Instead he gravitated to music, and his icon was Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. It wasn't until he turned 16 that movies made an impact on his life. His mother rented "Dog Day Afternoon," "The Graduate" and "Harold & Maude." He watched them all night long and was hooked.
"I wanted to rip my skin off I was so happy. That was the moment!" he said.
So while Schwartzman was playing in a band in Los Angeles, he auditioned for Wes Anderson's "Rushmore." To this day, he doesn't know what Anderson saw in him, but he was enamored of the director from the start.
"'Rushmore' was the first script I read," Schwartzman said. "I told people in casting that I was wasting their time. When I sat down with Wes, I just thought, 'I want to be this guy's friend,' and was envious of who would get the part because he would spend time with Wes. I loved him -- instant love, but I was nervous to love him too much because I might never see him again."
He described the call from Anderson telling him he got the lead as "one of the most beautiful moments in my life." He was so taken aback that he could not tell anyone for 24 hours.
After "Rushmore," Schwartzman went back to high school, where fellow students attributed his three-month absence to illness. He did not rid them of their illusions simply because he did not believe the movie would actually come out. But that possibility did not worry him because he felt amply rewarded just by being on set with Murray.
"He was a super god to me," Schwartzman said.
Schwartzman's collaboration with Anderson did not stop there. In September 2007, he penned his first screenplay, "The Darjeeling Limited," which he co-wrote with his cousin Roman Coppola and Anderson. He also starred in the film, as "Peter," alongside Owen Wilson and Adrien Brody.
Anderson subsequently cast Schwartzman in his upcoming animated film, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," which co-stars George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Murray. Schwartzman voiced the son of Clooney's Mr. Fox character.
Anderson utilized stop-motion animation because "he wanted the movie to feel human even though it's about animals," said Schwartzman.
Unlike typical animation movies where actors speak their lines while standing alone in sound booths, Anderson grouped the actors into a house and had them enact the script while they were being recorded by a soundman with a boom microphone.
"Wes wanted it to be naturalistic," Schwartzman said, adding that when he and Clooney had a digging scene, they literally dug together in dirt.
Apart from his family, Schwartzman's two loves remain movies and music. In addition to his acting career, he is active in the indie record music scene. In 2006, he created a musical rock solo project with Coconut Records. Their single "Bored to Death," written by Schwartzman and Ames, is the theme song of the HBO series.
As for his acting career, he still feels like it is a dream.
"I feel like I'm going to have a Wizard of Oz moment, where nothing is real. I love it, but I have a lot of stress because it's all I want to do and all I can do. I don't take it lightly. Every time I go to a movie set, I can't believe I'm part of this great thing," he said with amazement.
Then, misquoting Brian Wilson's song "'Til I Die," Schwartzman softly sang, "These things I'll feel until I die."
HBO's new television series, "Bored to Death," is set to premiere Sept. 20.