Right before critics and audiences fell in love with Jesse Eisenberg in David Fincher’s The Social Network, I got to visit the set of director Ruben Fleischer’s (Zombieland) 30 Minutes or Less while the production was filming in Michigan. In the action-comedy, Eisenberg plays “a small town pizza delivery guy whose mundane life collides with the big plans of two wanna-be criminal masterminds (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson).” While on set, I got to participate in a group interview and after the jump, you can either read or listen to the full conversation. However, here’s five things I learned:
- A pizza place let him shadow one of their drivers to learn what it’s like to deliver pizzas and how to interact with customers. Someone tipped him $5 because they liked Adventureland.
- The emotional center of the movie is that his character has never done anything with his life. He’s in love with a girl and he’s never told her, and he’s just been lazy. This event is the catalyst that makes him take a stand.
- His character in 30 Minutes or Less is more serious in tone than the one in Zombieland. It has to be played more straight.
- Filming 30 Minutes felt like a continuation of Zombieland because Fleischer used the same crew from that film.
- When choosing films, he looks for something realistic and an emotional journey, and he says 30 Minutes or Less “had that in spades.”
As usual, we’re offering two ways to get this interview: you can either listen to the interview by clicking here or the full transcript is below. Again, 30 Minutes or Less opens August 12.
Question: We just saw you for hours doing the same scene take after take. How is it like for you as an actor to maintain that sort of energy level and to do that scene again, and again, and again?
Jesse Eisenberg: Sometimes it’s easier than others. Don’t drink coffee in the morning because then you’ll have like peaks of energy. I try to maintain a low level exhaustion all day.
What kind of research did you do in order to get into the working world of a professional delivery driver and his crap car?
Eisenberg: Well, the pizza place where we’re filming the movie, they let me go out with this guy Alex, who they thought was most similar to my character. I was surprised to realize how similar he was. He was as sarcastic and self-aware as the character is. It was a perfect match for my character. Also for the kind of basic logistics of how it is to deliver pizzas and who the costumers are. These guys who kidnap me in gorilla masks are surprisingly not far off from some of the people we met that evening.
There’s a great line about knowing that you’re going to be executed in the morning really concentrates the mind. Is that a part of your characters ark with death strapped to him in an explosive vest? Does that make him aware of things he should be doing differently in life?
Eisenberg: Yeah, the emotional center of the movie is this character who has never done anything in his life. He has a line “I’ve never even quit a job. I just waited around to get fired.” He’s in love with this girl who’s his best friend’s sister. He’s never told her. He’s just kind of ridden through life lazily. This metaphorically lights a fire underneath him to take a stand and spend these ten hours doing everything he should have been doing the last several years.
Has it been more intense running from hordes of zombies or having this bomb strapped to your chest?
Eisenberg: This movie is more, at least for my character, more serious in tone. Zombieland was a little more fun, at least for my character. This one, at least for me, has to be played pretty much straight. This one is a little more exhausting because there’s no room for me because it’s set in the real world. There’s less room for me to have…there’s no winking to the audience with this one.
Were there any rules from Zombieland that you could apply to this?
Eisenberg: I was surprised when we were doing Zombieland that Ruben Fleischer accounts for the emotional inner life, as pretentious as this may sound, but this is the actor’s job so this is what I think about all the time. He accounts for the actor’s inner emotional through line and inner life in a real way. When I read the script of that movie, I didn’t necessarily think that it would earn that kind of attention. So with this, I was much more excited to go into this knowing that the director is someone who is doing a comedy that is occasionally broad and also visually arresting, but that he will also pay attention and account for the actors process and emotional experience.
How hard is it to balance the stakes? Like the criminal stuff and also reacting in a way that should be presumably funny as it is believable.
Eisenberg: I guess the more serious you play something, if the context is funny, then it will be funny and it doesn’t really require you to be necessarily, explicitly humorous, or silly. There are some scenes in this movie, because of the grave situation, are naturally that much more funny. For example, the last several days we’ve been filming this bank robbery where Aziz Ansari and I have to rob a bank and everything that can go wrong in the bank does go wrong. It’s because the two of us are so panicked, freaked out, and taking it so seriously that it’s really funny.
Was it a nice transition going into this film and working with Ruben again?
Eisenberg: It almost feels like a continuation because it’s the same crew and working with Ruben is so wonderful, and it feels like an extension of the same process.
When you found out that Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari were going to be in this movie, did it make you nervous?
Eisenberg: Not really. I didn’t feel…I was really excited that they were doing the movie because I’ve loved them, but for me it doesn’t change what my character should be doing. We’re all playing three different roles and my character is comparatively the straight man, not that I think of it this way, but compared to them, objectively speaking would be the straighter character. Because they’re so funny it gives me more room to play it straight because they can compensate and make the scenes funny and the pressure is not necessarily on me because I don’t think it should be. My character is going through a very real thing.
Were you the first to be involved in this project?
Eisenberg: I think I was the last one involved in the movie. I’m not sure how they casted, but it might’ve been written for Danny [McBride] and his character. Ruben’s been a huge fan of Danny for years. During Zombieland he would talk about him all the time. I know he was thrilled to get him.
What do you find is more challenging to play?
Eisenberg: When you take on a role you try to do as much as possible beforehand to get your mind into it. Just to prepare because it’s a daunting prospect to go six months or whatever. This is three months to do something. With the Facebook movie, there’s video to watch of the character I played and there’s audio and there’s images. And this one, there’s a pizza guy who can take me around. Ideas as equivalent preparation experiences.
Was the pizza guy a local?
Eisenberg: Yeah, I did the Hollywood pizza place. No [laughs]the place where we’re filming here in Grand Rapids. The pizza guy took me around, names Alex, really cool.
Were you anonymous? Did you get recognized?
Eisenberg: Yeah, somebody gave us $5 because they liked Adventureland.
Where you apprehensive about working with Ruben at all?
Eisenberg: Of course not. It’s the opposite. He did such an amazing job with Zombieland. Of course, I would love to work with him forever.
I read some of the early drafts of this script and your character is more of a self-assure wise-ass then. Were you looking for a change?
Eisenberg: I really love the character. When I read it, it seemed like a real person. It seemed like somebody, who to me, is the movie so to speak though the change and that kind of all seemed realistic. In that way it felt similar. That’s what I look for when I’m looking to act in something. Something realistic and an emotional journey, and this character had that in spades.
Jesse Eisenberg On Set Interview 30 MINUTES OR LESS
Posted by Sapna on May 10, 2011