Schwartzman Lives 'The Darjeeling Limited' The Darjeeling Limited, director Wes Anderson's newest film, opened the New York Film Festival this weekend. Jason Schwartzman, who co-wrote the screenplay and plays Jack Whitman, talks about the role India plays in the movie.
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Schwartzman Lives 'The Darjeeling Limited'

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Schwartzman Lives 'The Darjeeling Limited'

Schwartzman Lives 'The Darjeeling Limited'

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This weekend, Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited" has opened the New York Film Festival. Three brothers - played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman - get together a year after their father's funeral for what they planned to be a bonding and spiritual journey through India.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Darjeeling Limited")

Mr. OWEN WILSON (Actor): (As Francis) Why haven't we spoken in a year? Let's make an agreement.

Mr. ADRIEN BRODY (Actor): (As Peter) Of what?

Mr. JASON SCHWARTZMAN (Actor): (As Jack) Okay.

Mr. WILSON: (As Francis) A: I want us to become brothers again like we used to be, and for us to find ourselves and bond with each other. Can we agree to that?

Mr. BRODY: (As Peter) Okay.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: (As Jack) Yeah.

Mr. WILSON: (As Francis) B: I want us to make this trip a spiritual journey where each of us seek the unknown and we learn about it. Can we agree to that?

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: (As Jack) Sure.

Mr. BRODY: (As Peter) I guess so.

Mr. WILSON: (As Francis) C: I want us to be completely open and say yes to everything, even if it's shocking and painful.

SIMON: But the brothers behaved like spoiled brats - get thrown off the train, leaving their laminated itineraries behind; and then they really begin to know each other.

Jason Schwartzman plays Jack Whitman, one of the brothers. He also co-wrote the film with Roman Coppola and director Wes Anderson. Bill Murray shows up for a cup of coffee. Anjelica Huston makes an appearance. And it's the film debut of the British actress Amara Karan.

Jason Schwartzman joins us from our studios in New York.

Thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Thank you so much for having me.

SIMON: And I got to tell you, as someone who loves India…


SIMON: …I am reflexively suspicious of films about Westerners taking fill-in-the-blank some kind of journey through India because I find the film often manages to patronize India. But I like this film a lot.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Thank you very much.

SIMON: Since you're one of the co-writers…


SIMON: …what about India? Why set it in India?

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Wes decided to make a film in India. When I was asked to be a part of it, India was already set upon. That was part of the pitch. Wes had said, I want to make a film about three brothers on a train in India, and I'd like you to be one of the brothers. I know that Wes is a fan of the older Indian films and also Jean Renoir's "The River." And I had always wanted to go there. And my experience with India had been in Beatles documentaries and things that are related to George Harrison.

But I think that Wes had always wanted to work there. He sounded to me, when he first brought it up, like he wanted to have an experience as well as make a movie. And he said I want to make a movie where we have no hair and makeup departments, no wardrobe departments, and I want us to shoot in an environment that's very unpredictable and always changing and very chaotic in a great way.

SIMON: And were there no hair and makeup department and costume department?

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Technically, there was a wardrobe department. And there are technically was a hair and makeup department. For the makeup department, they were really just in charge of getting Owen's makeup together because his…

SIMON: Yeah. He plays someone whose face has been smashed in recently.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Very smashed up and cuts and bruises and all that. So that was a special thing. But Adrien and I didn't do any hair and makeup. I did my own hair. It was really just - it means parting it with your fingers. And I did my own…

SIMON: I think your hair has never looked lovelier, may I tell you, you know?

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: And I appreciate that. And I appreciate that. And it just goes to show you you can do it yourself. And I grew my own mustache. And so I did my own part. And also, the wardrobe department, they would drop off my suit that I wear in the film into my hotel room and I would put it on in the morning. And we would ride to set in our suits, get on the train and begin shooting; go home in your suit. I would even just leave mine on for dinner and stuff. And we would just wear this one suit the entire week.

And even the microphones were built into the suits. And really, all of this is - it's not an attack against those departments. It's really more that Wes wanted to have an intimate feeling on the actual shooting set and to be efficient. The idea was that we just get on the train and shoot.

SIMON: It's irresistible to note that you're a part of a screenplay written about three brothers that's written by three people who have worked together before.


SIMON: Were there times in the creative process that each of you became one of the brother's advocates?

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Well, when we were writing it, you know, we would type out the scenes and then we'd print them out and we'd each hold one. And it seemed, without discussion, that Wes would play Francis, Roman would play Peter, and I would play Jack. It's just - we fell into those roles. And in terms of the writing and, like, dispersing who got what line, I don't think anyone would favor anyone else. And I actually didn't even favor my own character if there was favoring. I kind of didn't want to say anything. I don't want to botch anything.

SIMON: I must tell you, for three-quarters of the film, roughly, it's difficult to like these guys.


SIMON: I mean, that's intentional? I don't mean you personally. I mean, Jack Whitman, yeah. Well, because they are there…

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Well, I dislike like them.

SIMON: Well, because they're not nice to people. They're abusive. They're disdainful. They…


SIMON: And they are self-obsessed. I mean, you want to say your father died. It happens to everybody.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Right. Right. Perhaps it was intended in some way - not using the words like or dislike - but basically, the idea was that these three guys come to India and they are on some kind of a bender, and they are burned out and unhinged. And they don't seem to pay attention to what's going on around them because, you know, an example would be, all right, we're going to go pray in this temple, it's one of the most spiritual places on Earth. And then the second they sit down to pray, Owen notices that Adrien is wearing his belt.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Darjeeling Limited")

Mr. WILSON: (As Francis) Is that my belt?

Mr. BRODY: (As Peter) Can I borrow it?

Mr. WILSON: (As Francis) Well, no, not right now. I was looking for that earlier. Ask first, next time.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: They are distracted by each other, and they seem to fight and bicker and not see what's going on around them. They are trying to have a spiritual experience. I mean, it's on an itinerary. It's laminated. They're trying to have a laminated, adventurous, meaningful experience and…

SIMON: Right.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: …that's probably not going to work, especially in a place like India. You can't control something like that. And really, yes, of course, it's intended that these three guys get on a train to try and have something, and they can't see past themselves. They can't find each other. They can't love each other. They're immediately telling each other secrets - telling one brother a secret not to tell the other. There's deceit. There's lying. And all that is part of it. And then, yes, without giving away too much, things definitely changed. And India, I think, it goes from being in the background to being the fourth brother, I suppose, or something.

SIMON: That's absolutely right. I mean, it's the scene in the small, unnamed village…


SIMON: …that really draws you in. And I must say I found myself saying - and I apologize for sounding like a dime-store guru - that it's only when you stop looking for enlightenment that you can see it.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Sure. That's not dime store. And if it is dime store, then you got my dime.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Here is 25 cents. Keep the change.

SIMON: Thank you. Thanks very much.


SIMON: I think is the first product placement question I've ever asked.


SIMON: You have - was it, 11 pieces of luggage…


SIMON: …that are - have prominent roles in the film. It's Louis Vuitton luggage. I think in Marc Jacobs' design, right?

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

SIMON: Is that actual working luggage? I mean, could you open it up and put stuff in there?

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Yeah. And, in fact, there was stuff in there because Wes didn't want us to seem like we were dragging around light luggage - empty, light luggage.

SIMON: Oh, I hate that when you see that in films - somebody holding a groaning garment bag over their shoulders lightly as if it was (unintelligible). Yeah.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Yeah. It's not that easy. So actually, Sandy Hamilton, who worked on the film, filled it up with all kinds of things that were very, very accurate to what the characters would have in there - a change of clothes, pajamas, books that the characters would have been reading. And it was great of him to include me and on what I would want in my own luggage. He allowed me to fill up my own journal, even though you really never see my journal. It's in my luggage. He let me fill it up and draw in it and all kinds of things. So the luggage was full of real things to make it heavier. And it was heavy.

SIMON: You like working with Wes Anderson.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Yeah. I love working with Wes Anderson. It's my - it's only my second time working with him.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: We are best friends since "Rushmore," but it feels weird to think that it's only the second one. People think that I've been in more than I actually have. I can't tell you how many "Royal Tenenbaums" DVDs I've had to decline signing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Because people think you had to be in that one, too, you mean.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Yeah, people think I'm in that movie. I go, no, no. I'm not in that one.

SIMON: I must say it's hard to look at Owen Wilson and not think about what he's been through recently.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Well, I just - I want him to - when he speaks for himself, it'll - I think it'll be - people will get what they want to hear and they'll get all the answers. But I just - I love him so much. He's the best. He is the best. And I think he's great in the movie. I really do. I think that he's great in the movie. I think that he works - he worked on this one.

No, I'm not, you know, saying anything about his previous performances because I'm a fan of his. I was very nervous all the time, and I need to be around him because I love him so much. But watching this movie, I really saw someone working on so many levels. I thought his performance was very emotional and grounded at the same time, and he was great.

SIMON: Mr. Schwartzman, thanks so much.

Mr. SCHWARTZMAN: Thank you so much. This has been fun.

SIMON: And for us too. Jason Schwartzman, writer and actor. His new film, "The Darjeeling Limited," opens the New York Film Festival.

(Soundbite of music)


I'm Scott Simon.

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