After making his debut in 1998 as an eccentric high school student in Wes Anderson's Rushmore, Schwartzman has since been involved in a bunch of big movies including Marie Antoinette, Shopgirl and Bewitched before working with Anderson again in The Darjeeling Limited (which he also co-wrote). And now - with that man Wes again - he's playing a fox, or rather, Ash, the angst-ridden, comic-reading son of Mr and Mrs Fox (played by George Clooney and Meryl Streep). At this point, a nice PR lady with a clipboard has just reminded us that there's only five minutes left to talk - darn that earlier sweater chatter...
So what was it like playing a fox?
It was fun. I mean, I wasn't completely ignorant to the fact that we were making an animated movie but I never really thought that I was playing a fox. I kind of put it out of my head that it was going to be animated. Or maybe, because it took so long to do, I just forgot it was being animated.
Did you see your character before you started on the film?
I'd seen a rough version of what Ash looked like but I didn't have that image in my head while I was portraying him. So I just started saying the lines at first and, you know, act it out - but then as I went along I realised that I could relate to this character. I was really similar to him when I was young.
Were you filled with teenage angst growing up then?
Yeah, I was. I wasn't outwardly angry like Ash though - I was just constantly imploding. I'd pretend to be happy but then go to my room and think stuff like, "so that girl didn't like me...again!" I'd get really jealous when I liked girls but they liked someone else - and usually they liked people I was realy close to. I also wanted to be an athlete growing up - in fact, I was an athlete - but I wanted to be a better athlete. Looking back on it now, those early teenage years years were just a cruel joke (laughs).
I can't imagine you being mean like Ash is to his cousin, Kristofferson?
I must say, I actually liked being mean to Kristofferson. I mean, in real life I can get there... but I don't want to. I'd probably just end up going to my room again if I was that mean (laughs).
So what's it like having George Clooney and Meryl Streep as parents?
It's all it's cracked up to be. Having said that, I worked with George - but Meryl I never got to meet. I did get to see her eventually at a screening of the movie but I kind of feel I didn't work with her. Mind you, I'm not going to tell a lot of people that. If I'm asked, I'll say, "yeah sure, I did a movie with Meryl Streep. I played her son..."
I've heard some people say that Wes Anderson is in fact Mr Fox. What do you think?
No, I don't think so. I think Wes does a good job of cutting himself up into pieces and putting them in different characters. So one side of my character is Wes and one of Bill's is Wes and one of Meryl's is Wes. In all of his movies, I think that he never just puts himself into one guy - he's the whole thing.
I hear that Wes was after realism from the vocals so a bunch of you went down to Connecticut to do some outdoor vocal recording at a farm?
Yeah, I did get to go out with George [Clooney] and Bill [Murray] to a few different locations. It was fun. I mean, this is my first animation movie but it's got to be so hard how other people do these sorts of movies acting in a booth on their own. I'm really happy that I can safely say I worked with George Clooney. Okay, it wasn't three straight months working everyday but we'd get to do these powerful scenes. Like there's a scene in the movie where he's asking me where Kristofferson is, and I don't know, and we're having this very intense scene in this sewer and, you know, his hands are on me and he's looking straight at me and we're full on going for it.
What's your favourite animated movie?
Pinocchio. I love that story and the music. It's probably for sentimental reasons. But of newer ones, there's this one animated movie called Rock and Rule with Debbie Harry, Iggy Pop and Cheap Trick. I love that one.
And now you've played Ash you'll finally become a toy...
Yeah, this is the first character I'm a toy. I mean, I can't imagine any of the other guys I've played being toys. It would be amazing if someone did do a whole line of all the characters I've ever played - they'd just be like these normal looking upset people (laughs). But yeah, I do have a toy Ash. He's got the cape and everything and he's got one hand up and he's sort of doing this karate move.
Did you get a bandit hat?
Unfortunately, no. No bandit hat for me.