Jason Schwartzman in Big Eyes

In Big Eyes, Jason Schwartzman plays a typically Jason Schwartzman-ish character: he’s Ruben, the gallery owner who haughtily dismisses Walter and Margaret’s work. “Good God, it’s a movement,” he grumbles when the Keanes make it big without his help.

But for all of Schwartzman’s experiences playing pompous types onscreen, Schwartzman stresses he’s not one in person. “If I could say what’s my least favorite quality in someone, it’s when they make you feel dumb,” he told me. “I just feel like that’s bullshit.” Nor is Schwartzman particularly interested in staying in his niche as an indie actor. “I can safely say that I would be in any Star Wars movie,” he admitted.

Schwartzman was also game to discuss his opinion of Margaret Keane’s paintings, Christoph Waltz‘s opinion of Margaret Keane’s paintings, and the long-promised Bored to Death movie. But first, he got my opinion on what prank he should play on the next journalist. Read the full /Film interview with Jason Schwartzman after the jump. 

The first thing I saw when I walked into the hotel room for my interview was Schwartzman turning on the shower. As soon as he saw me, he turned it off and admitted he’d planned to prank me by pretending someone else was in the shower the whole time we were talking. I’d ruined the gag by coming in too early.

Still, he had a full afternoon of interviews ahead, and therefore plenty more chances to trick journalists. “Should I do that one or the other one?” he asked me. “I was thinking of bringing that director’s chair over and sitting right here and doing an interview from that director’s chair looking down at someone.” I voted for the director’s chair.

In the end, he took my advice. As I left the room he was sitting in that director’s chair, towering over the next interviewer who was seated on a low couch. But in between, we discussed everything from his Parks and Recreation experience to those Jurassic World rumors to his favorite movies of the year.

What made you decide to sign onto this project?

It was a situation — you know, I got a phone call from my agent saying that Tim Burton was having auditions for his new movie Big Eyes and I read the script and I went in and auditioned because I loved the script.

For me, honestly, when I read a script, I am obviously reading the part that I’m mainly supposed to play and considering it. Not considering like to play, but considering, okay, he’s this, he’s that. But it’s kind of, oddly enough, a little bit pushed out of my main focus which is, what is the movie and the story? Who are these people? Also on a larger context, who’s directing it? Where is it going to be shot? Who are the other actors? So it’s sort of like, what is this experience?

‘Cause for me, I like movies. So I want to see everybody in the movie and kind of enjoy it as a thing. So I loved the script, I thought it was so great. And I knew those paintings. Obviously not as in-depth as Tim, who owns them and stuff, but I’ve seen them in people’s houses. I know this guy named Matthew Sweet, he’s a songwriter… that was the first time I saw them. I was like 16 and he had them in his house and I was so entranced by them.

Anyways… Even if Tim Burton wasn’t directing it, I would have been very excited to be in the movie. Of course, the fact that it was Tim Burton was also exciting. But again, I tried not to get my hopes up too high when I went into the audition, I figured it was just even cool to be auditioning for this.

Did you have to do anything special for the audition? How did you win him over then?

I don’t know. I don’t know.

So just being you, I guess.

I don’t know. I do know that… it was a little bit last minute. I got sent the stuff and I was preparing — I was with my wife actually, in Dallas. She owns a clothing store, there’s one in LA and there’s one in Dallas. It’s called Tenoversix, just so you know. [Looks pointedly at recorder.] But anyway, I remember I was reading it on the plane, trying to make my notes and thinking about it. I didn’t have enough time to get too worried because it was a deadline.

So I know your character hates those paintings. What do you personally think of them?

Personally, like me now, right now?

Yes, like you, Jason Schwartzman.

Well, it’s a tricky thing. I like them. I do like them. My point of reference is slightly different. You know Tim, like, everyone had them in their houses and stuff growing up, and they’re a part of his childhood. They are a part of my life, not my childhood. But he was talking about how this movie in a lot of ways is about kitsch culture and the advent of kitsch culture. Not the advent, but…

For me, growing up in — I was born in 1980 — kitsch culture was well into effect. There were stores that were just novelty stores devoted to jokey things or like… what are those girls you put on your dashboard? [Mimes hula dancing.]

Oh, like those hula dancers.

Yeah, kitsch is just a part of my… It’s funny, I don’t even think of it as kitsch or camp or whatever you want to call it. Because I’ll say, oh, I like that. Even now, I’ll say ‘I like that,’ and my wife’s like, ‘Yeah, you do like certain things that…’ I guess I like them because I like that they’re very realistic but the eyes are so exaggerated. I like when something is not totally surreal but has a surreal quality to it. Yeah, I like them. You like them?

Continue reading for Schwartzman’s thoughts on big franchises, those Jurassic World rumors, and more.

Continue Reading Interview: ‘Big Eyes’ Star Jason Schwartzman on Margaret Keane, ‘Star Wars’, and ‘Bored to Death’ >>

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