Schwartzman hits his stride after ‘Rushmore’ role

By Jake Coyle

NEW YORK — “Can I do a flashback?” asks Jason Schwartzman.

The 29-year-old actor and musician is chatting over coffee, sitting in a Manhattan hotel lobby almost Zenlike, but full of questions and curiosity. He clearly relishes conversation, pursuing any tangents with a lively interest:

UWords he hates: “vibe, journey and voice.”

UThe “amazingness” of math: “Logic plus logic equals the illogical. Do you know what I mean?”

UThe previous night’s Steelers game: “The [expletive] has pretty much hit the fan.”

Schwartzman’s storytelling is vibrant, abstract and often not chronological. And at this particular moment, everything seems to relate back to the past.

Schwartzman made his film debut 11 years ago in Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore” as Max Fisher, the spectacled, love-crazed, eminently intrepid teenage misfit — easily one of the most remarkable first stabs at movie acting.

“I can’t express enough to you how bizarre that experience was,” Schwartzman recalls. “It was like a drive-by shooting, but a positive one.”

Playing such a particular part at a young age (he was a senior in high school) seemed just the kind of role that might be difficult to grow out of. But since then, Schwartzman has made few missteps and given several strong performances.

He’s played a clueless, teenage Louis XVI in “Marie Antoinette” (directed by his cousin, Sofia Coppola); he starred in David O. Russell’s zany “I [Heart] Huckabees”; and he was one of the three traveling brothers along with Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody in Anderson’s “The Darjeeling Unlimited” — and it’s excellent accompanying short, “Hotel Chevalier.”

But 2009 is shaping up to be especially good for Schwartzman. He played a memorable smarmy supporting role in Judd Apatow’s “Funny People” and he lends his voice to Anderson’s animated “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” which comes out in November.

His highest-profile work, though, is starring in the new HBO series “Bored To Death.” He plays a Brooklyn writer, Jonathan Ames, who after splitting up with his girlfriend (and reading a Raymond Chandler novel) decides to post a message on Craigslist offering his services as a private detective.

He’s no expert, but he’s no Clouseau, either. Ames (named after the series’ writer and creator) may fall asleep on a stakeout or fall too easily for a femme fatale, but with earnestness and a strident belief in love, he somehow seems to solve cases.

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