Always watchable. Capable of a wry one-liner. Big fan of the sweeping comb over.
Yes, Jason Schwartzman is to indie comedy what Tom Cruise is to blockbuster action, just minus all the running about.
In his latest, The Overnight, he plays a hedonistic, sharply-dressed, affluent and endearingly wide-eyed dad (not a million miles off from the father you expect him to be in real life) who strikes up a conversation with an uptight young couple in a park. Upon hearing they’re new in town, he invites them around to his plush property for what turns out to be a sexually-tinged dinner date with his wife in which events become increasingly strange – and awkward.
Though perhaps no more awkward than when Schwartzman insists the group go skinny dipping in his pool, stripping off to reveal a prosthetic penis so large it might as well be a co-star. So, naturally, when the star phoned us from New York, there was only one place to start really...
How did wearing the prosthetic member feel? Liberating?
It was very liberating. It wasn’t too heavy either. We all have body issues and, personally, I would have been much more nervous had I just had to wear a swimsuit for the whole time – ‘cause maybe I’m not in swimsuit shape and guys can be conscious about that. But when I put on that prosthetic, wow, all of a sudden I didn’t care. I wasn’t in model shape but I was in prosthetic shape.
Paul Thomas Anderson compared Mark Wahlberg’s prosthetic in Boogie Nights to Jaws. What film character would you compare yours to?
Iron Man? Yeah, Iron Man. Though I don’t believe my character uses his penis as a weapon, it’s more that he’s so casual about it, and Tony Stark’s a casual superhero.
Was yours bigger than Wahlberg's and did you get to keep it?
I don’t think it was bigger, no. Besides, I joined the film after the penis had already been selected. Patrick [Brice, the director] has it now. Just knowing it sits there in his house on some shelf or something is odd. I’m curious to know where he keeps it.
Maybe in a tank of water so it could be Jaws…
[laughs] For sure, or just a set of drawers with some spatulas.
Ever been skinny dipping yourself?
I’ve done that with a bunch of friends in a man-made lake once. We had tons of rocks in the ground, it was very organic, pretty raw. Only it wasn’t actually that much fun.
Was the shoot for The Overnight as fun and/or awkward as the film?
So much fun! We shot it really quickly, over 12 days with constant night shoots. It's really unusual to work at night like that; it gave us so much deliriousness. Also, shooting at night connected us all. I’ve been on so many sets where everyone is on their phones between takes - everyone - but because we shot it at crazy hours and everyone we knew was asleep, there were no other conversations to have.
You do seem to favour the indie genre. Would you ever appear in a blockbuster action movie, or even want to?
It’s a funny question because I don’t even think in those terms. I’ve always sort of felt there are actors - really, really big actors - who can customise their route and say ‘I’m going to do that this year, then that’ – it’s never been like that for me. It’s very hard to get movies made and be in them. So I approach it in a combination of being aggressive, working, and reacting to unexpected things. The last few movies I’ve done have been smaller budget movies but it isn’t like I made a decision. Those movies just came one after the other. I made three movies in a year. That probably won’t happen again.
But then it does seem you enjoy doing bigger films too – Saving Mr Banks, Scott Pilgrim…
I remember my first day on Saving Mr Banks, one of the crew told me it wasn’t a big movie. At the same time, they’d closed Hollywood Blvd down for four blocks and packed it full of old timey cars. I was thinking, ‘This is insane - you shut down a street!’ But I’ve never been on a set and worked on a Jurassic Park, or Jurassic World or something like that, but I’d love to.
So you’d be up for the Jurassic World sequel. And what if Michael Bay phoned up and asked you to be in the next Transformers film?
Sure! But only because part of what I’m after is experience and adventure. I’ve not been on a set where things blow up that much, other than equipment, so if only for the temperature and high Celsius I’d be up for that.
Michael Cera once told us he jams with you. Can you give us a musical actor supergroup you would put together?
OK. Fred Armisen on drums. Michael Cera on guitar, that guy can really play. Sissy Spacek on vocals. Sam Shepard on ukulele. Jim Jarmusch on bass. Half the record would be instrumental and the other half would be with vocals so Sissy can sing. We’d call ourselves The Actors.
What band are you listening to right now?
Tame Impala are really good. Australian band, check them out.
We recently had Miles Teller tell us he’d love to play Elvis. Given you play music yourself, is there a musician you’d like to play?
That’s a tough one. For me, the movie biopic has got to be done in a really unusual way as you’ve a lot of life story to fit into a very short time. One of my favourite ones is Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould – very beautiful, very small, they’re all like little portraits of a person, it moves around a little bit. Documentaries often work better. I’d make one about Sparks. Or if they’d rather I made a fictional film, I’d use CGI to play both brothers. I’d see that.
The Overnight is in cinemas nationwide now