Jesse Eisenberg talks about putting on the magic in ‘Now You See Me’
There’s a big difference between being an actor and being a magician, says Jesse Eisenberg. “An actor goes on stage in character. He’s not pretending to do something else”
What happens when he’s playing a miserable sod?
“Well the most blatant example of that is this movie I did called The Double for Richard Ayoade in England last year. One of my characters is very worried and the other is very assured and brash. So when we were doing the brash character, I always felt that I had got it right after one take and that we could move on to the next scene. Then with the other character I never thought any take was good. Only in retrospect did I realise why I was feeling that way. Acting carries over into your life all the time without you noticing.”
So he’s a little bit method?
“I think every actor is method. It’s just that some are more known for it. But I would say it’s pretty impossible to put your own emotional life into the work and separate the two immediately. If you’re doing a movie, then you’re doing your character 12 hours a day, then sleeping and you have about four hours to yourself left over. And if you’re shouting at someone for those 12 hours, then you can’t just turn that off. You’re still going to be a little bit angry at the end of the day.”
So it pays for him to play happy, confident people?
“That would do it for me. I could force myself to feeling that way all the time. But it tends to be that the more interesting characters are dealing with something more emotionally substantive and are therefore less happy.”
Luckily, though Now You See Me is a great deal of fun, it’s hardly ever substantive. The glitzy crime caper sees a quartet of super-magicians – Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson – pitch wits against Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent’s law enforcers; Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine reside in the film’s zany margins.
It must have felt like being into the Scooby Doo gang?
“Like being part of a fun team? Or like a videogame character? Yeah. For sure. The movie has all these mythical elements. The magicians are part of this team called the Four Horsemen. And they’re recruited by this secret organisation called The Eye so there’s all these cool supernatural mythical elements. The myths surrounding the magic in the movie are both fictionalised and historical.”
Now You See Me has been an unexpected smash in the US, where it has seen off starrier and bigger budgeted tent-pole releases and sailed toward $100 million in box-office receipts. Not that Jesse Eisenberg cares.
“I don’t know anything about box office. I got an email to say the film was doing great but it’s not something I’m interested in. I remember after Adventureland, I got all these emails on the Monday after release saying ‘I’m so sorry, man’. And I really didn’t understand why they were sorry. They’re sorry because the film has made millions of dollars but not as many millions of dollars as they hoped? It just made me feel bad about something I walked away feeling good about. The numbers have nothing to do with me or what I do.”