I’ve admired Jesse Eisenberg since his fantastic turn in Noah Baumbach’s 2005 film The Squid and the Whale, but it’s admittedly been tough to think of him as anyone other than Mark Zuckerberg since he brilliantly embodied the Facebook founder in David Fincher’s The Social Network. Which is why it’s so refreshing to see him play Jack, a romantic intellectual stuck in a love triangle between Greta Gerwig and Ellen Page, in Woody Allen’s latest, To Rome with Love.
I caught up with Eisenberg, currently on location in London, to talk about working with a man he’s idolized most of his life, and learned fast the he couldn’t be less Zuckerbergian – early on in our conversation, he inquired as to my cell phone’s upstate New York area code, and we discovered that both of our parents work at the same college. To boot, after abruptly hanging up at the end of our interview, he called back moments later to apologize for hitting the wrong button on his Skype and properly say goodbye.
So, while it’s clear that Eisenberg is solid both in front of and behind the camera, it was also great fun to hear him talk about Allen’s directing style, his on-screen bromance with Alec Baldwin, the intimidation factor of improvising for his idol and the ways he avoids Allen-coined “ozymandius melancholia.”
Movies.com: So you’re in London shooting The Double with Mia Wasikowska and Wallace Shawn – have you and Wallace shared any Woody Allen anecdotes, since he was in Melinda and Melinda?
Jesse Eisenberg: Oh, that’s right! I knew he’s in Manhattan. I know him actually, but he hasn’t been here…he comes in a week.
Movies.com: You guys will have to swap stories! I think if I ever met Wallace I’d have to resist the urge to make him say, “Inconceivable!” ad nauseum. I’m sure he’s really sick of that request.
Eisenberg: Yeah, I imagine. [laughs] I won’t risk it!
Movies.com: I don’t blame you! And where To Rome with Love is concerned, how long were you on location?
Eisenberg: Brief – I was there maybe three weeks. They shot the four different storylines at separate times, so all the actors were only there for a brief period of time.
Movies.com: Was it your first time in Rome?
Eisenberg: I had been there a few months before, just two days to do publicity, and then I stayed for an extra few days and I took my mother there, so we got to see the city. But getting to film there is just a whole different thing because…I think, just by virtue of being a Woody Allen movie, they close things that no one would have access to otherwise, for the filming. So we were in buildings and parks and squares that would be otherwise kind of impossible to get into. It was a pretty special experience, and then – my character is an architect – so I got to go to all these amazing buildings, modern and old, and it was a really unique way to see the city.
Movies.com: That sounds so charmed! Do you feel like you can ever visit Rome again now that you’ve had an all-access pass?
Eisenberg: [laughs] Right?! It’s really strange…when you’re filming a movie…there’s police escorts and you just feel totally invincible, and then you go home and are balled into the same laws and rules and restrictions as the rest of the world. It’s disconcerting.
Movies.com: Did Woody approach you for this role or did you audition for it?
Eisenberg: I guess he had seen a movie I was in, Adventureland, a few years ago – because he sent an email to the director, who he’s friends with, saying something nice about me, and then the director sent me that email. And it was so thrilling to get an email from Woody Allen, and I guess I maybe secretly hoped to work with him at some point. Then he asked me to come in and meet him, and I had to read the script in his office and then agree to do it there. And it was obviously…I didn’t hesitate or question. It was thrilling to be able to meet him and be asked to do it.
Jesse Eisenberg on ‘To Rome With Love’ and How He Sent Woody Allen a Script When He Was 16
Posted by Kenickeh on June 25, 2012