Jesse Eisenberg chats about 'Why Stop Now'
Everyone knows that Jesse Eisenberg is the undisputed modern-day king of onscreen awkwardness, having mastered the art of seeming charmingly flustered in everything from "Zombieland" to "30 Minutes or Less."
The 28-year-old's part in the new comedy "Why Stop Now" reasserts his dominance of the neurotic form. Eisenberg plays overburdened pianist Eli, kidnapped by mom Penny's (Melissa Leo) drug dealer Sprinkles (Tracy Morgan) right before a big audition.
We spoke with the New York native -- who still lives here when he's not filming -- about the movie, which opens Friday.
You've done a lot of films with a sort of manic comic sensibility. What felt different about "Why Stop Now," and what drew you to it? When I read the script, I thought this dynamic between this mother and son was so authentically put together. It seemed very realistic to me, and then Melissa Leo was already signed on to play this other role, so it just seemed like a perfect opportunity as an actor to be able to do a movie that's so focused on two people, with one of the great actresses around.
Fundamentally, sadness underlies the comedy here. As an actor, what I look for is some kind of authentic underpinning for the character's experience in the story. With this movie, the characters are set on this path under very upsetting circumstances, so at least for me it allowed everything that happens during this crazy day to be justified.
Do you feel like you're generally being offered roles that let you stretch as an actor? It's hard to say how other people perceive a certain role. That's not really for me to deal with because I don't have anything to do with that perception. What I just look for is if something is driven by something real and could be playable and interesting, and fun over the course of a period of time, then that's good. I write plays, so I'm able to create characters that I want to play. I don't know how different they seem, but I guess that's not really my concern.
After working with Woody Allen on "To Rome With Love," do you have any other dream collaborators? I guess I just unconsciously force myself not to think that way, because it seems like an only discouraging process. I've had no dreams like that and I've gotten to work on so many wonderful things, so probably it's best to set your sights really low and be pleasantly surprised.
Jesse Eisenberg shrugs at NBC Olympic error
Few people have ever been so intimately connected with another person in the collective consciousness that they've been mistaken for them on national television.
It's got to be a strange experience, made only more surreal when it's Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and you played him in a movie.
So it's a testament to "Social Network" star Jesse Eisenberg's imperviousness to this sort of thing that he says he was unaware that an NBC broadcaster called him an "executive of note" and made a Facebook crack when cameras found him attending last Sunday's London Olympics' gold medal men's basketball game.
"I just heard about this," he said. "Obviously I didn't see it, so I didn't know. It doesn't feel like anything right now."
When asked if the mistake was in some sense a positive review, Eisenberg said: "I think I accept the compliment, I guess, sure."