Considering his uncle is the legendary Francis Ford Coppola and mother is Talia Shire, it comes as no surprise that Jason Schwartzman got into the family business and carved out a distinctive and memorable career to date. It is undeniable he has become easily one of the most talented actors in the industry today, since his debut in Wes Anderson’s Rushmore in 1998.

We speak to the king of the indie film scene about his latest movie, Listen Up Philip.  

You play Philip, an egotistical upcoming author. How much fun is it for you to play such an unlikeable character?

It was really fun. People in general have a tendency to want to be a good person, not offend people and hold back from saying things that could hurt someone’s feelings. This character is just unusual. He says what’s on his mind and not afraid to be blunt. It was really fun to do that, to play a character that ultimately doesn’t care what people think of him.

I got so into it, I guess. It was so hard for me to see things from Phillip’s eyes in the beginning. I would give the director all these hypothetical situations. Then finally, when I got there it was hard to see anything from any other point of view and I loved it.

What attracted you to this role?

I loved the script, when I read it I thought it was so great. What I really loved about the script so much is that I never really knew where it was going. You have my character but then it shifts to his girlfriend and then Jonathan Pryce.

Each of us becomes somewhat secondary characters in the other person’s story.  You learn a lot about my character based on the absence of him in other people’s lives. I was really into that structure for the movie.

Then for me what I really loved was playing a character who really didn’t care what others thought about him – he’d at times be devastating in the things he’d say but also that he knew it. I like that this character was pulling no punches, no passive aggressiveness at all.

Philip escapes to a secluded cabin to focus on his writing, sort of reminiscent to Jack Nicholson’s character [Jack Torrance] in The Shining…

Ohhhh that’s interesting. Never thought about it like that. Holy schnikes!

So is it safe to say you won’t be wielding an axe anytime soon?

Not right now but you never know.

It must have been pretty cool to work with such a small cast in this film?

It was a small crew too. One thing that is interesting, it was kind of shot not in sequence but like it is in the movie. We had chapters with the actors because of availability and schedules or maybe it was always thought to be shot that way.

We shot the first 10 days with Elisabeth Moss and then she was finished. We then left New York, went upstate and did all stuff with Jonathan Pryce and then he was done.

How was it working alongside Jonathan Pryce?

To me, he’s one of the greatest actors ever and someone that I’ve always admired. I couldn’t believe when he was cast as Ike.

It says a lot about an actor who has been in some humungous movies that have all kind of amenities on set with trailers and all that. Whereas this is a movie with no trailers, no fancy hotels or anything like that.

The fact the guy says he’ll come to New York to do this movie is cool. That’s the kind of person I want to be like when I reach a certain point.

You’ve dabbled in mainstream cinema with the likes of Scott Pilgrim vs The World amongst others, how does working on films like that differ to your indie movies?

I don’t know. I’ve done some things are a bit bigger budge wiset but it’s been a strange lesson. An interesting point to mention is that none of them ever felt like what I would imagine a big studio movie to be.

I won’t lie, you walk onto Scott Pilgrim where you have the trailers and it is a big production. But the feeling of it is the same as Listen Up Philip. It’s a room full of actors who love each other and hang out.

The trailers were a big waste of money, I never saw a single actor inside a trailer. Everyone was just hanging out on set together.

Is there any one genre you’d like to do more in? Action? 

I guess, yeah. I would. I sometimes read other interviews with actors where they say they don’t really have any rules. Sometimes I get annoyed and I am like, come one, tell me what you want to do!

But that’s sort of how I feel. I take each thing as it comes to me in my life and look at it for what it is because it is such a mysterious business.  I shot this thing on Netflix, Wet Hot American Summer. If you said to me the day before I’d be doing something like that, I’d be like “what!?”.

But I would love to do something with a lot of action in it. Scott Pilgrim had some scenes like that and I really enjoyed myself.

You’ve also had some success as a musician with your last album out in 2009. So will you be returning to music anytime soon?

Yeah, it’s so funny because it occurred to me recently that I hadn’t put out a record in a long time.

I have written a lot of music over the past few years, I probably have enough to make another record. But the next step is finding a person to make it with and of course the time.  I don’t have a band or anything, so a lot of things have to come together for me to go make the record.

Was there a point you realised it was acting you wanted to pursue?

No, not really. Since I was little music was the thing I was going to try and go after. Acting just didn’t occur to me that it could be something in my life. Growing up in L.A. you are just surrounded by it, Hollywood is here.

My mum [Talia Shire] did a remarkable job to not be a part of Hollywood and I see that now as I am raising kids. I don’t know how it happened but I never felt movies would be a thing I’d be involved with.

My mum loves movies but hates Hollywood, so we didn’t go on sets. We just lived in L.A. but we pretty much had a non-L.A. Hollywood life growing up.

It was the 80s and even though music was as big as Hollywood, there’s something much more personal about it. I love the movies, we’d go every weekend. I had this really amazing friend in high-school, Bret Berg, who now co-runs this place called Cinefamily in L.A.

It’s a great movie theatre where they play some great movies and he’s a big part of that.

Then Rushmore came along and presented itself in a strange way and it was the first script I’d ever read. I remember reading it and it felt like a record to me. Of course I never thought I’d get the part, I remember thinking whoever gets this is going to be so lucky.

Bored to Death seemed to be cut short when it was building momentum. We’ve heard there may be a movie in the works, any truth to that?

Yeah, it’s weird because in Hollywood something can be happening and then not happening. Shortly after we got cancelled, HBO and Jonathan Ames met about doing a movie version of the show. They asked him to write a script of it.

He’s writing that script right now and working on another TV show as well. If he reads this, I don’t want him feeling pressure like we’re all waiting.

I talked to Ted and Zach – all three of us were heartbroken when the show got cancelled. I felt that it was getting better; the third season was really clicking. Jonathan told me what the whole fourth season was going to be – he had it mapped out so far in advance.

Once it was over it was the equivalent of being in a relationship and buying a ticket for a vacation but not being able to go. So right now he’s writing the script and if HBO are into it then we’ll go and make it.

It seemed there was a natural chemistry between you, Ted and Zach…

The three of us really got along. I’d met Ted a few times but never known Zach. When we got on set it was really cool. I think of those two as real comedy masters, Ted has racked up a lot of hours and knows what works.

Zach is sort of like an unbelievable force of nature, I was really intimated to go on set with him. What was really fun, there’s was a real nice thing that makes each of us work well together. I never felt, and I don’t think anyone else ever felt, constricted or afraid to try something.

Sometimes I work with really funny people and they have to be the funniest person and if they’re not they don’t like it.

Listen Up Philip starring Jason Schwartzman opens in selected UK and Ireland theatres on June 5. You can read our review here.