show is about the great passion of art and it's a great way to manifest that, with music. I don't think this one particular show could exist without it being that, because it needs to be contemporary. People devoting themselves to something that's been going on for hundreds of years.
COPPOLA: The thing about classical music is that's just not something you can do casually. It feels like when you're a professional football player or something. You have to train for years and years. The folks who have the ability to do this, it is such a commitment and the people that do decide to take on the commitment as we portray with our characters — particularly Lola [Kirke] as a young person — is your life becomes consumed by it to some degree. You practice five or six hours a day as a young person — what does that do to other aspects of your life and so on? I do think our characters are particular to this world and that makes it particularly interesting for us.
WEITZ: What's the role of creativity in one's life? What's the role of passion, and how much does that overwhelm everything else? In this case, I thought it was really fascinating that someone like Lola Kirke's character would have chosen an instrument at age five in order to be this good. Who's to say when you're age five that you're making a valid decision for the rest of your life? And also how much can you hide behind your instrument and your creativity. How much can you avoid emotional steps you have to take? So I thought all those things were very interesting.
COPPOLA: When Jason first found the book that inspired the show, it seemed so natural. What a rich, interesting world where there's so many stories to tell, so many characters colliding with one another. We all know that people of artistic temperament can be a little nutty, manic, colorful and yet there are 80 people in an orchestra led by someone and all the temperaments have to be contained. It's just a curious combination of forces — all that discipline and skill and the eccentricity and the passions, that are also part of the people who seek out that endeavor.
Classical Music is Essential to the Show
COPPOLA: We realized that the hook of the show is: Is classical music relevant? And we refer, in some of our stories, when [Schwartzman's] character B Sharpe speaks about: Is classical music dead? That's a big question in the world of classical music. And that was sort of the hook. We have this super vital guy, Gael's character, and this slight, stodgy establishment and those two forces budding against each other. So, I guess there's two points I want to make.
One is we were delighted to hear that this particular conductor who is a little bit snobbish in a friendly way, when he saw the show he said, "I loved it. It was so accurate. I really enjoyed it. The only problem is some of the people didn't know how to hold their bow in the orchestra. But other than that I totally enjoyed it." That was wonderful. The conductor enjoyed the show and found it to be enjoyable and reasonably accurate. And then when other people who have enjoyed it become exposed to classical music, and say, "Wow. I love that piece. I'm eager to know about the soundtrack." That's particularly gratifying knowing, there's this little spark of classical music.
WEITZ: Classical music, in general, is trying to redefine itself, with the forefront of that in a way what [conductor] Gustavo Dudamel is trying to do. Dudamel is coming from not a wealthy background. He's part of this system in Venezuela that brought poor kids into symphony music and he believes that there's a role for classical music not just with the audience that is, unfortunately, getting older and older, but also with young people. That's part of why he and other luminaries in the classical music world wanted to be involved with [the show]. They're hoping that the art form will transform itself in some way.
COPPOLA: Dudamel and Lang Lang and Joshua Bell and Emanuel Ax and these others who participated wanted to participate, from my sense, because they were really pleased that their world was being exposed to other people that normally aren't familiar with it. So, that's a real treat when people are drawn to the show for whatever reason. They hear it's good. They like Gael. They like Saffron. They stick within it and become exposed to classical music and maybe it lives on even further, with them becoming interested in that.