jason schwartzman at the Big Eyes premiereTim Burton's "Big Eyes" is about a lot of things. It's about Margaret (Amy Adams) and Walter (Christoph Waltz), artists who popularized mass-market prints (Walter claimed he had created the artwork when Margaret was actually doing the painting). It's about the commercialization of art. And it's about the public perception of said art -- critics hated Margaret's paintings but consumers ate it up. And one of those arbiters of taste, in the film, is a snooty gallery owner played by Jason Schwartzman.

We sat down with Schwartzman recently to discuss what his favorite Tim Burton movie is, what he responded to in the script, whether or not he would hang a Keane painting in his house, and the response to a couple of his more recent films -- "Saving Mr. Banks" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Moviefone: Let's start off by talking about what your favorite Tim Burton movie is.

Jason Schwartzman: Honestly, I guess... Name all of them right now.

"Beetlejuice," "Pee-Wee," "Batman"...

Keep going.

"Mars Attacks," "Sweeney Todd," "Batman Returns," "Sleepy Hollow"...

There have got to be more than that.

There are! "Dark Shadows," "Frankenweenie," "Ed Wood," "Big Fish"...

I love "Big Fish."

Do you really?

Yes, and I think it's an odd thing because I think it was very moving to me, because my father passed away and it really resonated. I also think that that type of magical... he's carrying his father as he's walking to the water... I don't know. It's very impactful. But for me, it would be "Beetlejuice" or "Pee-Wee," because that's like a masterpiece, so that's not even in the mix. And also "Ed Wood," I remember I saw "Ed Wood" in the theater and it was just the greatest. When Bill Murray holds his nose before he gets baptized! I love that movie because it's a great example of people who are optimistic, because it's people who think they're making "Star Wars." I'm attracted to that type of person. It doesn't have to be someone who is blindly upbeat but someone who is devoted to something is interesting and that movie is a great example, without making fun of it. But "Pee-Wee," that movie... it is it. I've seen that movie so many times and I think it's the ultimate.

What's your favorite line?

"Tell them Large Marge sent you." Or... what does she say to him? "I'm a loner Dotty, a rebel." The movie is so f*cked up. The giant bathtub swimming pool... and it's so simple too. And "Beetlejuice" I would watch countless times. There's a scene where Michael Keaton dances towards the whorehouse... That's an example where I didn't even think there was an actor. I just thought there was Beetlejuice.

So you had wanted to be in a Tim Burton movie forever?

Yes. Maybe now, in the last few years, people would ask who I would want to work with and I would say this person and this person and this person. But not in a naïve way, but I wouldn't think that I could fly that close to the sun. With Tim Burton, it's like "How long did you want to go to the moon?" I mean everybody wants to go to the moon but you never think you'll get to go to the moon.

Were you disappointed that none of his stock players were in it?

No... I would love one day to work with Johnny Depp. He would be Jupiter. But working with Tim Burton was amazing. Now, I will say also that I loved the script, and even if he wasn't directing. I heard Tim Burton was auditioning people for this movie and then I read the script and the whole thing was so great.

What did you respond to in the script?

I responded to the facts of it. I knew those paintings. I first encountered them at the musician Matthew Sweet's house. In the late '90s, my band signed to a label and they wanted us to co-write with other musicians to see if it spawned any catchy songs. And they asked, "Who would you want to work with?" I said, "Matthew Sweet." Because I loved his album "100% Fun." So we went to his house and his house is very '60s. He lives a very '60s lifestyle. I remember an indoor garden in a bubble. He had Keanes everywhere. It's weird what Tim was saying -- like you must have seen them. That was the first time I had really seen them. Then to find out the Keanes' story -- it's insane. There's a guy who's the face of it and someone else is truly doing them. That's really interesting to me. That is a great story. I like that kind of story.

In the movie, you dismiss the paintings outright. How do you feel about them?

That's a really good question. If you gave me money right now to go buy any piece of art, some people would go buy a Keane right off the bat. I probably would not. That said, I'm sure you heard Christoph say, "I hate it." I don't hate it by any means. If I had a Keane painting, I would hang it in my house. But I think that I was definitely sucked into it. The eyes are transfixing and I remember Matthew explained to me, "These are Keanes, they're all over..." There's a whole story of it. And that was a part of it too. I was drawn to it.

This isn't a huge role for you.

No. If anything from what I did got cut out of the movie, I wouldn't be in the movie. Someone earlier asked me about taking a small part and it's like taking a small part, what are you talking about? I auditioned to be in this f*cking movie. To me, of course, it's the character that I will ultimately arrive at -- is this character somebody that I can do? But that's not the first thing I'm actually thinking about. It's more like, what is this world, what's it going to be like, who's directing it? It's one big adventure. It's like someone saying, "We're going on a trip." "Where are we going?" Part of it is you imagining what that's going to be like. It's not like, "Oh, I'll take it." I f*cking went after it. I love that part and I'm glad to be in someone's movie. I'm glad to be part of someone's story.

We talked about "Saving Mr. Banks," which is set in the same time period and based on a real story. What was that experience like?

Well, it's funny because maybe for other people it was disappointing but that's a movie that more people saw than a lot of my other movies, so it caught on. People say, "Hey, saw you in 'Mr. Banks.'" I love that movie. It was great for me and also one thing that was really cool is that a lot of people who come up to talk to me about it are musicians. So that's really great. Then I can have a conversation about it. I love that script and I like documentaries and obviously when you make a movie about someone who is real it goes into a different terrain. And part of the adventure is -- Richard Sherman is the consultant on this movie and will sit with you and talk to you about these songs.

Have you kept up with him?

I haven't talked to him in a little while. He's busier than anybody. In the beginning, it was like "Let's hang out!" And I was thinking, "This is probably not going to happen. Because I live a life and he's more retired now." He's the one saying, "Sorry, I was on a Disney Cruise and I'm working on 'Jungle Book' and I'm only in town for two days."

Another movie that you were in this year that connected with a lot of people was "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Not too shabby, not too shabby. It just makes me happy. I saw the preview for it on HBO and it was so exciting. When I saw that movie it was pure adventure and fun and the fact that people were into it makes me so happy. I know, for obvious reasons, how much goes into these movies -- there's so much work and planning and preparation, for it to really catch on, it means a lot to everybody.

"Big Eyes" hits theaters Christmas Day.
categories Interviews, Movies