The thing that leaps to my mind about that less-than-a-month last summer: Jesse Eisenberg, Jesse Eisenberg and Jesse Eisenberg. I knew the first time I met him that there was a great hope that he’d play my son in the film. [I would have been upset] if anybody else would have ended up playing that boy, because he was so perfect for it, the maternal instinct I had for him the second I met him, and the respect and the admiration.
Jesse was one of the most pleasurable actors to work with that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. His willingness to dive in and be his character all day long on the set… I’d give him a hard time all day long and he’d give me a harder time back and I’d bring to him — each week that we worked I brought a little gift to him, like really ridiculous things — shoelaces and things like that, but I’m his mommy and I figured I’d spent a lot of birthdays with him. And his acceptance of the presents was so filled with Eli, and so to work with an actor who’s willing to go all the way down that road with you so that both of you are, quite simply, better prepared to go in front of the cameras when that moment — you never know when it’s gonna happen — happens, and there you are, and the scene’s shot and you don’t have a chance to go back over it […] So that thing of being able to play with another actor, where on one hand it’s very silly and just quite frankly a lot of fun and why what I do is called playing… not really all that many actors who are willing to be quite as fun, have as much fun with it.
I caught up with Eisenberg, currently on location in London, to talk about working with a man he’s idolized most of his life, and learned fast that he couldn’t be less Zuckerbergian – early on in our conversation, he inquired as to my cell phone’s upstate New York area code, and we discovered that both of our parents work at the same college. To boot, after abruptly hanging up at the end of our interview, he called back moments later to apologize for hitting the wrong button on his Skype and properly say goodbye.
At the Paris Theatre screening, Greta Gerwig said that meals on Italian film sets do not consist of regular craft-services fare. “First of all, I ate so much pasta. I was so lucky, all the costumes were big and flowy,” she said. “And also, we had these three-hour lunch breaks. I’m not kidding, me, Jesse, Ellen [Page], and our driver, Spartacus, would go in the Italian countryside to eat pasta and drink wine, in the middle of a shoot day! And that was totally normal. It was the most amazing thing.”
Gerwig also said that in their downtime, Eisenberg had difficulty going incognito around Rome. “Our first couple days we didn’t have a lot to do, so we went to the Coliseum, and we stuck out because everybody recognized Jesse,” she said, laughing. “So that was its own level of, like, not only are you an American, but there’s this other level.”
I was one of The King’s Speech people that wanted that to win Best Picture. I actually just saw The Social Network for the first time; I had it saved on DVR and I was afraid to watch it because I would have felt bad if I thought it was better than The King’s Speech. And everyone was saying how good it was, so I was also afraid I’d hate it. I started watching and to be honest with you, the first 10-20 minutes, I didn’t like it. I was just like, ‘Jesse Eisenberg is an asshole in this movie, I don’t feel bad for him whatsoever…’ But then as I watched it, I was like,
‘Okay, he’s making sense here.’ You know? I would be pissed off too if somebody was—if my best friend was suing me and then these two guys are saying I stole their idea? I would be pretty pissed off! …And then he became likable by the end of the movie. It was just like, ‘Wow. He really did us a favor. He really did something cool that most twenty-somethings don’t do.’