Schwartzman was born June 26, 1980, to producer Jack Schwartzman and actress Talia Shire, the latter best known as Rocky Balboa's love interest Adrian. He graduated from the Windwood School in 1999 and continued to live with his mom and two brothers at their home in the Los Angeles area.
Chosen at the tail end of an exhausting casting search, Schwartzman burst into the film industry with his deft, hilarious portrayal of chronic overachiever Max Fischer in Wes Anderson's critically acclaimed Rushmore (1998). Since then, the young actor kept a low profile, opting to spend time with his band Phantom Planet, which recorded an album for Epic Records. Keeping with his geek-chic nature, he also chose small, quirky roles in television, such as his guest appearance as a slimy fake-ID dealer on NBC's tragically short-lived series Freaks and Geeks or his work in spoofs for the 1999 MTV Movie Awards.
He maintained his credibility in the independent scene during the next couple of years, appearing in Spun, and acting in his cousin Roman Coppola's CQ. After a role on the short-lived, though critically acclaimed, Fox sitcom Cracking Up in 2003, Schwartzman began kicking his film career into high gear. After a role in the quirky 2004 David O. Russell ensemble comedy I Heart Huckabees, the young actor appeared in 2005's big-screen version of Bewitched with Will Ferrell. He then played a lovable slacker in the intimate, critically acclaimed dramedy Shopgirl, appearing with Claire Danes and Steve Martin, who wrote the novella that the script was adapted from.
In 2006, Schwartzman joined the cast of his cousin Sophia Coppola's biopic Marie Antoinette, playing French king Louis XVI opposite star Kirsten Dunst. Then in 2007, he re-teamed with Wes Anderson, starring in and co-writing The Darjeeling Limited, a film about three brothers taking a soul-searching train ride through India. The film got mixed reviews, but reception to it was positive overall, setting Schwartzman up nicely for his next film, The Marc Pease Experience, in which he played the title role of a former high-school musical star who's stuck living in the past.
He voiced the role of Ash in Fantastic Mr. Fox in 2009 which turned out to be a busy year for him as he co-starred in Funny People, and became the star of the HBO comedy Bored to Death. He had a brief but memorable turn in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in 2010, and two years later he teamed up with Anderson yet again in Moonrise Kingdom.