The last time I encountered Jason Schwartzman, I was serving him brunch at a breakfast diner in Chicago. He wasn’t just chowing down on french toast, he was also giving an interview for his his 2004 film “I [Heart] Huckabee” with director David O. Russell. Can you imagine how terrified I was that I would be described by Rolling Stone as the fumbling waiter who spilled coffee all over Mr. Schwartzman? Well, I didn’t actually spill coffee on anybody, but I did humiliate myself by accidentally dropping the wrong check at the end of Jason’s meal/interview. Oops.
Though I will probably never forget dropping the wrong check, I will also not forget Jason Schwartzman’s good attitude and sense of play. He was very “Benny & June” with his food – putting dinner roles on his nose and being quirky, just like you’d want from a favorite indie film star.
It’s fun to be at a point in my life, five years later, that I actually have the opportunity to participate in interviews with people like Jason Schwartzman, instead of taking his omelet order. Life has a way of circling back in on itself sometimes. Jason still has a really enthusiastic attitude; for all I know, he still sticks bread rolls on his nose during interviews. This was more of a group interview with other parenting bloggers on a conference call with him. He was so enthusiastic answering the questions that I was starting to question his sincerity, but then he told us that he would be going on his honeymoon after the interview. Yeah, that would excite me too!
My fellow bloggers and I joined Jason to ask him questions about his role in the new live-animated feature Fantastic Mr. Fox, in which he plays Ash, the son of Mr. Fox (George Clooney). The indie-crowd have been buzzing with excitement to see how Wes Anderson would adapt Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book. You remember Wes Anderson, don’t you? He’s been dividing audiences since Schwartzman debuted in Rushmore, a quirky comedy with an awesome soundtrack. After Rushmore, Anderson directed the meticulous character-driven homage to Salinger “The Royal Tennenbaums”. Then, he drove a wedge into the crack dividing his fans and his haters with “The Life Aquatic With Steve Sizzou”, which some say went past quirky into self-parody.
You either “get” Anderson’s films… or you shrug and say “That was weird”. Jason promises that this movie is more accessible to kids and doesn’t have the typical Wes Anderson inside jokes, which may be true, but we do see many favorite actors returning to the Anderson ensemble such as Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Schwartzman himself. We also get hints that the film will be intricately detailed down to the miniature costumes worn by the puppets. For some, the Wes Anderson sub-genre will possibly seem laborious and impenitrable, but as a fan of his peculiar style of storytelling, I’m hoping that Anderson won’t sacrifice too much of what makes him unique.
Half the reason Jason Schwartzman is so cool, other than his rock star status with Phantom Planet, is that he has now been in multiple films with Bill Murray. Holy crap. I would be a total mess if I even met Bill Murray. He’s been my hero since Quick Change. He’s the reason I started doing comedy (in my other life as an improv instructor). I’ve watched Groundhog day 5000 times, and the whole point of the movie is it’s redundancy – it just never gets old.
The voice-overs for Fox were recorded live, with all the actors immersing themselves in the environments of their animated counterparts. Jason Schwartzman, the luckiest dude alive, scurried around on a farm pretending to be a fox while Bill Murray pretended to be a badger. Jason told an anecdote about Bill Murray standing in as a wolf frolicking in the distance, which instantly made me want to see the movie, if only so that I could see that scene and imagine the wolf as Bill Murray.
I’m not familiar with this particular Roald Dahl story, but I’m a huge Roald Dahl fan. James and the Giant Peach captivated me as a child, and it’s symbolism of returning to the womb stimulated my mind as an adult. I also have this theory that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an allegory for Dante’s inferno, but that’s for another time. If I had a chance to ask Jason a question, I would have liked to ask him about his favorite book by Roald Dahl. He claimed that his mother read him Fantastic Mr. Fox, but Dahl wrote several spellbinding tales, including the Big Friendly Giant, which has a whimsical stage adaptation that I hope to direct some day.
I haven’t seen Fantastic Mr. Fox because it has yet to be released in my area. It’s in select theaters now, but opens nation-wide on Thanksgiving. If it’s anything like Jason Schwartzman’s description, the film is a “beautiful art form” that is “good for the brain” and filled with “detail and love”. Sounds good to me. Anybody plan to see the film? Let me know what you think about it.