Jesse Eisenberg: Faith, Facebook and a fear of interviews
Jesse Eisenberg rose to fame as the star of the highly successful and contentious film The Social Network. With the release of his film Holy Rollers, which tells the tale of a young Hasidic Jewish man being lured into dealing Ecstasy, he discusses his own upbringing, why he won’t be signing up to Facebook and the questionable movie scripts from his teenage years.
You researched Holy Rollers by speaking with Hasidic Jews, how was your own Jewish upbringing different?
I grew up in a secular suburban Jewish household where we only observed the religion on very specific times like a funeral or a Bar Mitzvah. When I started learning about the Hasidic community, it was so interesting to discover how even though they were so much more devout and observing – not only on a daily basis but an hourly basis – some of them felt as ambivalent about religion as me. Even though they were dressing in a very specific way and observing in a very specific way, from speaking to them I noticed that some had ambivalent feelings about the intensity of their faith. That was really interesting to me because in the movie my character struggles with feeling both really protected by his faith but also really alienated by it.
Your sister Hallie worked with you in the film, did you find you were more open with each other about your performances?
A bit. I was happy that she did the movie because she was so wonderful and I knew she would be. It did make it a bit uncomfortable; she asked me in between one of the scenes “Why did you keep making that face?” I said “Which face?” She said “This face” and pulled a face. I didn’t realise I was making that face and that’s not really something you want to hear as an actor. When you’re acting you want to work from the inside out. So a reasonable director would say “What are you feeling in this moment?” or “Try exploring this part of it”. Whereas when you’re working with a family member, tact goes out the window.
IMDB cites that you’re known for your curly hair and fast-talking voice, what would you prefer it to say?
I don’t really like to read or hear that kind of thing because it makes me feel commodified in a way that’s not interesting to me. I don’t know…I don’t really care what people write on the internet. It all seems mean-spirited and reductive.
It was highly publicised that you weren’t on Facebook around the release of The Social Network, any plans to sign up?
No, no, no, no, no. The more attention I get as an actor the less I want to be on the internet, obviously. So you can imagine that updating my life on the internet wouldn’t be of interest as other people do it for me, much to my dismay.
Did you get the chance to speak to Mark Zuckerberg on your joint skit on Saturday Night Live earlier this year?
For a minute, very briefly. He was very sweet and very nice about the episode of Saturday Night Live. Obviously he didn’t discuss anything that would’ve been more substantive or uncomfortable.
Would you feel bad for any inaccuracies in the film?
Yeah, sure, I would. My job in a movie like that is to defend my character so if there are some inaccuracies, I don’t feel responsible. My job, and what I felt like I was doing was defending this person. And so I probably had too skewed a perspective to comment. For me my job was to defend my character, and to sympathise with that character, so I probably have a uniquely sympathetic perspective.
Do you have an opinion on the real life story?
None. I didn’t read too much about it, that wasn’t my focus.
You’ve commented in the past about finding interviews uncomfortable, are they getting any easier?
It’s a necessary part of it, to promote films like Holy Rollers, which is such a wonderful movie but it doesn’t have the marketing behind it. It’s nice to speak with people like you who are smart and interested. If I didn’t have to do it, I wouldn’t, because I’m not in my element, but it’s a nice way to get the word out about something you’ve worked hard on.
So you won’t be reading these interviews?
I’ll read your other interviews, but not this one.
Do you find when you’re doing so many, you can end up saying something you later disagree with?
Yeah, that’s the nature of talking too much, only agreeing with half of what you said! And that’s partly why I don’t read anything, even if you say something amazing you can be misquoted and they put an explanation point instead of a period and it makes you sound like you’re an enthusiastic idiot, so I try to think for a second before I speak and then never look at it again.
You’ve said before that you wrote some bad movie scripts at the age of 16, what was the most questionable plot?
The plots were all probably commercially viable plots, they’re just not stuff I’d wanna see. The first full-length script I wrote was about these two kids who used their Bar Mitzvah money to go on a cross-country bowling trip. It was a comedy. And it’s cute but it’s not something I should spend a lot of money on.
Out of the movies you’ve acted in, which would you have liked to have written the script for?
The first movie I was in, I had some a warm feeling for. It was called Roger Dodger and the script was really wonderful and the writing was so unique. Then there are scripts that I’ve really helped come to fruition. In Holy Rollers they allowed the actors to really give their input into the characters, and it was a very different and more collaborative experience. I really liked being part of that.
Are you happy with the reaction to your Broadway show, Asuncion?
We’ve been playing for a week and the reaction’s been great, so we’re all really happy.
Were you concerned about casting yourself?
No, I know that I’ll always be on time, and know all my lines!
What’s been the biggest change to your life?
Nothing really, nothing. Last year I had to go to luncheons, this year I don’t. I haven’t experienced any big changes, I would like to experience some big changes, I’d like to get a car or something like that, but barring that, nothing.
Holy Rollers is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download from todayfacebook, film, holy rollers, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Zuckerberg, Roger Dodger, the social network
Recent Posts on Arts
- Scottish Book Trust Ask the Author: Cathy MacPhail's
- Lost in the Riots Interview: ‘If you’d told us we’d be going to Europe with this band four times, we would've told you to bugger off!’
- Scottish Book Trust’s Children’s Book Blog
- Friday Book Design Blog: ABCD awards 2015
- Crowds at Lahore Lit Fest ignore bomb risks and raise hopes for Pakistan’s future
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter