Elisabeth Moss and Jason Schwartzman on Their Sundance Drama, Listen Up Philip, and Golden Globes Speeches

Jason Schwartzman and Elisabeth Moss. Photo: Kristin Murphy/Getty

This time last year, Elisabeth Moss was at Sundance debuting Top of the Lake, the Jane Campion miniseries that premiered in its seven-hour entirety at the festival and won Moss a Golden Globe earlier this month. The Mad Men star returned to the fest this year with two movies: the comedy-thriller The One I Love (co-starring Mark Duplass), and Listen Up Philip, in which she plays the long-suffering girlfriend of an increasingly self-absorbed Brooklyn novelist (Jason Schwartzman, who gets to say all kinds of fun lines like, “I hope this will be good for us, but especially for me”). Below, Moss and Schwartman talk Golden Globes experiences, playing an asshole, and updates on the Bored to Death movie and the end of Mad Men.

Moss: We met here last year!

Then we ran into each other in New Orleans, then you won the Golden Globe!
Moss: Then I won the Golden Globe. [Laughs.]
Schwartzman: Was it scary to sit up there and look at all those people in the audience, or were you not thinking about it?
Moss: So not thinking about it. It was like my words in front of my face trying to think of what to say and who to thank. And then the wrap-it-up thing.

And were you like, I’m going to be defiant about this and just keep going? Drag me off?
Moss: No, it was my first Golden Globe. I didn’t want to be that person. I was like, Yes, I will wrap it up. Thank you. Thank you so much, monitor. Wrapping it right up. Will do. On it. Watch me wrap this in a bow. Right there with ya. The thing is, you have a weird consciousness of how stupid it is to feel so thrown off. You just won an award, which, by the way, you dressed up for, you went all the way to the venue, you had all this time to think about the fact that you might [win]. It’s not like they just punked you.
Schwartzman: “Oh, I just thought this was dinner.
Moss: You’re up there and you’re definitely like, “I can’t breathe, and my entire body is shaking and I feel like an idiot for being like that.”
Schwartzman: It’s funny, because it didn’t look like you were shaking. I wonder if you can’t really perceive shaking unless someone’s holding paper. Shaking maybe doesn’t translate.
Moss: But my legs were shaking and I was wearing a dress that showed my legs.
Schwartzman: You looked great, by the way. I loved that dress.
Moss: Thank you.

I will say, this rapport is very different from what I just saw ten minutes ago.
Schwartzman: Oh, you just saw the movie.

Yeah, I feel like I have to wash off some self-loathing.
Moss: We actually did get along really well. We’ve known each other for years. Pre-Rushmore, and pre-anything I ever did …

Where did you meet?
Moss: He was in a band [Phantom Planet], obviously, and I had a friend who dated a bass player in Maroon 5. And I just started becoming friends with those people before they were Maroon 5, and they would always play. It then became this big social group; everyone hung out together. And so [Jason and I] were friends and we got along really great and in rehearsal [for this movie], we would laugh in between takes and sometimes laugh during takes. But then we would have to fight and he had to be an asshole and I had to be super upset with him all the time.

Are we supposed to think that Philip becomes more of an asshole as he goes along? Because how did he get all of these women to fall in love with him and then hate him so much?
Schwartzman: About girls liking him, that’s not for me to answer.
Moss: We were talking about this last night, and I think [Jason’s] wife agreed. There were like four girls in the car, and all the girls were like, “Yep, totally would fall in love with that guy … totally get it.” I think girls understand it more than guys do. And he shows a lot of charm and he shows a lot of humor.
Schwartzman: I think Alex [Ross Perry, the director] said one time that this is a story about everyone who is in one of the worst times in their lives.

But it’s supposed to be the best part. He just published an acclaimed novel.
Schwartzman: There’s just something about this person … he’s not good right now.
Moss: And people handle success in different ways.
Schwartzman: At the end of the movie, Alex is like, “You’re not supposed to feel sympathy, really. You’re just supposed to feel like, Jesus.” And that’s an experience that I’ve had in my life: It’s like you see people from a distance and you go, How is that person not getting it? How can that person act that way? They’re not aware of anything that they’re doing. That’s sort of what’s going on.

Jason, were you basing Philip on any assholes you know?
Schwartzman: I do believe all of us have every sort of basic instrument in us. We have a little violin, a little flute. He’s an extreme personality. I think Philip is really single-minded and just has extremely high standards. I just made him impossible to please. I was also thinking maybe he was just a curmudgeonly old man combined with a baby.

A baby?
Schwartzman: Stubborn, like, “No. No. No!” You can’t win with a baby. You can’t really begin to reason with a 2-year-old. You’ve got to take control of certain situations. Kind of like an old man baby, cornered bird situation.

Were you and Alex friends before this, Jason?
Schwartzman: No. I was in Phantom Planet, and Alex, when we started to shoot the movie, showed me a picture of me and him. I must have been 21? Or 20? And he was 16 or 17. In Philadelphia, when Phantom Planet came to play, we took a picture together. And so I met him then but I don’t really remember.
Moss: That’s so funny!
Schwartzman: [After I read the script], we sat down to have dinner together. We almost had a date in a weird way. We had a really long dinner and went and had drinks. I was like, “So, can I call you?” But here’s an example of a total Philip thing: We had this great night. It was, like, the best. I say to Alex, “I love the movie, and you, and if you would want to do this, I would love to do this.” He said, “Really? Oh, great. Wow, that’s just amazing. From where I’m standing, there’s really only two people who can play this and you’re one of them, so I’d be so happy.” And I was like, “Who’s the other person?” It was the weirdest sentence to me ever. It was exactly something Philip would say.
Moss: Who doesn’t say, “There’s only one person”? You just lie and say that there’s one.
: There are only two people that could possibly play this. Oh, okay. Thank you.

So you feel like Alex really gets the character?
Moss: The thing is, Alex is way funnier. He’s nicer. He’s not an actual asshole. He’s not a dick. He has that confidence, and he has a sense of humor, and he has that honesty. Like, no filter.

Jason, is the Bored to Death movie moving along?
Schwartzman: Apparently Jonathan Ames is writing it. If all goes well, it should be made.

Are you so excited?
Schwartzman: I’m trying to keep my hopes at an altitude of more like sea level. To do a Bored to Death movie, you know, eight things have to happen perfectly for it to happen. So I just hope that all eight do. I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. But I’ve talked to Zach [Galifianakis] and Ted [Danson] and Jonathan … and we’re SO excited. I’ve even talked to them recently where I was like, God, I wish we were still doing it right now. My dream is that they would just pick us up for a fourth, fifth season.

You’ve just got to get TBS to do it.
Schwartzman: It was just so much fun. Maybe you could put in your article, that could we come back for more seasons? I’d like to go back to series.

Do you have residual detective skills?
Schwartzman: I do find that it sparked a thing in me that I want to get to the bottom of things in a way that I used to not want to. Like, How did this towel get here? Because you said you used it to dry off our dog … You know, that kind of stuff. More home stuff. I’m more of a domestic detective at this point. A domective.

So, Elisabeth: John Slattery is here. Christina Hendricks is here. Everybody is in movies from your show. Slattery said to a friend of mine at Rolling Stone that he’s ready for Mad Men to be over. So I’m curious what your feelings are on that.
Moss: It’s bittersweet. I keep saying that word, but it really is what it is. We all have done the show for nine years because we’ve taken such uneven breaks.
Schwartzman: Holy shit.
Moss: I know. We made the pilot when I was 23, but we didn’t start until a year later. And then we took a year off [owing to the writers’ strike]. Nine. Years. So it will have been 23 to 32 that I will have done the show.
Schwartzman: You flip the numbers.
Moss: Yeah. I can’t believe we’re shooting the seventh season. We’ve been around longer than any other show right now. Boardwalk Empire’s ending. We were around before Breaking Bad and we’re still here. So I can’t complain. It’s going to be very weird and sad; it’s just going to be really weird not to play that character anymore.

Moss and Schwartzman on Listen Up Philip