From Max Fischer in Rushmore to Jonathan Ames on Bored to Death, Jason Schwartzman has built a career out of playing sweet, driven, if not also highly neurotic characters cursed with a few annoying quirks. But his latest role finds him putting on a new mask: that of a totally unrepentant jerk. In Listen Up Philip, Schwartzman plays an insensitive, self-absorbed novelist, and Rolling Stone movie critic, Peter Travers, is on the hunt to find out if the character and actor aren’t so different as they share tea at New York’s Shun Lee West restaurant.
“Since we shot this movie, I’ve been in a lot of altercations with people, I’m not lying,” Schwartzman says. “And I don’t know if that’s a coincidence, or if some meridian thing was opened and I’m just letting it go.”
It’s not all about uncovering the actor’s dark side, however, as Travers and Schwartzman talk about everything from his fascination with fashion — he cites costume-loving Who drummer Keith Moon as a sartorial inspiration— to his love of rock documentaries and concert bootlegs.
But when push comes to shove, Travers wants to see the nasty, gritty side of Schwartzman, and he does get the actor to own up to his most unlikeable trait: He’s not too good at getting back to people. But don’t worry, even when he snaps — just like we all do every now and then — Schwartzman is still the same sweet boy you’ve always loved. “I’m an asshole,” Schwartzman says with a laugh. “I yelled at someone recently, it was so embarrassing. I’ve never done that, I almost fainted.”