About halfway through “The Overnight,” a raunchy comedy romp released on Friday, Adam Scott and Jason Schwartzman strip down and dance completely naked. Oddly enough, that’s actually not one of the most outrageous scenes of the film, which takes two married couples on a boozy, trippy journey of exploration and self-discovery.
It all starts out innocently enough. Alex (Scott) and Emily (Taylor Schilling) are new to Los Angeles and in desperate need of friends. Luck comes knocking in the form of Kurt (Schwartzman) and Charlotte (Judith Godrèche), a bohemian couple (he’s into painting abstract nudes, she’s dabbled in explicit videos), who invite them over to their extravagant house for a double date. The seemingly family friendly dinner quickly unfolds into a night of serious debauchery—insecurities are revealed, relationships are tested and the entire concept of marriage is laid out for dissection.
The Forward sat down with Schwartzman to discuss the challenges of playing the “straight” man, creating real moments on screen and why he thinks couples shouldn’t be afraid of extramarital attraction.
You agreed to do this movie after having only read the first half of the script. What was it about the story that made you give a knee-jerk yes?
Jason Schwartzman: I’m a really slow reader and they needed my answer by 1:00 or else they had to move on. I’m reading the movie and I’m loving it, but it’s 12:45 and I’m not even halfway through. I called Patrick [the director] and said, “I think it’s so great, I’m in. I just want to let you know that I didn’t finish it.” He was like, “Alright, you’re a brave man.” And then I finally finished it and there were some surprises, but nothing that scared me. Maybe taking my clothes off—that would sort of be the most nerve-wracking part.
I read that you thought Taylor Schilling had the toughest role, playing straight man to all these quirky characters, is actually the most challenging part to take on. Why do you think that is?
My character is the host, he’s gregarious and he can say and act however he wants. In general on set, the bigger, hammier character gets more feedback and get more laughs. Whereas when you’re doing your job as the straight man, you’re not really getting any compliments. It’s harder day in and day out, because you’re not getting a pat on the back. Like to me—Ringo Starr is my favorite drummer. He’s my favorite because most people wouldn’t think he’s a great drummer. But that’s why he’s the best drummer—what he’s doing is very complicated but he’s making it seem like it’s effortless.
It’s interesting that you say it’s harder not to get that “pat on the back”. Do you think a lot of actors feel like it’s essential to get that?
I don’t think if you’re on a movie set and everyone’s laughing the entire time that that’s necessarily a good thing. I’ve worked on movies before where there was a lot of high-fiving going around and then you watch the movie and it’s not funny. And I’ve definitely worked with actors that need that pat on the back. I don’t really need someone to say, “That was f**king amazing!” I think Bill Murray is amazing, Steve Martin is amazing, Zach Galifianakis is amazing. So, I’m not going to believe you if you tell me it’s amazing. I’m going to believe you if you say, “Ok, we have it, let’s move on.”
There were so many moments that felt improvised. Is there a secret to making a scripted movie feel that way?
Adam Scott, numero uno. He will sometimes say lines that I thought he made up and then I would look in the script and it’s written exactly there. It’s an alchemy. How do you say a line and make it sound like you just thought of it? We also shot at night, and maybe there’s a kind of deliriousness that leads to looseness in the work. We were shooting nine pages a night. Most movies, you shoot two or three. There’s just no time to overthink things.
What do you make of one of the film’s quotes: “It bothers me that the curiosity [for other people] will always live there during marriage.” How much do you think it applies to real-life long-term relationships?
I think it’s foolish to think that the person you’re with is never going to wonder about other people. That’s part of life. I think the bad thing is pretending that it’s not true. It becomes a lie that’s going to become bigger and bigger and bigger. I think that if you’re in a relationship and you think the person you’re with only thinks about you sexually and romantically, you’re living in a weird world. Because there’s really nothing weird about it.
Catch “The Overnight” in theaters on June 19.
This story "Jason Schwartzman Talks Stripping and Swinging on 'The Overnight'" was written by Thea Glassman.