As one of Wes Anderson’ recurrent muses and by far one of
the most prolific actors working in independent cinema today, Jason Schwartzman gives an enthralling quality to each one of his offbeat performance.Last year the actor portrayed a hilariously self-centered
writer in Alex Ross Perry’s “Listen Up Phillip,” and played small parts in
larger productions such as “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Big Eyes.” These
projects added to the actor’s eclectic, yet selective, filmography.
This past January audiences at Sundance were able to witness
yet another of his singular roles, this time in Patrick Brice’s provocative comedy
“The Overnight.” Schwartzman plays
Kurt, an overly confident family man who thinks of himself as an achieved businessman,
inventor, painter, and overall Renaissance man. With his persuasive charm Kurt
convinces a couple new to the neighborhood to come over to his place for
dinner. The gathering is utterly unconventional as it encourages all its participants
to explore and discover themselves and the others.
Unquestionably gifted at his art form, Schwarztman is also
one the nicest people to interview, because, no matter how many more
conversations he has had or will have, he makes you feel like he is
only there to talk to you. We talked about the benefits of shooting a film chronologically, getting naked with Adam Scott, and the deliriousness that comes with the wee hours of the night.
Note: This interview took place in January during the Sundance Film Festival where “The Overnight” premiered.
Aguilar: This is a very contained film, only four actors, and a handful of locations. It seems like under these conditions most of the attention is on the actors. Does this make things more difficult for you?
Jason Schwartzman: I’m trying to think right now, but I’ve never done a movie that took place basically in one night. But I’m a fan of movies like that, like “Dog Day Afternoon” or “The Breakfast Club,” and I’ve always been curios about stories that are self-contained. We had a few locations, but for the most part is one spot, a small cast, and one night. I really liked it because we shot it in chronological order for the most part, and it felt great.
I’d never done that before, and that way it all unfolded very naturally. There was also something stable about going to the same location everyday to work and having your little area where you put your backpack down. It felt sort of like a job, job, job. It was nice to focus and get to know the space. There were no trailers, we were all in that house and we shot basically in every room of it. You start to know the house very well. It starts to feel real to you in a way. When you walk out if a room you know where everyone is going or coming from and it was like really living in that space.
Aguilar: Does this help create a closer relationship between the actors since there really no big elements to hide behind?
Jason Schwartzman: Absolutely. We all shared one room for changing, we all ate together. There is no hiding.
Aguilar: Adam mentioned it felt like summer camp
Jason Schwartzman: It was like summer camp! Like a summer camp slumber party because we were also shooting throughout the night every night. The night has a special quality about it. It’s one thing when it’s 1:00 AM or 2:00 AM, but once you enter 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00 AM, you know that the amount of people who are awake is slowly diminishing. There is a certain quiet and a certain deliriousness that just overtakes the body. It was really nice.
Aguilar: You’ve played such a diverse array of characters in your career, including Phillip last year. What was especially interesting about this one? This confident guy that does it all and knows it all.
Jason Schwartzman: One thing that was fun was that I’ve never really worked as much. This past year I did a few movies back to back, and I had never done that before in my life. I’ve always heard actors talk about, ” I did this movie because I had just finished that other movie and this felt like the opposite.” I was always kind of jealous, “Wow you can just go right into another movie? How can you do that?” But I was in a situations where this movie came about unexpectedly, somewhat after “Listen Up Phillip.”
It was sort of nice to play a character like this. Phillip was interesting because he knew he wasn’t making the right decisions, but he also didn’t really care what people thought. Kurt, on the other hand, is a character who is really trying to host these people and he cares a great deal about what they think. It’s fun because the character is such a confident know-it-all and very outgoing. He even goes up to the couple at the park. But as the movie goes on you start to realize that he has never really done this before and I think that he is really nervous about it.
Aguilar: At times it feels like he is preying on them even if he is not
Jason Schwartzman: It does feel like he is preying on them, and for a while he is sort of a predator. But then you start to realize that he is not. Adam and Taylor aren’t the next couple. Is not like there was another last weekend and they are the chosen ones this weekend. This is the first time and it’s more of an experiment than a predatory maneuver.
Aguilar: It seems like both of these couples are tired of the same experiences, but that one night anything goes.
Jason Schwartzman: Yes, Taylor and Adam just think that it’s good that they are breaking out of their shell. They think, “We are in a new place, it’s going to be harder to make friends. Let’s just go for it.” They think they are breaking up the routine that way. It’s funny how some of the biggest things in our lives come about in a way you wouldn’t expect. I can honestly say that there have been times when, for example, you are talking about this flower and then ten minutes later you are having a fight about something that happened five years ago. Somehow conversations like that unravel. I think this couple gets unraveled that night.
Aguilar: Their issues come to the surface
Jason Schwartzman: Yes, when one person starts to question something in this kind of relationship, everyone has to question everything.
Aguilar: Tell me about working with Adam and being naked with each other, both emotionally and literally.
Jason Schwartzman: I love him! When I first got sent the script, before I read it, I knew Adam Scott was in this movie. For me that was very exciting because I think that Adam has done great work both comedic and drama. He can say things that are sometimes insane or absurd, but he does them in such a unique way. He occupies such an interesting space in movies,TV, and wherever you want to work with him in. He also helped produced this movie and he was a great producer that helped make things more comfortable for everyone. We got naked, and I think we were both nervous. He was on board first because he is one of the producers and he knew. That wast one of the things that I was thinking about while reading the script, “Is Adam nervous? He is probably not nervous about it, I’m probably the only nervous one.” It was kind of a relief to hear that he was scared too.
Aguilar: I mentioned to Adam that the ending of “The Overnight” reminded me of ” Y Tu Mama También,” but your film seems to be even more about friendship.
Jason Schwartzman: Yea, the ending of the movie is very tender. I think you are right, it’s really about friendship.
Aguilar: What;s your secret for comedic timing and delivering dialogue with such straightforwardness?
Jason Schwartzman: I think there is a million ways to do something. That was just the one take they use, they are probably all different. I got lucky.
Aguilar: How has your Sundance experience been this year?
Jason Schwartzman: I’m excited about all the movies that are here this year, but unfortunately I won’t get to see a lot of them. I was here last year with “Listen Up Phillip,” but I wasn’t here the year before. People keep saying, “The last two years at Sundance there’s been a great stretch of movies,” and I think it’s true. There’s been a lot of great movies. Walking up and down the street you hear a lot of enthusiasm.
Aguilar: What’s next on your busy slate?
Jason Schwartzman: I have a movie coming out called “7 Chinese Brothers. I hope it comes out this year. We also created the show “Mozart in the Jungle” with Gael. We just finished it and it came out on Amazon Prime – very quick turn around. It’s very fun and accelerating, and I love every second of it. We don’t know if we’d get to make another season but even if we get canceled I’m happy because this one season was such a journey.
“The Overnight” opens Friday June 19th in L.A. At the Arclight Hollywood and in NYC at the Angelika a Film Center