An adorable interview with Jesse by ugo.com.
7. Going Undercover
In his latest drama Holy Rollers, Jesse Eisenberg plays Sam Gold, a bright, young Orthodox Jew who becomes caught up in an ecstasy smuggling ring – and kind of enjoys it. Not exactly the throughline for a major Hollywood blockbuster, but that isn’t really Eisenberg’s M.O. He’s an indie man at heart and doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty.
Matt Patches: How much time did you spend getting down and dirt in Borough Park researching your character for Holy Rollers?
Jesse Eisenberg: Yes, of course. We had so long – one of the pitfalls of small movies is that it takes a long time to raise the money, so I had signed on to do the movie about two years before it got filmed. So I had lots of time to become comfortable with my character. I love in New York, so it was a great resource to go into the community.
Matt Patches: How were you able to integrate yourself in to that culture?
Jesse Eisenberg: There’s actually a group of Hasidic Jews who are very comfortable with talking to secular Jews about the religion, regardless of their intent. I was fortunate enough to meet a lot of people who were open to discussing their lives with me. I spent as much time as I could, as much time as they could allow.
6. You Don’t Know Jew
Matt Patches: Are there certain misconceptions of Orthodox Jews that you uncovered through your research?
Jesse Eisenberg: I think we probably all assume they’re monolithic in their belief and routine, but what you’ll discover about any community is that it’s made up of individuals with differing belief systems or feelings of conflict with their faith, which is what I was able to discover.
The character in the movie is conflicted with his faith, and it was interesting to meet other young men who also have this conflict. If you see Hasidic Jews on the train and they’re looking down, not making eye contact, I think we tend to assume that they’re so devout that they’re unable to interact with the real world.
Matt Patches: At what point, if you think there is a point, does Sam continue his criminal behavior because he starts enjoying himself?
Jesse Eisenberg: I think he’s kind of experiencing a universal feeling of being that age, not knowing what he wants to do with his life and the path that’s been set for him, working in his father’s garment store. It doesn’t appeal to him. So, the initial intrigue of this drug world is very enticing. I think he likes it because he finally found a home.
Sam finds a father and mother figure. His father is always disagreeing with him at home and at work, which is early on in the movie. His father doesn’t treat him like an adult. When he starts to work in the drug world they immediately respect him, even though it’s fake, they’re manipulating him.
That’s what makes him stay, he just wants to be accepted, he doesn’t want to deal drugs.
5. Girlfriend, Interrupted
Suddenly, someone buzzes Jessie Eisenberg’s apartment. Did I mention he has a sense of humor?
Jesse Eisenberg: Oh no, my apartment is buzzing!
Matt Patches: You can get it if you need to.
Jesse Eisenberg: I don’t know, it might be a robber. I don’t know who else it would be. It could be someone who wants to rob me.
Matt Patches: I hope not.
Jesse Eisenberg: It’s happened before.
Matt Patches: Oh wow. During an interview?
Jesse Eisenberg: No, this would be the first time that happened.
Matt Patches: I’m honored.
Jese Eisenberg: Oh, it’s my girlfriend.
Matt Patches: I give you permission to buzz her in.
Jessie Eisenberg: She’s here to rob me of love.
Jesse Eisenberg’s Girlfriend: Hey, what are you doing?
Jesse Eisenberg: An interview.
Matt Patches: Tell her I say hello.
Jessie Eisenberg: He says hello.
Jessie Eisenberg’s Girlfriend: Hi! How are you?
Jessie Eisenberg: This has taken a new and candid turn.
Matt Patches: This is the real you, it’s good.
Jessie Eisenberg: Yes, “he has love, like a real boy.”
4. Two Eisenbergs for the Price of One
Matt Patches: Now, your real life sister [actress Hallie Kate Eisenberg] plays your sister in this film. I assume that’s not a coincidence.
Jesse Eisenberg: [laughs] Yes, she got a few callbacks and was lucky enough…No, she used to be an actress when she was younger, and it seems absurd to say that a twelve-year-old quit acting, she did.
Matt Patches: She was in Bicentennial Man. Please tell her I love that movie.
Jesse Eisenberg: Yes, me too! It’s a very sweet film. Do you like Isaac Asmiov’s books.
Matt Patches: Love’em. Waiting for them to turn more of them into movies.
Jesse Eisenberg: Yes, I do love that movie. I will tell her that. It is about a robot. So anyway, I asked her to do this movie for us even though you don’t act anymore, and she said, “I don’t want to do it if my friends are going to see it.” And I told her, “if your friends see this movie…” She goes to school in New Jersey, and I assured her this was going to be an art house movie. We’ll all be rich if it makes it to where your friends can see it! Not rich, but blessed. It’s a euphemism.
But she was great, really blew us all away.
3. Facebook Privacy
Matt Patches: I have to say I’m pumped for The Social Network later this year and talked to many people about the approach and topics covered in the film. You play Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in the film and I was curious if you’ve had a chance to meet him.
Jesse Eisenberg: No, no, no.
Matt Patches: [laughs] I kind of assumed that. So how were you able to research for the role? It seems like everyone from the author to [screenwriter] Aaron Sorkin, didn’t have much direct contact with any of the people involved.
Jesse Eisenberg: Yes, yes, I think the primary goal of the movie is to tell this very interesting story and this wonderful script. As opposed to the emphasis being…as opposed to something like The Jackie Robinson Story…
Matt Patches: The goal wasn’t to tell a sweeping biography.
Jesse Eisenberg: Yeah, this is not a biography picture of Mark Zuckerberg. It’s about the creation of Facebook and the aftermath four years later. A very compelling story. In terms of my research, there’s much I have to go on. Everything that’s out there.
Matt Patches: So it’s based on how Mark has put himself out there, presented himself to the world.
Jesse Eisenberg: Exactly, and there’s so much of that.
2. So When Can We Expect Zombieland 2?
Matt Patches: Zombieland was a huge hit for you last year, and I remember right after it was released people were already buzzing about a sequel. Is that something on your radar?
Jesse Eisenberg: I think they’re trying to write it. But nobody would do it if it wasn’t good.
Matt Patches: That’s logical.
Jesse Eisenberg: I mean, it’s not the kind a thing it’s going to happen anyway. It didn’t make a billion dollars. I think if we all felt it was good, we’d do it. We thought the first one was good.
Matt Patches: You mentioned that the films you gravitate towards are often smaller, independent films, but do you think you’re feeling more inclined to do bigger studio pictures like Zombieland? Or even bigger blockbusters?
Jesse Eisenberg: [laughs] Not to disparage bigger movies, but…when it was announced that I was going to be in Zombieland in the newspapers, the trades, they found the rest of the money for Holy Rollers, the same week.
Matt Patches: So it’s kind of like a “one for them, one for you” system.
Jesse Eisenberg: But then who’s to say it was for them. I really loved Zombieland too. But they’re much more connected then the final products may appear. They provide much different experiences too. In Zombieland, there was much more emphasis on comedy, so that’s a nice muscle to – that’s a pretentious way to put it – but another aspect of performing to exercise.
1. We Geek Out
Matt Patches: We were talking Isaac Asimov, so I need your opinion: what Asimov books need to be made into movies?
Jesse Eisenberg: [laughs] I don’t know, I don’t know, what do you think? I don’t like Sci-Fi.
Matt Patches: [laughs] Fair enough, so if you’re not a Sci-Fi guy, what do geek out over?
Jesse Eisenberg: Yes, I am obsessed with geography. I play geography games all day long on. All day long on the Internet. Have you been to this great website called Sporcle? I’ve taken every geography quiz.
Matt Patches: That’s amazing. How did you get in to that?
Jesse Eisenberg: I’ve always loved geography. Well, not really. When I met my girlfriend, the first place she took me was Venezuela in South America. It was the first time I left the country. Then we went all through Asia. She’s adventurous. I just got really into geography. What about you? Are you geeky about Sci-Fi?
Matt Patches: If you check out UGO, you’ll find all the answers you need to that question [laughs].
Jesse Eisenberg: That’s awesome.
Matt Patches: But we like making time for the little stuff like Holy Rollers too.
Jesse Eisenberg: And thank you very much!