In Richard Ayoade’s new film, The Double, Eisenberg plays two versions of the same character. Is it a case of art imitating life?
I’d felt some trepidation in the lead-up to my interview with Jesse Eisenberg. Throughout his promotional duties for last year’s magic thriller Now You See Me, he was sporadically spiky; most notable was the video in which he mocked a young female interviewer for writing questions on her hands, then told her not to cry until the interview was over so that he wouldn’t look responsible for her tears. There was also the voxpop in which, having been asked about his favourite things to do in Toronto, he replied sardonically: “Oh, you can read about it on my blog, Jesse’s Guide To Toronto, where I list the top 4,500 things that I really like about the city.”
In both of those videos, though, he’s funny, probably just trying to cut through the tedium, sparring with people not quite capable of keeping up. It’s a relief but also something of a disappointment that he doesn’t bite today. Sitting opposite me across a table he remains perfectly still throughout, and though he isn’t exactly Mr Giggles he’s mild-mannered and thoughtful, exceedingly polite.
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Eisenberg originally plied his trade as the wired underdog, put-upon but combative, in such films as Rodger Dodger and Adventureland. The Social Network changed all that, and shades of his Mark Zuckerberg, who exuded a smugness of punchable proportions, resurfaced in Now You See Me. You can see why the Batman Vs Superman crew have hired him to play obnoxious megalomaniac Lex Luthor. Today, I get the affable Jesse. But the idea that there is more than one Jesse Eisenberg fits nicely with the film we’re here to talk about.