Five Things With: Renfield star Ben Schwartz

Five Things With: Renfield star Ben Schwartz

From Cocaine Bear and Jim Carey movies, to working with Nicolas Cage on Renfield, we run down Five Things with Ben Schwartz.

Set in the modern day, Renfield switches Bram Stoker’s classic vampiric tale on its head to tell the story from Renfield’s (Nicholas Hoult) point of view as he starts to realise his long relationship with Dracula (Nicolas Cage) is, in fact, toxic.  After getting tangled up in a local gang war after an altercation with the leader’s son (Ben Schwartz) and meeting up with cop Rebecca (Awkwafina), he starts to realise his relationship with the Count might not have to be eternal after all…

Schwart plays the fantastically named Tedward ‘Teddy’ Lobo – the heir of a gangster empire – in the movie and we sat down with Schwartz to find out five things about him…

1. He enjoyed playing a bad guy for the first time in Renfield

Schwartz is probably most well known for playing quirky chancer Jean-Ralphio in Parks And Recreation or our favourite cheeky blue hedgehog in Sonic The Hedgehog, but in Renfield he plays Teddy, the heir of a very nasty gangster empire and he liked playing a character that is completely different to one he’d played before. “It’s fun to play the bad guy,” he laughs. “I’ve never played the bad guy before. I’m always the good guy or a voice of an animated animal that’s trying to do good. So it was very exciting to play the bad guy and have shootouts and drive and have chase scenes and learning how to fight on camera for the first time!”

2. He cites Garry Shandling as a mentor and inspiration

Schwartz has been in the business around 17 years now as a performer, producer and writer, and has worked with many legends. He says that actor, comedian, writer, director, and producer Garry Shandling was a big inspiration to him. “He was a brilliant guy,” Schwartz nods. “I was lucky enough to be in a basketball league at his house every week for seven or eight years. And every time I went there I just learned a lot. Not even work stuff, I just loved his brain and talking to him, but I found a lot of inspiration from him.”

And Shandling isn’t the only person who’s inspired Schwartz throughout his career: “I found a lot of inspiration from Billy Crystal when I worked with [him],” Schwartz continues. “And Amy Poehler started The Comedy Theatre where I learned how to do comedy. And [Don] Cheadle is a machine. He’s one of the best actors in the universe, and he’s a kind, good dude. I love watching how he treats himself and how he treats his friends and his family. 

“I feel very lucky. I’ve had a lot of people that I look up to and if I have a question about life or business, I can call somebody and chat with them.

“But Shandling, man, if you guys haven’t seen The Larry Sanders Show, it’s one of the best shows ever made, I think one of the best comedies ever made. “

3. One of his favourite movie villains is Heath Ledger’s Joker

Schwartz plays a movie villain in Renfield, and he has a few favourite movie villains of his own. “One of my favourite villains was Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight series,” he tells us. “I loved it. I thought he was so in the zone in that movie.”

To get in the right frame of mind for his role as Teddy he watched Mean Streets, Donnie Brasco, and Scarface. “I think that my character has those posters on his wall and could never be them, but pretends that one day he’s going to try to be them!”

4. He’s glad that Cocaine Bear exists

Though Schwartz has been part of plenty of established IPs, he says that anytime he writes his own scripts now, they’re always original. “I love the idea of bringing something new,” he says. 

“I’m a sucker for Marvel movies but I love what Lorde and Miller does. If they’re going to tackle an IP like Spider-man, they do Spider-verse, which I think is one of the best movies of the past decade.

“For me as a comedian and as a writer for studios who writes comedies, the fact that Cocaine Bear did so well and the fact that that movie comes out, it allows me to take bigger risks and try to sell movies that are comedic. Growing up I had Steve Martin, Jim Carrey and John Candy movies. Now there’s so few comedies out anymore. My hope is this is going to start a trend to take a couple more risks on comedies and do it.”

5. He grilled Nicolas Cage on his movies

Well if you’re going to get a chance to do a movie with Nicolas Cage, you’re going to want to talk about his impressive body of work. “My moments with Nic Cage were mostly all on set,” Schwartz remembers. “But the coolest part about that is when they said ‘cut’, he and I would go to our chairs, and he’s still dressed as Dracula, but I’m like, “I loved Adaptation, I watched it twice in a row. I thought it was unbelievable.” I’m just talking to him when he’s dressed as Dracula, but I’m like, “so Raising Arizona….” and just grilling him on all of his movies.

“It was heaven to be around him. He has more stories than anybody. He also knows everybody and then you randomly forget that he’s a Coppola. He’s done and seen everything. So it’s a treasure trove, a museum of wonders inside Nic Cage’s head.”

Renfield is available to Download & Keep now and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on 17th July