Talking to Jesse Eisenberg is an exercise in concentration.
Not because he's boring or anything. Quite the contrary. It's just that he fires off thoughts like a Gatling gun, with the same fast-talking articulacy as a '30s movie actor hurtling through his script in record time.
It's fitting, then, that we're meeting up because of his latest Woody Allen-penned 1930s period movie Café Society, where he plays a young Jewish New Yorker who departs for old Hollywood in search of fame, fortune and purpose.
Yep—there are many parallels with Jesse's own life story, and it's fair to say that he's found success in all three areas. Esquire sat down with Woody Allen's top student to see if he agrees...
I've always associated the arts with Woody Allen. When I was starting out in late-'90s New York, the independent movie scene was at its height. It was the pinnacle for an actor to be in a movie at the Manhattan Film Forum, rather than a blockbuster. The impenetrable glamour of Hollywood was never on my radar.
My mum worked as a clown at children's birthday parties. And she took it very seriously, even though her job was by all accounts quite silly. She dressed up in a red jumpsuit and performed to kids, but she treated it like life and death.
If you treat anything with seriousness, however silly, it can be wonderful. She taught me that.
When I was younger, I felt the need to enact my own good ideas into other people's scripts. But now I don't feel that urge. I'm a writer, but I don't meddle with other people's work. Now I love indulging in other peoples' worlds and ideas.
The amorality of Hollywood has left me disillusioned. It's governed by the amoral principles of a system, rather than the goodwill of individuals.
You can't govern how an audience reacts. I thought Café Society was a bittersweet romance. But then I talked to Woody, and he had a much more nihilistic, cynical view of it. As the objective filmmaker, he viewed it as a commentary on the impossibility of pure romance and love.
I live in a bubble. And that's why I don't feel comfortable talking about politics in public. I come from a liberal Jewish immigrant family, and I really don't speak for a lot of people. I don't think it's appropriate for me to use my platform as a movie actor to discuss that kind of stuff.
My ultimate idea of romance? Sharing a stage with someone.
I think the stigma that surrounds mental health is tragic. Both of my parents are in the medical profession. My mum works with young doctors and my dad teaches at a university about medicine. I feel a need to be open about it.
Acting is cathartic. I always tell actors who want to get into the industry that it's very therapeutic. You get to forget about your troubles, your missed calls, and your emails. You get to reflect on yourself.
I'm interested in characters that are emotionally erratic. They're the personalities that I write.
Bicycles are the greatest. Cycling is the only thing that distracts me from my worries in a healthy way. You have to be on high alert, to avoid getting killed by a bus, so you don't have enough brainpower to worry about anything else. It's a great way to lose yourself.
From: Esquire US