Interviewer: [Tracy Morgan] once told a Metro employee that he wanted to put a baby in her.
Jesse: He came up to me every day behind my head, an inch from my ear and sang that song — well, it’s a song but it’s also made currently famous by the Chevy commercial — [Bob Seger’s] “Like a Rock.” He just sings that in a very loud way beside my head every day at 5 in the morning. But when he’s working, when he’s playing a role and being in the specific circumstance of a movie, he’s able to take whatever it is that makes him do the Chevy commercial and channel it into a character that has another kind of inner experience and I guess that’s what makes him really great.
Interviewer: Why did he sing that to you? Are you his rock?
Jesse: Oh, I wouldn’t be able to start attributing psychological motives to it. … I think he just gets excited by something and then just kind of does it and does it to its logical endpoint, which for most other people would’ve been earlier but he just gets a kick out of doing it. It’s one of those things that goes through a cycle of not being funny a few times and then, of course, a few times just by virtue of it extending way past its endpoint, it becomes funny again. That’s part of the charm.
Jesse Eisenberg isn’t like typical celebrities. For starters, he makes his own phone calls.
“Hi, this is Jesse,” Eisenberg said as normal as humanly possible when HuffPost Entertainment answered the actor’s call earlier this week. Eisenberg was phoning from England to discuss the indie comedy “Why Stop Now,” in which he co-stars opposite Oscar winner Melissa Leo.
“It seemed like such an ideal opportunity,” Eisenberg said of the film. “Just knowing her acting, I was really interested.”
Eisenberg and Leo were working on “Why Stop Now” for quite a while before meeting up on the awards circuit in 2010, when he was Oscar nominated for “The Social Network” and she for “The Fighter.” (Leo would eventually win the Best Supporting Actress Oscar.)
“When we were together at all these silly parties over the course of a few months, I had already been working on the movie for two years,” Eisenberg said. “It just took so long to come together. The fact that Melissa and I were getting a lot of attention during that time was part of the reason it finally got funded.”
“Why Stop Now” focuses on Eli (Eisenberg), a piano prodigy trying to get his mother (Leo) into rehab. Unfortunately, because of an insurance snafu, the facility won’t take her unless she’s high, forcing Eli to enlist the support of her drug dealer (Tracy Morgan) and his friend (Isiah Whitlock Jr.).
Eisenberg, who was spotted watching Team USA basketball at the Olympics on Sunday (and wrongly identified as Mark Zuckerberg in the process), spoke to HuffPost about working on the film, the difference between Woody Allen and David Fincher, and why he’s not the biggest fan of the New York Knicks.
What was it that made you want to sign on for this role?
It seemed uniquely authentic, the relationship between the son and the mother. It’s hard to describe how special that is — to read something where the characters have a unique and realistic bond. It’s a dynamic you just don’t see that much. You get an amazing actor to play the other role, it becomes a really wonderful opportunity for an actor. With Melissa playing it, it became a wonderful acting opportunity for me. Within the framework of the great script we had, we were allowed to live within those characters over the course of two months of filming and relate to each other in that context and flesh it out and make it real.
You have such great chemistry — did you get to rehearse at all?
We had very little rehearsal because the filming was so quick, but I had just gotten to know Melissa personally and that was as good as anything else. She really liked to create dynamic with the other actors that relate to the dynamic that the characters have. So, we kind of related to each other over the course of the film in the same way the characters relate to each other. It was immediately comfortable and immersive because we would interact in that casual and playful way that the characters interact with each other. Even when the characters are fraught with this drama, that infiltrated our personal lives. It became contentious even. It was a special experience. What you’re doing translates to the movie.
That sounds almost Method. Is that something you enjoy?
Not every relationship or film lends itself to having an offscreen relationship that mirrors the onscreen relationship, but in the particular case of this movie — where the movie is focused on these two people — maintaining an off-camera relationship is not only really helpful, it’s just more fun.
You worked with Woody Allen on “To Rome With Love” and David Fincher on “The Social Network.” How do they compare?
They’re both people that are extremely accomplished and adept at making movies, even though they do it cosmetically different ways. One would do very few takes of a scene and one or two shots; the other does dozens of takes and multiple shots. That kind of stuff is different. But in terms of watching somebody who is really good at what they do work within that context — it comes so easily to them, so it’s pretty much the same.
You’ve written a lot of plays; do you want to expand into movie scripts?
I really found a comfortable niche writing plays. I had written some movies when I was younger and I was constantly asked to make changes to suit the movie companies that had optioned them. It just became frustrating. I’m really not that good at changing a lot of stuff to suit companies like that. Plays just require an entirely different set of accommodations. You’re just trying to serve what’s best for the play. There’s not overarching economic concerns like you’d have in a movie because it just costs less to make.
What did working with Allen and someone like Aaron Sorkin teach you about writing?
As an actor, you are in a unique position because you’re not only memorizing dialogue but really embodying it. You naturally feel the rhythm of good writing. You’re lucky to understand what makes it good and why it suits an actor well. That’s a unique position to be in. So, as a writer, I’m able to take advantage having had some pretty great experiences where I got to fully immerse myself in good writing that’s inspiring and true.
When you’re looking at roles, is the script the most important part?
It’s hard to say because you never know how things turn out. Some things have an amazing script, but the attributes that things offer up in the beginning don’t necessarily translate to what makes something good in the end. In some cases it’s turned out better; in others, it’s turned out worse. If there seems to be a character that has some authenticity to it or has some life in it — something unique about it — that’s kind of rare. That’s the most appealing thing.
I saw you watching Team USA play Spain in the gold medal game at the Olympics over the weekend. Was that fun?
I just wanted to see the basketball game at the Olympics, because I’m a big basketball fan. It was great to be able to go. It was cool. There were two games and the bronze medal game was more interesting: It was Argentina and Russia and it was more competitive. But, yeah, it was great.
What team do you root for? The Knicks?
I like Oklahoma. New York is kind of hard to like, because they spend a lot of money, and to what end? I also like New Orleans because I was down there for a while, so I saw a lot of games. They’re going to have a pretty good team this year. What about you?
The Knicks, I guess. But, like you said, it’s hard to root for them. The latest example being the stupid decision to not re-sign Jeremy Lin.
So stupid. That’s the best story to come out of New York basketball [in a while]. Ridiculous.
There must be something we don’t know … or it’s just a dumb decision.