Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with what I guess is technically another Moonrise Kingdom interview, this time with Jason Schwartzman. We actually spend most of the interview just bullshitting, but I’m okay with that. We talk about Moonrise Kingdom about as much as he’s actually in the movie, so it’s appropriate!
This tends to happen when I interview Schwartzman. I chatted with him for The Darjeeling Limited and booked the interview before I knew Capone had already talked to him, so instead of going over the same territory we discussed movies. You can read that interview here if you missed it.
I’ve been lucky enough to hold a few conversations with Schwartzman over the years, on and off the record and he’s one of the nicest, most enthusiastic movie fans in the business. He knows his shit as you’ll see in the below conversation.
You’ll also get a look at some neat prop stuff. I was sneaky and took some photos while examining the film-related exhibit at UT’s Harry Ransom Center. Robert DeNiro donated a ton of stuff to it, but they also house decades worth of cinematic history.
We talk quite a bit about some of that stuff, movie props on the whole, working with Wes Anderson and the Cannes Film Festival, where this interview was conducted. It was pretty early on in the fest, actually, and I hadn’t been to anything besides Moonrise Kingdom at this point. Schwartzman asks about what my plans for the festival are and that’s where we begin our chat. Enjoy!
Jason Schwartzman: What movie are you going to see after this?
Quint: Hoping to get in to ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA.
Jason Schwartzman: Tonight?
Jason Schwartzman: Four hours.
Quint: It’s like four and a half, I think. It’s like four twenty or something.
Jason Schwartzman: Jesus Christ… “Four Twenty?” (Laughs)
Quint: It’s going to be good.
Jason Schwartzman: That’s so long, but so fun. When else are you going to get to do that?
Quint: I would assume if it’s playing here and Scorsese’s Film Foundation restored this footage and cut it in, I assume they are going to do something and take it around, but you never know.
Jason Schwartzman: You think so? Man, what a thing to be able to say you got to do, your first experience here and you went to go see that?
Jason Schwartzman: (points to my digital recorder, a Roland Edirol) This one records at the highest…
Quint: Yeah, this is the one that records in stereo. It was the one that was built for symphonic concerts.
Jason Schwartzman: There’s this one that’s called like a Korg something and it actually literally records at like a gig, like it records at the highest CD quality… I don’t know, but it’s so expensive.
Quint: This one, I mean obviously because there’s not a mic hooked up, it’s going to have a lot of background noise and stuff, but it’s great.
Jason Schwartzman: Do you only use it for like work type stuff or do you walk around and talk into it?
Quint: Oh no, I don’t do the self notation thing.
Jason Schwartzman: Do you keep any type of notation?
Quint: If I do it’s written.
Jason Schwartzman: But do you? Like a diary?
Quint: Pretty much my work on Ain’t It Cool is my diary.
Jason Schwartzman: Do you have a good memory?
Quint: Not really. Sort of.
Jason Schwartzman: Do you ever think back and go “Man, I wish I could…”
Quint: No, see that’s the great thing about being blissfully ignorant, you don’t know all of the stuff that you forget.
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, I agree. It’s only when you like find something by accident, like a receipt or something.
Quint: I’ve gone on set visits where I’ve taken pages of notes and then eight months later, sometimes a year later they will say “Okay, now it’s time to write about it” and I can’t find my notes and I’m just lost. If my notes are gone, then it’s just vague. I don’t know, I guess there’s not enough room in my brain.
Jason Schwartzman: But you shouldn’t have to. You should just have what is needed for that moment.
Quint: Yeah, it’s the INDIANA JONES AND THE LAST CRUSADE thing, “I wrote it so I don’t have to remember.”
Jason Schwartzman: Right. (Impersonating Sean Connery) “I wrote it down.”
Like this jacket, I haven’t worn this jacket in a long time and this morning I put it on and I was walking down here and I put my hand in it and I pulled out like a candy bar wrapper. I remember exactly… I was like “Fuck.” It was weird. Instantly that candy bar wrapper took me back to that day, why I stopped to get the candy bar, what I was doing… You know what I mean?
Quint: And you remembered everything.
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, it was amazing.
Quint: It’s all in there.
Jason Schwartzman: I do think it is. Did you read that book… I mean I think it might be the book called like THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON MUSIC. I think that’s what it’s called. It’s all about like the brain and stuff, but there are two camps of memory-brained people in the world. They are doctors and they argue. One believes that the brain is constantly recording everything even though you don’t remember it, that it’s somewhere in your brain, and other people believe that you’re not remembering stuff and that you have to make an effort to do it or you will just forget everything and that you can reconstruct memories, that most of the memories we have aren’t actually as they were.
There’s a whole thing about lawyers and the power of suggestion, like if someone was in a car accident or something and they are on the witness stand and you say to them “Would you say there was a lot of shattered glass on the ground?” Well, to say that it was shattered, suggesting like if they don’t really remember it, to say that it was shattered makes it seem way more violent and destructive than it actually might have been. It was very interesting. I’m so sorry! (For going off topic)
Quint: No, I remember reading something… You know the famous statistic that you use less than 10% of your brain, I read something that said if you could access even half of your brain’s full ability that you could remember, and that you could remember every meal that you’ve ever eaten in your life and remember how it tasted and where you ate it.
Jason Schwartzman: How do they know that though?
Quint: I don’t know. Somebody put forth the theory.
Jason Schwartzman: We’re getting into some Defending Your Life territory here, like “How much brainpower do you use?” “Eighty-four.”
Quint: Oh man, that’s such a good movie.
Jason Schwartzman: I love that movie. When there’s a family night or you need something that is just going to hit it for a lot of different types of people in one room, like you’re not sure like some adults from out of town or… I don’t know. That’s one of the safe bets. It’s a great movie and I think that it’s so funny, but it’s odd enough that someone who is not used to a film that is about something that might be totally impossible…
Quint: Have you ever seen Powell and Pressburger’s A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH?
Jason Schwartzman: Yes.
Quint: I really want to double feature that, because it’s pretty much the same idea…
Jason Schwartzman: Yes! That’s great.
Quint: I would love to double feature that. Ever since I saw A Matter of Life and Death I wanted to show a group of people those two movies back to back.
Jason Schwartzman: Yes. My mom showed me that movie.
Quint: Oh yeah? It’s beautiful. I love it. I mean RED SHOES and BLACK NARCISSUS, all of these movies are amazing, but there’s something lighter about A Matter of Life and Death that just makes it so much easier for me to watch.
Jason Schwartzman: RED SHOES is so amazing, but it’s one of these things… My mom was so obsessed with THE RED SHOES. I think she’s seen it more than any other movie ever. She got to the point where she watches it in slow motion.
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, she watches it frame by frame, because she is so into the movie. She knows it and so for her birthday all she asks is that we watch THE RED SHOES.
Quint: In slow motion?
Jason Schwartzman: No, in just normal motion.
Quint: Because that would take about three birthdays. That’s not a short movie.
Jason Schwartzman: That goes out of the 24 hour period where you get whatever you want! She is so obsessed with that movie and Wes was up there talking about RED SHOES (at the press conference) and I’m like “Ahh! Don’t say it!”
Quint: It would take forever to find it on my phone, but there’s a museum in Austin that’s part of the University of Texas and they have a film centric thing where DeNiro…
Jason Schwartzman: Right. Didn’t he donate a collection?
Quint: He donated a ton of stuff, but when I was walking through there and looking through the stuff, they had original color storyboards, like painted storyboards from RED SHOES.
Jason Schwartzman: Painted?
Quint: It was weird. They didn’t do like a traditional storyboard thing, because I guess the color palette was so important.
Jason Schwartzman: Oh, it’s so powerful. Yeah, fuck. That’s amazing.
Quint: You weren’t supposed to take pictures, but I did. But while I’m looking for it we should talk a little bit about the movie. (Laughs)
Jason Schwartzman: Okay sorry, yeah.
Quint: It’s all right.
Jason Schwartzman: Are you going to talk to Wes today?
Quint: Tomorrow. Tomorrow morning.
Jason Schwartzman: You’ll get everything you need about the movie from him. I’ll just be here to do other… Like if you need a short sentence or something like in parentheses I could do that.
Quint: You have a small part in the movie, but it’s a really fun part and I love how your character has absolutely no regard for the safety of any of the children that are in his care.
Jason Schwartzman: I know. You know in most of my experiences with Wes I’ve had time leading up to the thing to talk about it with him and I did have some time, but eventually when he started shooting I was in New York working on BORED TO DEATH and so the way it timed out I knew that I was just going to have to show up in Rhode Island… Like literally I worked until two in the morning in New York and then they drove me to Rhode Island and got there by dawn to start shooting the movie and there was just no time to really chit-chat about it, so I kind of had to try find any little clue I could, but to me like one of the main ones is when… I’m paraphrasing, but one of the kids says something like “Can we trust him?” Then the other guy is like “Sometimes.” I like the idea that Cousin Ben…
[I find the pictures and show them to Jason.]
Jason Schwartzman: Holy shit. That’s pretty cool. Wow, are they little?
Quint: Not so much.
Jason Schwartzman: It’s like the size of a piece of paper?
[Jason pulls Roman Coppola over.]
Jason Schwartzman: Look at this. This is at The University of Texas. These are actual storyboards to THE RED SHOES that were painted. They painted the storyboards. Isn’t that cool?
Roman Coppola: Wow, it looks like Dali a little bit.
Quint: A little bit, yeah.
Jason Schwartzman: “Hello Dali!”
Jason Schwartzman: Sorry, that’s a terrible pun.
Quint: No worries. You were saying?
Jason Schwartzman: Anyways, to me I like that this guy… I feel like he has honor, but he also will bend the rules… He will trust you for a price and even though I don’t know every detail of STAR WARS, I tried to sort of base him slightly like on Han Solo if Han Solo was in STAR WARS for like six minutes. (laughs)
Basically they need him, Han and the Millenium Falcon, to get into space and (the kids) need me to get off this island and when you meet Han Solo he’s in this bar and he’s sort of bartering and has deals going with different people and that’s just sort of how I feel like Cousin Ben is, like he’s a man who works on many levels. So he was sort of my… I tried to emulate him with this terrible Harrison Ford archetype in my brain as I was working on it.
Quint: Yes, but you just condensed it down, so it’s like your version of showing up with the Millennium Falcon during the Death Star attack is giving the kids the nickels.
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, or that sailboat is like the “S.S. Millennium Falcon,” but yeah that was sort of my idea. Then there’s just like fun things that happen naturally, like the scene where I say a lot of lines, that’s just also a thing where I’m like “How am I going to do this? What’s gong to happen?” and then I showed up and they had built this giant platform that I’m walking along. It’s super thin. I didn’t know if I was going to be walking backwards on the ground talking, like I don’t know how it’s going to go and I show up and Wes has built this huge platform and the camera is next to it and there’s a ten foot drop and there are all of these kids down there. So I’m looking at it going like “I’ve got to say these lines extremely fast or else we are going to fall off this thing.” That’s how the whole character basically came about. It’s a necessity to get information out.
Quint: So you were scared for your life? That’s what you are saying?
Jason Schwartzman: You have to be. You have to be and that’s how the best movies get made.
Quint: Nice. Well I’ll show you a couple more things before they pull me away.
[The two look at Quint’s phone.]
Quint: This is DeNiro’s actual taxi license whenever he was doing his prep work for TAXI DRIVER. He actually got licensed and drove a cab around New York.
Jason Schwartzman: That’s so weird.
Quint: Little things like that were all over this place. It’s just ridiculous.
Jason Schwartzman: It’s things like that that made it really bad like… you know like when one band comes along that’s great, but then when forty bands that try to copy them are so bad that you’re like “ugh.” I sort of feel like that story is the one time when it worked and it’s the fifty other fucking annoying actors that try to do that. Oh my God!
Quint: Yeah, actual Travis Bickle wardrobe.
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah. It’s so crazy. Why did he give it to The University of Texas?
Quint: I honestly don’t know. This one’s from STARDUST, his corset from STARDUST.
Jason Schwartzman: Oh wow.
Quint: And CASINO…
Jason Schwartzman: Oh wow. Holy shit.
Quint: But I mean they have crazy stuff. This is actual sheet music from “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” for MARY POPPINS.
Jason Schwartzman: No way.
Jason Schwartzman: Is that the Sherman brothers who wrote that?
Quint: That did the music? Yeah. Let’s see if I’ve got one more cool thing on here before… This is pretty neat, the screenwriter of NORTH BY NORTHWEST… these are notes that he made when he went to Mt. Vernon for research…
Jason Schwartzman: No shit! You’ve got to show this to Wes tomorrow.
Jason Schwartzman: This is the kind of stuff he loves, people’s process. It’s weird how much stuff is out there. Would you ever buy anything (like this)?
Quint: If I had the money, absolutely. I do have a couple pieces… Have you seen MONSTER SQUAD?
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah.
Quint: I have the amulet from MONSTER SQUAD.
Jason Schwartzman: (matter of factly) No, you don’t.
Quint: I do.
Jason Schwartzman: But they threw it into limbo.
Quint: (Laughs) It’s always embarrassing saying I have the amulet, because then everybody is like “Why? Are you a virgin? Hahaha.”
Jason Schwartzman: How did you get the amulet?
Quint: I grew up loving that film. I ended up organizing a screening of the movie, the very first kind of cast and crew reunion screening of the film in Austin at the Alamo Drafthouse. I got Fred Dekker to come out and a few of the kids… Andre Gower, Ryan Lambert, Ashley Bank. Fred was a little down on the movie… it wasn’t a success when it came out and I think he took that personally. But then he saw we sold out two shows on Easter weekend I think he was moved a little by the turn out. I was hosting the show, so I introduced the movie and conducted the Q&A after. During the Q&A for the first screening he said he had a surprise for me and I’m thinking “Oh great,” like in my mind I thought they were gong to swear me into the club and I’d get to be a member of the Monster Squad or something. He was like “Here’s the amulet. I want to give this to Eric” and like the audience went crazy and I went crazy and…
Jason Schwartzman: Did you cry?
Quint: Inside a little bit, yeah.
Jason Schwartzman: How do you possibly say thank you to something like that? I mean it was him saying thank you to you, but I would have to… Oh my god, what a beautiful fucking story.
Quint: Yeah, apparently there were two that exist. A producer has one, but I’ve looked closely at the movie and I’m pretty sure the one I have is the screen used amulet.
Jason Schwartzman: God. I would think that would be one of the most prized possessions…
Quint: It is, because I love that movie so much.
Jason Schwartzman: We’ve got to get you some silver bullets now. (laughs) Was it a success or was it a failure?
Quint: It was a flop. It didn’t do well.
Jason Schwartzman: It’s so funny, because when I was young… How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking?
Jason Schwartzman: Okay, so I’m 31 as well and it’s so funny, like I didn’t have a context of success of movies. Like I will talk to people about movies that I love and I will say I love something and then they tell me… like they think I’m fucking with them or I’m embarrassed…
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, like one time there was a Writer’s Guild screening of I HEART HUCKABEES and I went and as I was walking out Marc Singer walked by me…
Jason Schwartzman: And I said “Codo and Podo!” I said “I love BEASTMASTER” and I think he thought for a second that I was making fun of him. I just don’t know about success, like I thought… That was a huge movie. For me it was huge.
Quint: It was big for any eighties kid because it had such a heavy rotation on HBO.
Jason Schwartzman: That’s what it was. Like The Peanut Butter Solution. I mean all of these movies… like a Super Fuzz. It’s not until much later that I realized something was not a success or the idea of people going “That’s a weird movie,” like you have no idea about that stuff. Weird movies are great for kids too. I mean MONSTER SQUAD. I’m surprised that it wasn’t… even when you say it’s like he thought it ruined his career, to me that’s like one of the bigger movies of my childhood, so it’s weird.
(The patient publicist has had enough and says we gotta quit geeking out)
Anyways, it’s good to see you as always.
Quint: Thanks, man. Good to see you, too.
I know it’s not a conventional interview, but I hope you guys enjoyed it.
We walked out together and his last words for me was that he wanted to get back to Austin and dive headfirst into another Gourdoughs Donut. Between that and his love of Monster Squad I think we’re probably related somehow, which would make me a Coppola and I’m okay with that.
Got one more with Moonrise Kingdom interview, with Wes Anderson, posting very, very soon as well as a few more Cannes reviews and my chat with John Hillcoat and Nick Cave for Lawless.