It’s been nine years since “Rushmore,” and your first and only project with Wes Anderson. How did you two reunite for this one?
Well, since “Rushmore” we’ve been more than in touch. It’s safe to say that we’re kind of best friends. It never seemed to work out [making another film together]. There was a chance…that I was going to be in “The Royal Tenenbaums” but that didn’t work out. It just never worked out to work together. Then this film just came about because Wes just brought it up to me one day. He said, “I got an idea about a movie about three brother on a train to India and I want you to be one of the brothers.” I was so happy. After all these years, coming back together was great. I was just overjoyed and speechless and nervous and all kinds of emotions. I was honored.
You also get your first screenwriting credit for this film. What was it like to be able to sit down with Wes and Roman Coppola and put this script together?
Well, Wes’s first pitch to me was writing a story about three brothers on a train to India. But as writers we wanted to make it as personal as we could. We wanted it almost too personal as terms of scripts go. We wanted to make it honest. [Wes] wanted us to go to India and write the movie there. He wanted us to go on adventures.
What is it about Wes that makes his such an unique voice in this industry?
The reason I enjoy working with him and why I think audiences are interested in his work is because his films are kind of handmade. A lot of people collaborate on them and give their ideas but Wes really is like a cobbler that makes a shoe by hand as opposed to a machine that makes a shoe. Each little choice that you can make, everything is custom-made by Wes. He loves to make these movies. They’re so personal to him. I think that a great feeling to work on something that you love.
Do you think you’d be where you are today without “Rushmore?”
Oh, absolutely not. I wouldn’t be on the phone with you if I hadn’t been in “Rushmore.”
So, I guess you owe a lot to Wes?
I owe my entire contribution to film has been because of Wes. He chose me. Had he not chose me I don’t think I would have gone on [in acting].
Tell me about shooting in India. Did you do anything exciting in between takes and after production?
Oh, yeah. Every day to me was exciting. Every thing I saw was exciting. What I did of a lot in India was pursue and find musical instruments. So I bot like a sitar and some weird Indian drums and drum machines and beat boxes.
That’s cool. Did you learn how to play any of them?
They’re impossible to play. I thought I would get into them but I think I need a good instructor.
So they’ve become just things to decorate the house with?
For now, that’s what they’ve become but hopefully they will become more.
Of course, “The Darjeeling Limited” takes us on a “spiritual journey,” which seems to me like a popular theme over the last few months. We had another film like “Into the Wild” that delves into the same ideas. Personally, have you ever gone on one of these spiritual journey and, if so, what did you learn about yourself?
Oh, yeah. I’m kind of a sentimental type of person so I can make a spiritual journey out of going down to the liquor store. I can like find meaning in just about anything. As long as you keep your eyes open and ask a lot of questions, I think any experience can be heart-opening.
Why is the short film that precedes “Darjeeling” — “Hotel Chevalier” — so important to the feature film?
Well, basically its a companion piece to the feature film. It’s like a prologue in a book. It give you a lot of information about my character and where he is coming from and where he has been. When you see the feature film, you kind of need to see the short film. Without it, I’m sure the feature film will be good. But if you want the answer to what my character is going through, people should see the short film.
Tell me what it was like to work with Natalie Portman?
Well, she is the most amazing little actress I’ve ever partied with. She’s insane. I love her.
You’re playing Ringo Starr in your next movie, “Walk Hard.” Have you met the Beatle and, if not, how do you prepare for a role like this?
Well, I’m only in a couple of minutes. There is a scene where the main character meets the Beatles, but I’m only in it for a second. But I haven’t met him and I’m a little bit nervous. I just hope that he doesn’t get mad. The last thing I need in this world is a God damn Beatle mad at me.