Jason Schwartzman: Crazy Like a Fox
BY Brandon Voss
November 12 2009 10:00 AM ET
Since his debut as an eccentric teenage oddball in Wes Anderson’s breakthrough 1998 film Rushmore, Jason Schwartzman has shined as slackers and square pegs in offbeat films such as Shopgirl, Marie Antoinette, and The Darjeeling Limited. Now starring as an awkwardly amateur private dick in HBO’s noirish comedy series Bored to Death, the 29-year-old Coppola kinsman also voices a peculiar pubescent fox in Anderson’s stop-motion animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s book Fantastic Mr. Fox, which opens November 13 in limited release. Because his art imitates his life, Schwartzman, who moonlights as the indie pop-rock act Coconut Records, shares his self-deprecating views on sexuality, style, and surviving high school.
Advocate.com: I can’t believe I’m talking to one of the “10 Most Stylish Men in America,” according to GQ.
Jason Schwartzman: [Laughs] That was very flattering and awesome, but it’s also hysterical. When you felt like I felt in high school, the whole thing that’s occurring right now — GQ, getting my picture taken, talking to you — is bizarre. It feels weird to do interviews because I don’t understand why anyone wants to talk to me. There were all these other guys in high school that were bigger, funnier, and more handsome than I was, so why do you care about what I have to say? You should ask them.
I’ll get their contact info later, but let’s explore this low self-esteem of yours. I was going to draw parallels between your misfit characters like Rushmore’s Max Fischer to gay people who grew up feeling like outcasts, but it sounds like you have similar outsider insecurities.
I had friends growing up, but I struggled to feel like I really fit in. If I was invited to a party, I would just end up sitting on a couch or standing in a corner by myself. But it wasn’t like I was getting beat up or anything. I wish I had gotten beaten up, because at least that would’ve justified why I felt so homesick all the time, even though I was home.
Did movies and music make you feel at home?
Music was big for me when I was growing up because bands were singing about things I could relate to, so I became the stereotypical kid walking around with headphones, coming home, putting on music, and being alone. Finally, when I was 16, I saw Harold and Maude and The Graduate, and they spoke to what I was feeling as a teenager in a way that music had for years. I decided then that I hoped whatever I did in my life would somehow stay close to the warmth I felt from these movies. I still don’t do or know much else other than movies and music, though I’m told that getting into espresso is a wonderful way to go — with the different beans, the machines, and the frothing.
Though he’s ultimately heroic, Ash, the cape-wearing young fox you voice in Fantastic Mr. Fox, is frequently labeled as being “different.” Is Ash a good role model for struggling gay youth?
I hope it makes any kid who feels different feel happy. Ash feels like he’s so little, but it’s his size that enables him to save people in the end. We’re all born with something we’re maybe embarrassed about, but the movie’s about how that’s the thing that makes you beautiful, interesting, and unique. So fuck yes, you should be different.
Bored to Death was created by Jonathan Ames, who once called himself “the gayest straight writer in America.” Ames’s protagonists often explore their homosexual impulses, and his novels The Extra Man and I Pass Like Night as well as his graphic novel The Alcoholic all feature liquor-fueled same-sex affairs. Since his girlfriend left him, will your Bored to Death character eventually wander down the bisexual path?
Who knows? We wait for Jonathan Ames to lead us. But his mind goes where it may, and HBO seems to be behind him doing whatever it is he wants to do. He’s just the right combination of innocence and perversion.