Jason Schwartzman is one of the nicest guys in Hollywood, but his character in "Listen Up Philip" is anything but pleasant.
"Philip has very high expectations and is disappointed easily and regularly in this movie," Schwartzman told HuffPost Entertainment in a recent interview. The 34-year-old plays Philip Lewis Friedman in Alex Ross Perry's film, an author who alienates every single person in his life with an abandon unmatched by even iconic screen misanthropes such as Royal Tenenbaum and Melvin Udall.
"My reading experience of the script was most likely what it's like for a viewer to watch the movie. Which is: What has happened? I can't believe he just said that. That is so wrong. You can't do that," Schwartzman said. "While I was reading it, I kept putting it down every 20 minutes. Probably like if you have this movie at home, you would pause it. I felt so claustrophobic."
As it turned out, however, the difficulty of Perry's material only made Schwartzman more interested in the project.
"It took me a day to read the script -- hours and hours -- it was more like a book," Schwartzman said. "It was so harsh in many ways and uncomfortable to read, but it was so beautifully written. Some people approach scripts as a blueprint -- a very rough thing -- but Alex's script was considerably longer than the average scripts. A lot of it was sentences describing things that people aren't going to even see in the movie. I appreciated the care that went into it. I thought the story was great, so I really wanted to meet him."
That subsequent meeting with Perry was the stuff of vintage Hollywood romantic comedy. "I liken it more to a first date," Schwartzman said of the pair's "incredible" evening in New York. The story of Schwartzman meet-cute with Ross is so sweet, in fact, that we're just going to let the 34-year-old actor relay what happened in his own words. Enjoy:
I wasn't sure where I stood when I went to go meet him. I didn't know the condition of our meeting. Was I meeting him, and I'm one of many, many people that he's talking to? Did he just have coffee with someone and now I'm having dinner with him and he's going to have a meeting after me? Is it an audition? For me, I was excited to meet Alex because I loved the script and it was so execution dependent. I need the director in many ways, to collaborate with and bounce ideas off. My hope was that we were going to hit it off.
We got to this restaurant, Angelica Kitchen, in New York, there was no table. He made some remark under his breath about it. I laughed within 10 seconds of meeting him. I thought that if he'll have me, I have to do this movie. It was so evident in the joke that he made that it was going to be a fun experience. And it was like a date. We had a long dinner and talked about this movie, which we talked about eloquently and honestly. We talked about movies and music. Then we ended up going to have a drink and during the course of the drinks, this idea of ice cream came up. So we went to Lula's Sweet Apothecary in New York, a vegan ice cream place. That sort of became our base. We went there a lot. So went and had ice cream at midnight. Walking with these ice cream cones and talking; it was kind of romantic. I thought it was a great night. When I called my wife and said I had dinner, drinks and ice cream, she might have even said, "Wow, I don't even get that kind of night." By the way, I think she was joking.
So at the end of the night, Alex said, "Do you want to do the movie?" I remember saying, "Oh, yeah. The answer is yes, absolutely." His answer to me back was so funny because it was such a line that could be in the script. "Oh great, oh good. I would love you to do this movie. That would be incredible. For me, you are one of two people who could play this part."
"Listen Up Philip" opens in select theaters on Oct. 17 before a nationwide expansion on Oct. 24; the film is available via iTunes and on-demand services on Oct. 21.