In the upcoming movie "I ♥ Huckabees," an environmental activist starts a bizarre, comic chain of events when he hires a pair of existential detectives to solve a series of coincidences in his life.
Director David O. Russell and actor Jason Schwartzman, one of the movie's stars, were online Thursday, Sept. 16, at Noon ET to discuss the much-buzzed-about film, which also stars Jude Law, Dustin Hoffman, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg, Naomi Watts and Isabelle Huppert.
Lily Tomlin, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Wahlberg and Dustin Hoffman in Fox Searchlight's "I Heart Huckabees."
(Copyright Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Russell's previous directorial credits include "Spanking the Monkey," "Flirting with Disaster" and "Three Kings." Schwartzman has starred in the films "CQ" and "Spun" and on the TV show "Cracking Up," but is best known for his role as Max Fischer in the movie "Rushmore." "I ♥ Huckabees" opens in select cities on Oct. 1 and in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 8.
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After watching people investigate and debate after the Three Mile Island incident, I can sympathize with your storyline. How was this plot developed? Was it an original script that was accepted for development, or did either of you have a role in creating ideas for this movie? Is it totally fictitious, or are some characters based on real people?
David O. Russell: No, basically what happened is that I wrote it for Jason Schwarzman and Mark Wahlberg and Lily Tomlin, and then the other characters developed from there.
Jason... Loved you in "Rushmore" and was an even bigger fan of you in your band Phantom Planet. Any plans to reunite with your old band? If not, any musical plans in your future?
Jason Schwartzman: There are no plans to reunite as of now, but I never say never and they are still my close friends. I loved making music with them and it would be fun to do it sometime again. Don't have any music plans now I'm just looking for little projects.
David, my main man, did you ever see the "Southpark" send-up of "Three Kings?" They spoofed your Iraqi army torture guy character.
David O. Russell: No.
David O. Russell: The interrogator from "Three Kings" is in this movie. He plays an interpreter who is again involved in a conversation with Mark about petroleum.
Do you ever yell out "Yo, Adrian!" just to tick off your mom?
Jason Schwartzman: No, if only ticking off my mom was that easy.
Mr. Russell, where do things stand with your follow-up documentary to "Three Kings"? Last I heard, it was not going to be shown when "Three Kings" (a brilliant movie) was re-released. Will it be on a future DVD release? Secondly, "Three Kings" made the case that we sold out the Iraqis after the first Gulf War. What do you think we owe the Iraqi people?
David O. Russell: Yes, the documentary is going to be released by same people who released "Control Room" and "Uncovered" and they're going to release it before the election.
I don't know, all my Iraqi friends who are in the documentary are very happy Saddam Hussein is gone. Some of them are not happy with the way the occupation was handled. The best way I can say it is Iraq is better off without Saddam but I'm not sure the world is better off with this war.
From the previews I've seen, this movie looks very similar to "Royal Tennenbaums" as far as type of humor, genre, etc. What are the similarities and differences? Was "Royal Tennenbaums" (or any other movie) used as an inspiration? Also, is it "I HEART Huckabees" or "I LOVE Huckabees"? Can't wait to see it!
David O. Russell: We say "I Heart." We like that there's a symbol, and I like that it makes you talk different and I like that some people might hate it.
I like Wes Anderson, and I worked with Jason because "Rushmore" is how I fell in love with Jason and decided to write for him. This is an idea I had 15 years ago and actually got an NEA grant to make, but I used the money to make "Spanking the Monkey" instead.
Jason, how valuable was it for you to work with a comic genius like Bill Murray early in your career? Also, were you in Richmond, Va. a couple of months ago? I believe I saw you at a sandwich shop.
Jason Schwartzman: Sure, I was in Richmond, Va. And how valuable was it? It was amazing. It was just valuable to me as a person because I got to meet one of my heroes, which is like a huge thing and I got to work with him on top of that. Definitely a very thrilling and scary and exalting experience. He's truly a great man. I love him with all my heart. It was one of the greatest gifts of my life to share the same space with him. He's a genius in my book.
David -- Where did the philosophy of your existential detectives come from?
David O. Russell: The philosophy is from Professor Robert Thurman who was my teacher in college, he happens to be Uma's dad. He's currently the chair of the Dept. of Religion at Columbia University. I've read Western philosophy but it seems convoluted and impractical to me, but I found the Eastern philosophy that I studied with Bob to be much more succinct and practical. I stand behind all the ideas in this movie and I think the most daring thing about it in a way is its optimism.
I saw the movie last night at the early screening and thought it was great, though I'm sure I didn't understand half of it. You guys answered some questions there but I was wondering about the title of the movie ... why is it called "I Heart Huckabees"?
David O. Russell: Why is it called "I Heart Huckabees"? Because it's fun and it's got a heart in it. And it makes you wonder.
Jason, what was it like working with Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin? Did you find that intimidating in any way? I look forward to seeing the movie.
Jason Schwartzman: I'd be lying if I said no. I was constantly grappling with the intimidation factor because on one hand, they're just people, they're just actors trying to do a good job. On the other hand. they're icons. It's hard not to stand outside your body and say, "Holy s---, look at me. I'm working with these people." So I was constantly out of my body. In the moments that I was in my body, things felt pretty great and when I was out of my body, not so good.
Jason -- what music would your character most likely be obsessed with?
Jason Schwartzman: Bob Dylan. Maybe Neil Young and The Clash.
David, what induced you to commitment to Mark Wahlberg again? You worked together in "Three Kings," and it was nice cooperation?
David O. Russell: Mark and me love each other, and the friendship is in the movie with him and Jason.
Jason Schwartzman: My grandparents are both Polish-speaking. They taught themselves how to speak English through Scrabble.
Will you sign my chest?
David O. Russell: Yes, just bring it on down.
I imagine this movie will only appeal to a specific type of moviegoer. Was there any pressure from the studio to make alterations inorder to give it a wider appeal?
David O. Russell: Just get all the movie stars in it. You can only make a movie from your heart and trust the people will find it.
Jason Schwartzman: People who want to laugh will love it.
Good afternoon gentlemen. My question is for Jason. Whatever happend to Max Fischer?
I'm a big fan of Wes Anderson's films and enjoyed the coming of age theme in "Rushmore." Any plans or thoughts about working again with Anderson and Owen Wilson?
Jason Schwartzman: Yeah, I hope that Wes and I will work together one more time. As far as where is Max Fischer, he's right where we left him. Still going strong.
Morgantown, W. Va.:
Did you learn anything interesting and valuable in working with Tomlin and Hoffman, particularly as it might apply to doing comedic effects?
Jason Schwartzman: I just learned about professionalism as an actor. They're both so professional and have such a great time. I think I learned that it's OK to try anything because you never know.
Hi David & Jason,
Wow!; This looks like it will be an excellent comedy!; The cast list itself is impressive. This question is for both of you...What was it like to work with such a diverse group of actors and actresses?
David O. Russell: It was a dream come true because everybody was there for the same reasons and they were all really fun to work with and inspired. Jason came up with two of the biggest laughs of the movie. One of them is, "Have you ever transcended time and space?" and he says, "Time not space. I don't know what you're talking about," he had added to that line. The other is when he gets smacked off the bench by Mark. And nobody can run through sprinklers like Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin. Mark, Naomi and Jude had never made a comedy before. It's really great for a director when you can do something with actors that they've never done before. Given how close I am to Mark I knew he had all kinds of things in him that I could put in the movie.
David O. Russell: Usually the ideas of infinity and interconnection are in a movie like "The Matrix" or another serious kind of movie. I think it's unusual to have them right up front in a film that's a comedy where all the characters are interested in those questions. We are infinitely interconnected.
Jason Schwartzman: Just want to say good-bye and I hope everyone enjoys the movie. It's a comedy, so laugh. It's OK if you don't understand all of it.