An Interview with Scott Schwartz

cap

Scott Schwartz appeared in The Toy alongside Richard Pryor and Jackie Gleason in 1982. The following year he went on to play Flick in A Christmas Story, providing the now infamous scene in which his tongue sticks to a frozen pole. Schwartz also worked in television appearing on a couple episodes of ABC Afterschool Special, the made for TV movie A Time to Live (with Liza Minnelli, Corey Haim, and Jeffrey DeMunn), and an episode of 21 Jump Street among others. After a stint in the adult film industry Scott went on to help create a line of celebrity trading cards known as Americana, going on to write for the sports card magazine Beckett in 2008. He is listed as #85 on Vh-1’s The Greatest: 100 Greatest Child Stars.

Aside from acting from staring your career in acting at the age of 9 what was your childhood like? How did it change most when you became an actor?

My childhood was pretty normal, grew up in Bridgewater, NJ, was attending school at Eisenhower Middle school, playing sports, riding my bike to school, playing with my friends, all normal stuff really. Until the films nothing changed so to speak. I wasn’t able to play “school team” sports as my time was taken up by auditions and commercial jobs.

Previous to getting the movies I did a few shows in NY, one off-Broadway and one Broadway show, Frankenstein at the Palace Theatre. Those were fun experiences and I got the chance to work with some really terrific people like Diane Wiest, Tom Moore, John Glover, John Carradine, and Jill P. Rose.

You have worked alongside your father at his sports and movie memorabilia shop since 1987. Do you think it is fair to say the two of you are close? What would you say is the most important thing you have learned from him over the years?

I haven’t always worked alongside my dad since 1987. I did many other jobs along the way but always helped him when he needed me. I’d say we’ve been close and not close, that’s how fathers-sons go, good times and bad, nothing different than any other Father-Son relationship I’m sure.

I learned a lot about business. I worked with my dad growing up when we lived in NJ and he was a window cleaner, I used to get up at5:30am and work with him from the time I was probably 12 or so, during the summers and school vacations. I learned the value of a dollar, work ethic, how to treat people, how to deal with good and bad situations. Many things we see, hear and comprehend we don’t even realize end up becoming learning tools to use all throughout life.

Is it true he was Elvis’ company clerk in Germany? Did he ever talk about what Elvis was like as a person?

Yes, that is true. My dad Dan was Elvis’ company clerk in Germany, in fact he was on the ship going there, where all those people (mostly women) were screaming and going nutty, my dad was right there on shipboard. My dad talked to Elvis pretty much every day as he had to get his pass to get off the base and my dad was the company clerk, so he’d come in and say “Hello Danny, I gotta get my pass” (in his Elvis voice of course), so my dad would get the pass, get it signed off on and Elvis would be on his way to his home right off the base. Dad says Elvis was just a normal guy, if he saw my dad walking on the other side of the street, he’d always yell “Hey Danny, how you doin?” with a smile.

dad elvis

What was it like to work with director Richard Donnor( The Goonies, Superman, Lethal Weapon) and Jackie Gleason and Richard Pryor on The Toy? Did you learn a lot from that experience?

Too much to write really, it was an amazing experience. Richard Donner is like a osecnd dad to me, Gleason and Pryor were beyond nice and kind to me, shared endless hours of knowledge and guidance, words can’t describe all they have done for me over the past 30+ years, even being gone their words still guide me and the experience gave me untold amounts of abilities behind and in front of a camera.

You also had the chance to work with Liza Minnelli and Corey Haim was that an enjoyable experience? Do you ever miss Corey?

We shot A Time To Live back in ’86, Liza was for the most part a nice woman, playing her son didn’t hurt too much either. Corey from day one was like a little brother to me, of course I miss him. I miss his smile, his laugh, his voice. Corey and I had a special bond and in my heart his memory will always be cherished.

What are your personal feelings on death and such? Do you hope there is more to life than what we know while living? How do you hope to be remembered when your time is up?

I don’t look forward to getting old. Being in my mid 40’s I’ve had to deal with many friends passing away already and it is not pleasant. I deal with it as they are on location and I’m not sure when they’ll get back. If there is more to our existence than breathing and where I am not, I guess when I get here I’ll find out. So far no one’s gone there, come back and shared it so for now I’ll just enjoy the time here each and every day. I’d like to be remembered as someone who made people laugh, someone who cared and tried to help make this wacky world better. Can’t of course help everyone but for those whose lives I’ve touched, I hope they think of me and smile.

Do you have any moments from over the course of your career that stand out most in your mind?

There are many moments, meeting people who I liked, was a fan of mostly, but of course seeing myself on the big screen for the first time in The Toy , that moment definitely stands out.

flick tongue

Do you ever get tired of people mentioning your role in A Christmas Story? Why do you think that particular film has became such a Holiday classic?

There are thousands of films that have been made over the past 30 years, the fact that this “little movie” has captured people to raise it to “Americana” status is beyond belief. People sometimes can go overboard with how they approach me but for the most part it is just love and an appreciation for the work, people are people we are all a fan of someone. The movie is a cross-generational film, from 6-66 people just love the story and relationship between a child and his father, the rest of the film is just fun.. Leg lamp, Chinese restaurant, tongue stuck to pole, Red Ryder BB gun, it is all fun that no one has to hide from either their grandparents or kids.

You have said that being a child actor is truly a bad job can you elaborate on that? Would you advise children who wish to become actors to maybe wait until they are older? Do you think it places too much stress on a person too early on? Have you ever regretted starting your own career at such an early age?

I don’t think I’ve said being a “child actor’ is a bad job, I’ve said being an “actor” is a bad job. It doesn’t prepare you for things in life that are basic, long hours, constant rejection, endless search for a job to pay your bills. Being a child actor is easy, no bills, no rent/mortgage, no car payment, insurance etc.. parents take care of all that stuff. IF a child actor doesn’t learn anything but being “an actor” he/she is in trouble. Acting if you can get work is awesome, if not, you better learn how to do many other jobs to keep working to pay your bills, learn lighting, writing, directing, producing, everything you can OR if those producers don’t hire you it can and will be a most difficult life ahead. To me being a child actor wasn’t stressful, I always had a home to go to, food on the table, friends to see, I just learned my lines and the rest was easy. I don’t regret starting out when I was 8 years old. Why would I ? I’ve gotten to live the life of Riley basically, sure I missed out on school activities, sports I wanted to play etc but the exchange was a lifetime of experiences that money can’t buy.

Was it somewhat therapeutic to write your biography?

Enormously! When it’s done I want people to say “Wow”, not “oh that poor guy.” Lots of up’s and downs along the ride, it has truly been a rollercoaster. Thinking back, bring up good and bad memories are what life consists of but it’s how we deal with the good times and the bad times that bring us all to where we currently are mentally and how we deal with daily life.

Are there any little known things about you that your fans might be surprised to learn?

Sure, but that’s what the book is for. If I was to share one thing, I actually started “working” when I was about 3+ years old when my mom managed a 7-11 in Sommeville, NJ. Mom would put me on a box and I’ll press the cash register buttons for her, I’d get up with her at 5am and hang out all day with her, some days I’d go to babysitters but lots of days were spent with my mom and the customers.

How have you changed most as an individual since your early days?

I remember that kid, when he was 6-7-8 etc.. but I’m far from that guy. We all change over the years, we all mature, everyone finds what motivates them, mine is work mostly. I enjoy working, getting things done and helping people make a living. Being that I do book several celebrities for shows, autograph signings etc, it’s nice to call friends and tell them they will be going someplace, making a few bucks and being able to put food on the table. I just realized that being an intelligent person and being a “jack of all trades” really helps making life easier.

With Corey & Bernie Haim

With Corey & Bernie Haim

What do you think is key to a life well lived?                                             

Remember how well you have it. What I mean by that is this, we can walk, talk, drive, earn a living, 10 fingers, 10 toes, the absolute basics But for some that isn’t so. Walk inside a pediatrics ward, see kids who have cancer, see people who can’t talk, have MS, ALS etc… I smile every day, sure we all have bad days, but know the sun will come out tomorrow, and tomorrow is another day. No one’s future is known, make it as well as you want to make it. Be happy, if I couldn’t be happy I’d buy a shovel and start digging. We are only here a short time (yes, 80 years is a short time compared to the history of the world), enjoy it all, love your parents, love animals, love all whom you want, to hate is a stupid emotion, unless that person has done you wrong but to hate to just hate is truly stupid.

Do you have a dream project you’d most like to bring into being?

That ship has already sailed, I wanted to do a sequel to The Toy and give a big portion of it to Richard Pryor for his dealing with MS but it wasn’t meant to be. Columbia pictures shot me down with nonsense and lies, I had huge mega stars attached, everyone was willing to do it for basically nothing to help Richard but like I said, it wasn’t meant to be. Now if someone gives me the opportunity to work as an actor, I’ll say Thank You and do the best job I can do for them.

Is there anything you’d like to say before you go?

Life is life, Love is love, if you have someone to love tell them how you feel once a day. Spend a moment each day reflecting on your life and try to learn from each and everything you do. I have learned along the journey of life that you can’t expand your horizons until you expand your mind. Sitting on FB for hours each day or living a life of drama is not what will lead anyone to a prosperous or enjoyable life and it certainly isn’t what others want. Love, live, enjoy, feel blessed for what you have, and never be jealous of what others have. Lastly, Smile, it costs nothing to smile but you smiling at someone may put a smile on someone’s face who isn’t as fortunate as you are or have what you have.

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