Jason Schwartzman had an auspicious movie debut in Wes Anderson’s quirkily delightful “Rushmore” back in 1998, and now they’ve reunited for “The Darjeeling Limited,” in which he plays one of three estranged brothers (the others are Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody) who try to reconnect after their father’s death via a spiritual journey through India. Schwartzman also co-wrote the script with Anderson and Roman Coppola, and during a Dallas interview explained how it represented a long-cherished chance to work together again.
“We became best friends from ‘Rushmore,’” Schwartzman said of Anderson. “We met on ‘Rushmore,’ and since then we’ve really been there for each other during the ups and downs. So though we hadn’t worked together for ten years, we’ve been in each other’s lives a great deal. And so it was just, ‘When can we get back together and make a movie together?’
“I remember that when I read the script of ‘Rushmore,’ I didn’t know Wes at all, but I thought, ‘Oh, man, whoever this guy is, I love him. He finds all the things funny that I find funny.’ And I remember that when I went into the audition, I didn’t think I was going to get the part at all. I didn’t think I had a chance, because I had no acting experience or film experience or anything. And when I went in and sat down with him, I thought, ‘God, I’m not going to get this movie, but I wish that this guy and I could become friends.’ I felt some sort of connection to him immediately, without even knowing him. I felt that I wanted to know him better. He’s got an amazing sense of humor, a very specific sense of humor. Mine’s a little more stupid. But it’s like playing sports, someone who’s better than you raises your game. I have a stupider sense of humor, but when I’m with him, it’s more sophisticated and sharp. Then when he walks away, I’m doing my ‘Caddyshack’ jokes.”
“The Darjeeling Limited” has a sort of cinematic preface—a short film called “Hotel Chevalier,” written by Anderson, in which Schwartzman’s character has a final meeting with his ex-girlfriend, played by Natalie Portman. (It’s available on the Internet as well as in theatres where the feature’s playing.) Schwartzman said that making it had been a great help to him.
“We shot the short…a year before the feature film,” he explained. “Which ended up being so great for me as an actor—and even before acting, just personally with Wes. It was much less nerve-wracking to go and kind of reunite with him creatively, to be directed by him on a film set, much less daunting doing it for two days on the short film, in a small room, as opposed to going and working with him for the first time again after ten years on a train in India. That would have been much scarier, I think. So it was a nice, kind of gentle reunion.
“And as an actor it was great for me, because what’s happening in the short movie takes place a couple weeks or something before the feature film does chronologically, in terms of where my character’s coming from. And that’s one of the things he’s going through the whole time on the train, this breakup with his ex-girlfriend and how heartbreaking that was for him. As an actor, as opposed to imagining that backstory, imagining what that would have felt like, it was really great to remember it, like you really experienced it. It was accessed memory.”
And, Schwartzman added, the experience of making the feature was special as well. “I think that [Wes] wanted to make the movie…in a very stripped-down, intimate way. Part of the idea behind setting the movie on a moving train and shooting it on one was a way of saying, ‘No one is invited on this train but us.’ It helped the actors bond. He really wanted the actors to get to know each other.
“We shot a lot of the film in sequence…and by the end of the movie, you really feel we’ve gone through something together—we’ve just spent this time together in India—and that’s what the brothers are doing in the movie. What the brothers are going through is what the actors are going through.
“I’ve never worked on a movie before where real life and the movie synched up so well.”