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”
It’s not that Jesse Eisenberg is all about the indie sector either: “When you’re doing a movie like Now You See Me, it has an amazing plot and an amazing cast but it can still go wrong. And you can tell yourself ‘But it’s still going to look great’. On an indie film you sometimes think this movie is going to be terrible and it’s going to look terrible.”
In fact, the 29-year-old has hardly any interest in the movieverse at all. Growing up he recalls a film education that stretched to “watching ET a couple of times, maybe”. A pianist and guitar player, he was mostly interested in musical theatre and getting across the Hudson to New York City.
“But I just wasn’t good enough,” he says. “Especially not at dancing.”
Everything changed when, aged 19, he deferred his spot at NYU to star in the Sundance hit Roger Dodger opposite Campbell Scott.
“That was the turning point for me,” says Eisenberg. “I had never been in a movie. I had been queuing for auditions for musicals. And then I was in Roger Dodger and it was well received. The career has ebbed and flowed since but that was huge. That was the difference between waiting in line to being offered movie roles and getting a call from the William Morris Agency.”
Unsurprisingly, Eisenberg sounds far more enthusiastic when discussing theatre and his own plays than he does when he’s chatting about films.
“I do go to plays. But not to movies. I don’t do that,” he confirms. “I don’t feel any connection with movies. I’m always surprised when someone casts me because when I read them I can never picture myself in them. I like doing movies but I love writing plays. When I’m writing, it’s all I can think of from when I wake up.”
A well-travelled anthropology major, to date, Eisenberg’s plays are characterised by an uncommon internationalism.
“My last play took place in Poland; the one before was set in America but was about a Filipino girl. A lot of people I know are very educated but are also underexposed to other cultures. And that dichotomy is strange because they know a lot about other places but only in an academic way that diminishes entire nations and peoples into groups of statistics.”
He smiles, and, warming to the theme, momentarily forgets his nerves: “I have a very narrow range of interests,” he says. “But I have a very broad interest in people.”