Five Questions with … Jason Schwartzman

By Jae-Ha Kim
Chicago Sun-Times
January 29, 2002

The first time Jason Schwartzman was on David Letterman’s show, the young actor had a case of the nerves.

“I walked out there and it was like being on a roller-coaster ride,” says Schwartzman, now 21. “He’s awesome! I love him. I want to campaign for him to be on Oprah. I don’t know why she won’t have him on. He’s great.”

The feeling must be mutual. Schwartzman is scheduled to appear on Letterman’s gabfest twice this week. On Wednesday, his band, Phantom Planet, will perform a song from the new album “The Guest.” The following evening, Schwartzman returns solo to hype his latest film, “Slackers,” which opens Friday.

Schwartzman is the son of actress Talia Shire and the late producer Jack Schwartzman, the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola and cousin to Nicolas Cage and Sofia Coppola.

“You don’t really get a big head when you grow up around them,” the affable performer says.

Phoning from his hotel room in New York, Schwartzman–who insists he is only half-dressed–chatted with GLARE about what it was like to be him.

Q. You’re the most famous member of Phantom Planet. Why aren’t you the singer?
A.. Because I only sing in the shower when the tape’s not rolling. I like being the drummer. I’m good at it and it’s fun. I enjoy writing songs and don’t feel the need to sing.

Q. Are you an actor who drums, or a drummer who acts?
A. There’s this impression that I do one when I’m done with the other. But both are careers. I think of music as the older brother, because I did that first. Film is the younger brother. Right now, a little sister is in the oven ’cause I want to paint. [Laughs] I’m just kidding about the painting!

Q. How is “Slackers” different from all the other teen movies out there?
A. It still has all the sight gags and nudity, but what separates it is that it’s the “Cable Guy” of teen movies. My character isn’t just some dork. He has a lint roller that he uses to collect the hair of this girl he’s in love with so he can make a hair doll. He snaps in the middle of the movie and becomes crazy. He ends up waging war on everybody. He’s the product of being picked on for years. He’s so defensive he’s offensive. He’s the kind of guy who’ll take his revenge out by becoming CEO of a large computer company one day.

Q. What’s your feeling about nudity in films?
A. I’m all for it, though no one ever wants to see me nude. I do have a shower scene in this film. And I am sitting here shirtless now.

Q. How are you at love?
A. Not bad. I’m in love! My girlfriend is kind of in the business. She’s an older woman. She’s eight years older than me. I’ve got another movie called “Spun” coming out in May where I get the girl.

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