Robert Schwartzman

Robert Schwartzman was out one night with his then-girlfriend when a woman came up to them and, after introducing herself as a unicorn, asked if they’d be interested in a threesome.

“And we didn’t know what that was and so we all just started talking, and we had a really good, nice encounter. She was really sweet,” Schwartzman explains. “On our walk home [my girlfriend and I] were kind of laughing and were like ‘That was so weird.’ And I looked it up to see if this was a real thing, and there is a term for someone who hooks up with couples, and it’s called a unicorn. So I just kind of filed that in the back of my mind.”

The idea was brought to life in his film “The Unicorn,” the second project the actor and Rooney musician has directed, which premiered at SXSW as one of the 10 Narrative Competition features.

The film stars Nick Rutherford and Lauren Lapkus as a couple who, you guessed it, decide to have a threesome. Any awkwardness this idea might bring forward was entirely what convinced Schwartzman it was a story worth telling.

“Cringe moments are really funny to me; I like when things are really uncomfortable. It’s that kind of comedy that I really like, when you’re kind of biting your lip, going ‘Oh my god, don’t do it!’” he says. “When things are too broad I think you lose the human heart in it; so I wanted a lot of human, relatable moments, peppered in there with absurdity and comedy to take you on this comedic journey.”

Schwartzman is a SXSW veteran, having performed with Rooney on several occasions and come other years to see films. “Weirdly enough, I was in Texas last year and then I came to see some movies at SXSW; we hadn’t shot ‘The Unicorn’ yet, so it feels exciting to come back the next year with a movie,” he says.

His approach to directing Rutherford and Lapkus was built off his upbringing in a house of filmmakers (Talia Shire for a mother, Jason Schwartzman for a brother, Francis Ford Coppola for an uncle, Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage for cousins, as a recap).

“For me directing actors, I grew up with [my mom] running scenes in the middle of our kitchen while she was making breakfast. That’s part of being around actors; you start to understand the sensitivities, the insecurities, the inspiration, the creativity, the collaborating world that you can bring to it if you allow that to happen,” Schwartzman says. “It’s sort of like hosting a party: you kind of want to run around and make sure that everything’s OK.”

Robert Schwartzman’s “The Unicorn” 

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