Jesse Eisenberg on Starring in Action Movies, Kristen Stewart, and How Playing Lex Luthor Felt Like an Off-Broadway Play
“The old cliché in theater is, if you’re nervous, pick up a prop, which will immediately take you outside of your mind.” – Jesse Eisenberg
The Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg has been building an eclectic resume since his Oscar-nominated performance as the founder of Facebook. In an interview about his role in the action comedy American Ultra, Eisenberg talked about how odd he feels in blockbuster roles and heaped praise on his American Ultra co-star, Kristen Stewart.
Though Eisenberg has written plays before and cast himself in Off-Broadway productions of Cherry Lane Theatre, he says he would not do the same for film. He reveals, “I would never cast myself in anything. I feel like the completely lucky beneficiary of the imaginations of other people who think I can do it.”
Because of that, it must have been odd for Eisenberg to star in the biggest blockbuster of his career, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, in which he plays Superman’s arch-nemesis Lex Luthor. On playing Luthor, he reveals, “The sets were massive and the scenes very theatrical and dramatic, but always at the heart of it was getting to play a real character who can exist outside the context of the movie. It felt like an off-Broadway play in that way.”
He also admits that starring in the action-packed American Ultra was also a bit out of his comfort zone. However, he used his theater training to get into character. He explains, “The old cliché in theater is, if you’re nervous, pick up a prop, which will immediately take you outside of your mind. My character is so intense and visceral I was always distracted in the best way. There’s no way to fake jumping off a refrigerator or fending off three guys trying to kill me at the same time.”
Though American Ultra co-star Kristen Stewart has received her fair share of criticism after starting her career in the Twilight movies, Eisenberg already respected her acting ability from when he worked with her in 2009’s Adventureland. He recalls, “She prioritizes authenticity to such a degree that when we were in Adventureland, when she was 17, she would call ‘Cut!’ if she felt like she was lying. She also has a great sense of humor. Something few people can do well is to make a scene funny not by behaving in a funny way or being dramatic, but subtly, without missing the irony. She can reconcile those things, which is even more rare in someone as famous as she is.”