By Katie Turpen
In some people’s minds, Robert Schwartzman will always be the nerdy underdog that won Anne Hathaway’s character’s heart in 2001 film Princess Diaries. They still stop him on the street to comment on it.
“Being an actor, your face has become the movie poster in their minds,” Schwartzman says. “I appreciate it and was happy to be a part of that movie. It’s all groovy.”
He’s also part of a very famous family: he is the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, cousin of Nicolas Cage, and brother of actor Jason Schwartzman, to name a few. But what he really wants to be known for is his music. Schwartzman started the pop-rock band Rooney in 1999, named after Ed Rooney, the principal in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. The band toured with bands such as Weezer and The Strokes and had a cameo appearance on the television show The O.C. Their most popular song is lead single “When Did You Go Missing?” from their second album Calling The World.
But for the last six years, the band has taken a hiatus. Schwartzman has been anything but idle during that time, having scored and produced a feature film Dreamland, launched an iPhone app for musicians, and built a recording studio facility. However, he says Rooney has always been “his baby” and the call to give fans a new album was too loud to ignore. He released Washed Away this past spring.
“I’d be walking around L.A. and people would be like, ‘Hey, when is the new Rooney album coming out?’” he says. “I think it’s awesome that Rooney has created this whole world. I’ve missed having that active and alive. I was ready to put something out.”
Schwartzman wrote, produced, and engineered all the songs on the album himself. When asked how he think he’s evolved as an artist over the years, he shies away from talking about himself in that way. It’s evident despite his talents and celebrity status that this musician remains humble.
“It’s hard analyzing yourself and how you’ve evolved, but I’ve really come to appreciate what I have more and more,” he says. “It’s easy to take this for granted. I’ve worked really hard and am remain focused on the future.”
The new album has an upbeat rock-meets-power pop feel that is electrifying during a live show. The thrill of performing on stage goes back to Schwartzman’s original mission when started Rooney.
“I think it’s addicting to play live,” he says. “There are great moments every time there is a show. I started Rooney mainly so I could play live shows.”
In addition to starring in films, Schwartzman produces them as well. He directed and produced Dreamland, a comedy, drama, music film all in one set to release in November (and no, it’s not about Birmingham barbecue). In both it and other projects, he enjoys the way film and music intersect.
“Music in movies creates a heightened visual experience,” he says. “These are two mediums that really complement each other.”
So what does this musician and filmmaker do in his rare moments of downtime? Schwartzman steers clear of the Hollywood party scene. He’ll take a quiet evening with friends any night.
“I’m a sucker for game nights, small house parties, cooking, and bowling,” he says. “I love bringing people together.”
Be sure to catch Rooney live at Zydeco on Saturday, Oct. 22. For more, visit rooneymusic.com.