Jesse Eisenberg's acting credits include a little bit of everything, from "Adventureland" to "Zombieland" to that little film you may have heard of called "The Social Network" (which earned him an Oscar nomination earlier this year).
"30 Minutes or Less" gets him back in touch with his comedy roots as Nick, an unfortunate pizza delivery boy who's forced to rob a bank with a bomb strapped to his chest. Talk about a bad day.
While his roles vary from hilarious to tragic, they all share one common thread: They have to strike Eisenberg as "authentic." We sat down with him to talk about bringing real-life stories to the big screen, the possibilities of a "Zombieland 2" movie, and... wait, what did someone just put on his bike?
There's been some controversy around this movie because it's based on a real event that ended with a guy getting killed. Is that something you were concerned about -- making a comedy out of a real-life tragedy?
You know, this is something I dealt with when we were shooting "The Social Network," too. I was asked similar questions about having to account for something else. My job as an actor is very specific and very limited to taking my role seriously. Whether the movie is a drama or a comedy, my job remains the same -- to take my role seriously and to play it as authentically as I can, so that's what I did with this movie.
What I really liked about the comedy in this script was that it was derived from realistic situations. You've got these two lazy guys who are forced to do this insane thing, so they're watching "Point Break" to get tips on bank robberies and buying fake guns at the dollar store because they're poor. Those scenes really struck me.
You and Aziz Ansari, who plays your best friend, have great chemistry. Was it as much fun as it looks?
He's really funny so it keeps it fresh, but my sense is that chemistry is not this kind of lucky thing that you either stumble upon or don't stumble upon. I's something you work on.
My character is dismissive of Aziz's character because he's jealous of Aziz's character's life decisions. He has a real job and he's working towards something, and my character feels that he has been left behind. I can understand what that feels like, and I think a lot of other people can, too.
You were really driving most of the time. Is that something you already knew how to do or were there lessons?
Well, the recklessness is in my blood a little bit. My dad was a taxi driver in Queens when I was born, so I was in situations like that a lot. [laughs] And then, I also ride a bicycle, and with a bike in New York you have to ride recklessly because there's no other way to do it. So it was fun driving in these scenes because I knew I could be as reckless as I naturally am and not get into an accident.
Actually, my bike is outside the window right now and I just saw someone tie a plastic bag to it, which I really hope isn't anything weird. But it's weird that someone just did that, right?
You've had a lot of interesting roles. How has life changed post-"Social Network?"
Well, it hasn't really changed that much. I mean, 90% of movies that come out are really bad, and for a movie to even come out means it got made, which is just really difficult to even get that to happen. So, yeah, I get sent more scripts now, but my job as an actor remains the same.
Have you been in contact with Zuckerberg at all?
My job in that film was to just to play my character, and we did the best we could to make that character authentic, so, no.
What's up with "Zombieland 2"?
Well, everyone who worked on it really liked it and thought the end product was really wonderful, especially [considering] what it could have been and everything that could have gone wrong, since it blended horror and comedy. It's hard to get that that combo to work, but I think the final product was so right that everyone would like to do it if there was a script.
But now, Ruben [Fleischer] is busy for a while, and I'm busy through mid-year next year, and Emma [Stone] and Abigail Breslin are all doing a million things, so my sense is that it's going to be near impossible to put it together.
What's coming up next for you?
I leave tomorrow for the Woody Allen movie in Rome.
Is there a dream role that's very different that we haven't seen you play yet?
The truth is that most characters in movies are totally inauthentic, and it doesn't interest me to play any character that's inauthentic. What's interesting to me is to have some kind of an emotional experience over the course of the filming, because I have no other release from my own anxiety; so to be able to do this movie where this character is dealing with this real fear, and I get to deal with the emotional reaction to that on a daily basis, is a great release for me.
What do you think of the term "bromance"?
I don't like any kind of genre qualification for things I'm in because my experience on a movie is this authentic, emotional experience -- not to self-aggrandize -- but that's kind of the experience it is for me.
That's also why I don't watch the movies I've been in.
Well, I've seen everything I've been in once. This ['30 Minutes or Less'] I haven't seen yet. The experience of acting in something just doesn't mirror the experience of the final product, so it's just jarring to see it. As you can imagine, I don't like any kind of qualification because it doesn't coincide with my feelings about the experience. In this movie I have all of these very complicated feelings about my friend who Aziz plays, and his sister, and I really tried to make these tensions real for myself.
Have you ever been in a situation where you liked one of your friend's sisters?
No, but I've met my girlfriend's brother, and I guess that would be the equivalent -- except that I was dating her first, so I guess it's not really the equivalent at all.