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Hey all, LMD just had the pleasure of an exclusive chat with Jesse Eisenberg, star of last yearís Oscar-winner, The Social Network.  Reuniting with his Zombieland director, Ruben Fleischer for the raucous comedy, 30 Minutes or Less, Eisenberg talked about keeping a straight face while working with comedy whirlwinds Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, the perils of being a control freak and flying off to Italy for Woody Allen.

Dig it!


 30 Minutes or Less

Jesse Eisenberg


The Lady Miz Diva:  30 Minutes or Less is a very bawdy comedy.  Were you comfortable with some of the things that came out of your mouth?

Jesse Eisenberg:  The truth is the least amount of bawdiness comes from my character.  Aziz and I are in this one buddy comedy where weíre forced to rob a bank; a pizza delivery guy and an elementary school teacher, so they talk like guys who do those jobs would.  But then Danny McBride and Nick Swardsonís characters are the bad guys in the movie, and they just say the most insane and crass stuff, because guys like that would be -- theyíd speak in this awful way.  And Danny McBride and Nick Swardson both have this wonderfully sweet quality to them personally that even when theyíre saying the worst things; itís somehow innocent and funny.


LMD:  Was 30 Minutes or Less a thought when you were doing Zombieland with Ruben Fleischer?

JE:  No.  After Zombieland came out and received such wonderful attention, primarily for Ruben, who had never directed a movie before and did such an amazing job with that movie; he got sent every major movie to direct because he did such a good job with it and it was directed so well.  The one he found out of thousands of scripts that he wanted to do was this one and he told me about six months before I read it.  He said, ďThis is an astounding movie. Itís hysterical, thereís great action, but it also has these wonderful characters,Ē and I was so excited to read it and see that he was exactly right.  At the center of this very funny, fast-paced plotted movie is a good character story for me.  Heís a guy who starts out lazy and bored with his life; heís developed a sense of righteousness because he doesnít have any friends.  And then heís kidnapped, they strap a bomb to him, heís forced to rob a bank and he spends the day doing all the things he shouldíve done years ago.  He confesses his love to a girl, he quits his job that heís stuck in, he reconciles with his best friend.  Itís kind of an amazing character journey in a very small period of time.


LMD:  I kind of feel like between all the car chases in 30 Minutes or Less and the gun-slinging in Zombieland, Ruben is trying to make an action star out of you.

JE:  {Laughs} One of the things I really loved about the movie was that it didnít require ridiculous things from the actors.  It required them to play their characters realistically, and the action is supposed to look like two regular guys in a car chase.  Itís not supposed to look like Jason Statham in a car chase.  The comedy comes from the juxtaposition of how these characters think of themselves; like these awesome bank robbers from Heat, and how they really appear, which is like two guys in a Judd Apatow movie.


LMD:  How do you keep a straight face with Aziz Ansari around? 

JE:  It was actually easier for me than I expected to not laugh during this movie because my characterís in such an intense predicament that when we started shooting the scenes, I would be thinking of my characterís life or death stakes and then everything becomes a little bit less funny.  Luckily for the movie on the whole, the more seriously I take my plight, the funnier the thing is anyway, because youíre buying into the storyline in a more realistic way.


LMD:  When you approach a character, do you have to find something redeemable in him, or something you can identify with?

JE:  Yeah, I mean any role you play, you have to find the reality of it and how it coincides with whatever your emotional experience is.  So, for example, this character in this movie is very lazy, heís stuck in this dead end job.  I have a very different life circumstance; Iím ambitious, I like to work, I like to be involved with things, Iím not kind of stuck in a job.  But I have that same feeling all the time; every time a movie ends and I have a week off, I feel like the laziest person in the world.  You know what I mean?  So I can immediately relate to that feeling, even though my life circumstances are different.  I never had a falling out with a friend like I have with Aziz, but you have fights with friends, you have bitterness toward them for stuff that they do.  So you take those feelings. Itís impossible to play a role if you donít identify with it.  Whether a character is redeemable is not on my radar because I donít think people think of themselves as a person with redeeming qualities.  Everybody thinks theyíre doing the right thing, so I just think of it in the way that the character would think of themself.


LMD:  When a comedy is this raunchy, is there such a thing as going too far?                                                                                                    JE:  There is stuff in this movie that Iím uncomfortable with.  I donít like to use the ďRĒ word, for example.  Rape, for example.  Iím very uncomfortable with that word, personally because I do work with domestic violence organisations and Iím very aware of the alarming statistics of women who are abused.  So Iím very uncomfortable with that.  Iím not uncomfortable with the sexual jokes.  Sometimes I think theyíre less funny than others, I donít care about that, cos it doesnít harm anybody.  Iím uncomfortable with saying ďrape,Ē I donít like saying that, I never say it in my life.  If somebody says it, I cringe.  I donít like it when people make jokes about that word.  Iím a little bit uncomfortable with it, but I was hired to do a job.  I thought most of the movie was good and kind of respectful to people, in general.  The movies that really bother me are rich white people lamenting their lives when they have, like, a million dollars.  That to me is more offensive than sexual humour.  A rich white person lamenting their million-dollar kitchen and the audience is supposed to sympathise with that character, to me, thatís pathetic.  Whereas, in this movie, I thought the characters were real and my job was to take my character seriously.


LMD:  Were you comfortable with all the improvisation that mustíve been flying around your head on this film?

JE:  Yeah, I like improvising.  Because the script for this movie is wonderful, but the truth is when youíre on set, in the costume with the other person, holding the props, you just think of a million different things to say.  Luckily, we had a director whoís really good at two things as it relates to that:  Ruben is really good at allowing the actors to improvise, and then heís really good at filtering out stuff that is extraneous and doesnít make sense.  There are lines that could have been in this movie that wouldíve been hysterical; that the audience wouldíve loved, but it wouldíve hurt the plot, it wouldíve killed the momentum, so you take them out.  So heís really looking out for the final product rather than the quick joke.


LMD:  So the ďoff the gridĒ line was planned?

JE:  I just thought of that because I thought my character would say it.  If I knew it would kind of jokingly reference another movie I was in, I probably wouldnít have said it.  Talking about Facebook now is like talking about the telephone twenty years ago.  Itís like everybody talks about it.  But I thought my character would be a guy who thinks of himself as living ďoff the gridĒ when actually he has no friends.


LMD: Whatís more challenging for you, comedy or drama?

JE:  The things that are challenging about my job very infrequently have to do with the genre.  My job doesnít change from genre to genre, so in this movie, this characterís dealing with the most dramatic situation of his entire life; he has a bomb strapped to him and heís thinking about his mortality all day.  Whereas in The Social Network, the character is doing something which is less intense, which is just creating a website, but the movie is a drama.  So, my job is not oftentimes in accordance with the way itís framed for an audience.


LMD:  Whatís next for you?  I understand youíll be working with a certain famous New Yorker next.

JE: {Laughs} Yeah, yeah, yeah, Martin Scorsese!


LMD:  I was thinking of another diminutive famous New Yorker.

JE:  Yeah, exactly.  I go to Italy tomorrow to do a Woody Allen movie {The Bop Decameron}.


LMD:  Is there also a play coming up?

JE:  Yeah, then Iím doing a play downtown that I wrote {Asuncion} for the rest of the year.  It starts in late September.


LMD:  Is that perhaps the start of more behind-the-scenes roles for you?  

JE:  Iím a control freak, so if I write a role, I have to perform it.  I find it distracting for somebody else to read something thatís so in my head.  Itís probably not a healthy way to be a writer, but I wrote the other roles for the other actors in it, so I know their voices going into it.  Yeah, Iíd love to continue doing it.  You know, itís funny, a movie like this where thereís so much improvisation, I think if I wrote it I would just be in a tizzy, just that a lot of lines are changed.  That said, when you write a movie thatís a commercial movie like this one is, you go into it knowing thereís going to be a lot of personalities that are going to wind up changing your stuff.


~ The Lady Miz Diva

July 17th, 2011


Click here for our review of The Social Network.

Click here for our review of Zombieland




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(Courtesy of Sony Pictures)





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