The cool dude

Ja­son Schwartz­man is a cousin of the Cop­po­las and one of the ac­tors be­ing cred­ited with the re­birth of Jewish hip in Hol­ly­wood. No big deal, he tells Stephen Ap­ple­baum

The Jewish Chronicle - - Arts & Books -

IT IS use­ful to have con­nec­tions in Hol­ly­wood, and Ja­son Schwartz­man’s are bet­ter than most. His mother is the ac­tress Talia Shire, the sis­ter of God­fa­ther di­rec­tor Francis Ford Cop­pola. His cousins in­clude Sofia Cop­pola, the Lost in Trans­la­tion di­rec­tor, and Ni­co­las Cage. Such a lin­eage can, of course, be a bur­den as well as a boon, but the laid­back Schwartz­man takes it in his stride. “I feel like it’s more of a big deal for other peo­ple,” he says. “I feel weird at how not weird I feel. I just I grew up with them, they’re my fam­ily.” He laughs. “I don’t know what to do about it.”

At 27, Schwartz­man is the youngest mem­ber of the show­busi­ness clan, which he says puts him in a unique po­si­tion.

“There’s a dis­tance, and be­cause of that I’m a fan. We’re a fam­ily when we’re to­gether and dis­cussing things, and then when it’s about work I think, oddly enough, I can just shut it off and ad­mire.”

When he played Louis XVI in Sofia Cop­pola’s stylish but in­sub­stan­tial film Marie An­toinette, he was just like any other cast mem­ber, he in­sists.

“I never felt if there were three ac­tors around Sofia I could just walk over and go: ‘Ex­cuse me, she’s my cousin, I can cut the line.’”

Schwartz­man ad­mits that hav­ing a dif­fer­ent sur­name has prob­a­bly helped ease the weight of the Cop­pola con­nec­tion. His Jewish fa­ther, Jack Schwartz­man, who was a film pro­ducer, died in 1994, and, al­though his mother is Ro­man Catholic, the ac­tor says he was raised with a “good sense” of both faiths.

“At times I’m ev­ery­thing. My fa­ther wasn’t, like, su­per Ortho­dox or any­thing like that, but” — he smiles — “he was enough to not be too mod­ern.”

Last year, the in­flu­en­tial cul­tural web­site Salon, wist­ful for the days of Dustin Hoff­man, James Caan, Lou Reed and their ilk, in­cluded Schwartz­man in a list of 10 young men it be­lieved “might just in­spire the re­birth of Jewish male cool”. Schwartz­man was placed fourth, be­hind Os­car-win­ner Adrien Brody, Jake Gyl­len­haal and Liev Schreiber.

To­day, the rank­ings might need re­vis­ing. Schwartz­man’s latest film project, The Dar­jeel­ing Lim­ited, which he co-wrote with Ro­man Cop­pola and the di­rec­tor Wes An­der­son (who launched Schwartz­man in 1998’s Rush­more), oozes cool.

More­over, if posts on the in­ter­net are any­thing to go by, his ap­pear­ance op­po­site a naked Natalie Port­man in a short pro­logue to Dar­jeel­ing called Ho­tel Che­va­lier is al­ready mak­ing him the envy of red­blooded males ev­ery­where.

“I have al­ways been a fan of Natalie Port­man’s work,” says Schwartz­man. “It was how it looked. It was fun.”

When they filmed the in­ti­mate two-han­der, he was ac­tu­ally wor­ried that he would make Port­man sick.

“I flew to Paris and when I got off the plane I was re­ally ill,” he re­calls. “I had a sore throat, I had lost my voice, and I had the kind of fever where you’re shak­ing in the shower even though the hot wa­ter’s com­pletely on and the cold’s com­pletely off. So I felt bad kiss­ing her be­cause I thought I’m go­ing to get her sick.”

And did he? “Well she never called me to say she had got sick,” Schwartz­man laughs.

A year later, he was in In­dia with Owen Wil­son and Adrien Brody play­ing es­tranged brothers who em­bark on a “spir­i­tual” jour­ney to­gether in The Dar­jeel­ing Lim­ited. For Schwartz­man, an erst­while musi- cian and Bea­tles ob­ses­sive (“I think they’re the best band ever”), it was a dream come true. He could not wait to visit the place where the Fab Four met the Mahirishi.

“The minute I landed I was, like: ‘How far is Rishikesh from here?’ and the oth­ers were say­ing, ‘What do you mean?’ I’m, like: ‘Well, that is where the Bea­tles were. C’mon!’ I was ex­cited to get to In­dia.”

For the three ac­tors, the mak­ing of the movie turned into a bond­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. There was no make-up, no trail­ers, no get­ting away from one an- other. “Be­ing in In­dia re­ally helped cre­ate the ap­pear­ance of us as brothers,” ex­plains Schwartz­man, “be­cause, had we shot the film in LA, we’d have had places to es­cape to af­ter work. In In­dia, there is nowhere to go. It was a case of stick­ing to­gether or be­ing re­ally apart — which would have been a com­pletely mis­er­able and lonely ex­pe­ri­ence.”

At the week­ends, Schwartz­man went shop­ping for mu­si­cal in­stru­ments. He bought sitars and tan­puras, al­though he ad­mits that he can­not re­ally play them. “They are prob­a­bly the hard­est in­stru­ments in the world. But I can def­i­nitely make noise on them,” he grins.

Mu­sic is more than just a hobby for Schwartz­man. He en­joyed a hit with his for­mer band, Phan­tom Planet, when its song Cal­i­for­nia fea­tured on US TV drama se­ries The O.C., and he re­cently re­leased a new album, Night­tim­ing, un­der the name Co­conut Records. “Go to iTunes,” he en­thuses. “It’s pretty cool.”

Mean­while, the film work keeps com­ing. He will soon be seen as Ringo Starr in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, and then play­ing op­po­site Ben Stiller in The Marc Pease Ex­pe­ri­ence. Whether th­ese projects will en­hance his cool­ness re­mains to be seen. The Dar­jeel­ing Lim­ited goes on gen­eral re­lease on Novem­ber 23

PHOTO: AP

Ja­son Schwartz­man: his ap­pear­ance next to the naked Natalie Port­man in a Dar­jeel­ing pro­logue is mak­ing him the envy of the web

Schwartz­man, Adrian Brody ( cen­tre), and Owen Wil­son in The Dar­jeel­ing Lim­ited

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