Untitled Document Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman were cracking each other up again.

The Shopgirl co-stars were recounting how they became friends back in 1999, when seated next to each other at some event.

"It was immediate," Schwartzman said, snapping his fingers. "We just got along."

If you’ve seen these two on-screen, you might assume their differences to be greater than their similarities. From her breakthrough role on "My So-Called Life" through attention-grabbing turns in William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet and Igby Goes Down, Danes, 26, has projected an elegance, maturity and emotional depth beyond her years. Meanwhile, Schwartzman, 25, has anchored his less extensive career by playing restless misfits – such as in Rushmore and I (heart) Huckabees.

Yet these two, whose off-screen rapport is far easier than the awkward relationship between her introverted clerk and his slacker in Shopgirl, are bound by more than just traveling in the same fab circles. Both have pursued other artistic outlets – she as a dancer, he as a rock drummer – only to rededicate themselves to acting.

They also both grew up in artistically inclined families.

Danes’ parents are artists, having met at the Rhode Island School of Design and pursued photography (him) and textile design (her).

Schwartzman’s mother is actress Talia Shire (Rocky, The Godfather), sister of director Francis Ford Coppola. His cousins include Sofia Coppola and Nicolas Cage, and his first acting experience came as a 15-year-old Sofia cast him in her adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald story Bernice Bobs Her Hair, which they performed in a barn.

Earlier this year Schwartzman was directed by Sofia Coppola again, but this time at Versailles for her upcoming movie Marie-Antoinette, in which he plays Louis XVI.

Danes wound up learning the "method" from the Lee Strasburg Theater Institute, performed in student films, got an agent at age 12, moved to Los Angeles with her family and her career took off.

"I had gotten a lot of success and had no idea what to do with it," she said. "Really, no clue. I didn’t know what movies I wanted to see, really, never mind what movies I wanted to make. I didn’t know if I was acting out of habit or genuine desire."

So she attended Yale University for a couple of years.

"I needed to know that I could exist outside of the industry, too, and I did," she said. "I can. I’ll be fine if it all goes away, and I really know that. I internalize that, and I think that’s protected me. So yeah, then lo and behold I wasn’t doing it out of habit. I was doing it out of genuine desire, and I am doing it again."

Schwartzman’s career crossroads came as his band, Phantom Planet, was on the rise; it performs the theme song to the TV series "The O.C." Schwartzman, who had focused more on music than acting after his acclaimed debut in Rushmore, said he felt in his gut that he had to leave the band behind.

"Shortly after that [I decided] I need to focus on acting right now," he said. "I made those two decisions, and then all of a sudden I (heart) Huckabees came into the world. Now there’s no question, I pursue acting; that’s it. But I must play music and listen to music every day or else I go crazy."

Meanwhile, Danes performed a full-length dance piece, "Christina Olson: American Model," last month in New York. But otherwise the two actors and friends finally can say they have their eyes on the same prize.

"We want to make good movies," Danes said. "I don’t think either of us wants to only jiggle our [breasts]." She cracked up.

"Never been in the same sentence with that phrase before," Schwartzman noted.

How did it feel?

"Oddly comfortable," he said before the two once again dissolved into laughter.

© 2005, Chicago Tribune.

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