Jason Schwartzman is a lot of things. He’s the nephew of director Francis Ford Coppola, cousin of director Sophia Coppola, and original drummer/founding member of the band, Phantom Planet (remember the theme song of The O.C.?). He writes, he produces, and oh yes, he acts. We at Story Screen want to wish a very happy belated 40th birthday to Jason Schwartzman. And in honor of this treasure of a young man, I wanted to take a look back at some of my favorite Schwartzman performances over the years.
Rushmore (1998) - Max Fischer
“Take dictation please...”
Rushmore - the movie that introduced me to both Jason Schwartzman and Wes Anderson (I saw Bottle Rocket a little later) - really left its mark. It took the common theme of the “coming of age” story and showed us that it really has nothing to do with age most of the time. When I think of Schwartzman, I can’t help but think of Max Fischer; the two are inexplicably intertwined in my mind. Jason’s performance as Max kicked off his acting career. It draws us in, makes us cringe, makes us laugh, and maybe even makes us cry. It doesn’t matter if we have never experienced the hallowed halls of private school like Max; we all have our own Rushmore.
I Heart Huckabees (2004) - Albert Markovski
“Nobody sits like this rock sits. You rock, rock.”
As a character, Albert Markovski vacillates somewhere between Max Fischer and Jack from Darjeeling Limited. He is a young man who is kind of lost in life. He’s passionate about the outdoors (and his poetry), and he holds a deep disdain for Jude Law’s character, Brad: the phony but well-liked executive at Huckabees in I Heart Huckabees. When Albert decides to work with two “existential detectives” (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman) to figure out what life really all means, they decide to pair him up with his “other,” Tommy Corn (played by Mark Wahlberg). The two serve like a buddy system, helping support each other through their internal struggle to “deconstruct” themselves. Maybe this movie hasn’t aged as well as it did in my memory, but I still love every scene Schwartzman and Wahlberg share together. It’s kind of like finding that one true friend that allows you to be a complete wreck before they help you get your act together. Albert and Tommy egg each other on to do what they really want; they are brothers from other mothers, and I wish we could watch even more scenes of them together.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007) - Jack
“I love you too, but I’m gonna mace you in the face!”
In this Wes Anderson film, Schwartzman plays the youngest of three brothers, Jack. Jack is grieving: both the death of his father, and the end of a recent relationship. His brothers (played by Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody) think Jack’s solution to everything is to run away. He has a tendency to turn his life into fiction. He is constantly trying to read his latest short story to his brothers as a way to communicate. Throughout Darjeeling, Jack repeatedly cues up music on his iPod speaker to create “the mood” (much like Wes Anderson does throughout the soundtracks of his films). And for the entire duration of the movie, he (both Jack and Schwartzman) is completely barefoot. Schwartzman co-wrote the script with Anderson and Roman Coppola, based on their own journey through India. This “spiritual journey” is supposed to reconnect the three estranged brothers after their father’s death. But it is their mother, still living but estranged (played by Angelica Huston) and their several attempts to gain closure, that help them learn to deal with their grief and loss. If Rushmore is about “coming of age,” then Darjeeling is about letting go of your baggage. Literally.
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) - Ash
“I weigh less than a slice of bread.”
I love Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I was already pretty ecstatic when I found out Wes Anderson was creating a stop motion picture based on this popular children’s book. The source material is fairly short. Much of the film’s plot and characters are either creative extrapolation or completely brand new. While the book does mention Mr. Fox’s children, we do not get a lot of backstory on them. In the film, Mr. Fox’s son is the character of Ash, voiced by Schwartzman, and he is one of my favorite characters, period. He is constantly trying to gain his father’s approval and respect. Ash initially sees his cousin, Kristofferson, as a rival. But in the end, he learns his lesson and they become friends. I think we have all been Ash at one point in our lives: trying to live up to someone else’s precedent, a little small for our age, a little angry, and prone to wearing a cape. Hotbox!
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) - Gideon Graves
“You made me swallow my gum.”
Ahhh, and last but not least, Gideon Graves. THE evil ex of Ramona in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. With Gideon, I imagine Schwartzman was playing a Hollywood caricature of himself (at least that’s what I like to think). Gideon is a smooth-operator: he’s kind of nice, but you don’t actually like him. Or trust him for that matter. And his sideburns are incredible. In the end, it’s awesome to watch him and Scott (Michael Cera) duke it out with swords blazing.
Besides watching TV and movies, Diana likes the great outdoors, drawing and reading comics, and just generally rocking out. She has a BA in English Literature and is an art school drop out. You can follow her on Instagram @dldimuro