Jesse Eisenberg: “It’s much easier for me to play a character with some kind of eccentricity or strange behavior”
“In a part that’s so different to me, I can just lose myself in the character and I don’t feel any of my usual self-awareness” – Jesse Eisenberg
People make many assumptions about Jesse Eisenberg based on his typical on-screen persona, and the Academy Award-nominated actor doesn’t dismiss many of those assumptions in an interview with The Guardian. In the revealing piece, Eisenberg speaks about why his role in Now You See Me and its sequel is the one he most enjoyed, and why it’s “relaxing” to play a character so unlike yourself.
First, during a speech at CinemaCon, Eisenberg revealed how brazen he was as a teenager when he first became a member of the Screen Actors Guild. He revealed, “When I was about 18, I got my Screen Actors Guild card and, for some reason, I decided to tell my local Regal Cinemas box office that this SAG card allowed me two free movie tickets to any movie. I saw a movie, like every other day, at this Regal Cinema, illegally using my SAG card. Swordfish, Dr Doolittle 2, America’s Sweethearts, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Serendipity, Training Day, Shallow Hal, Gosford Park…”
Earlier, in the Guardian interview, Eisenberg said that he welcomed the Now You See Me sequel because he enjoyed working on the first film. He reveals, “Those two movies, the first Now You See Me and now this, are the only time I’m ever relaxed in my life.”
The main reason why Eisenberg enjoys playing his Now You See Me character is because it gives him the opportunity to play someone very unlike himself and the roles he is typically asked to play. He says, “I enjoy Now You See Me because my character is a performer. I’m also a performer obviously – but this guy is the most confident performer, he’s worked hard establishing this incredible skill-set and doesn’t apologize for it. He has confidence probably in excess and in a lot of ways I’m kind of the opposite.”
He continues to note the parallels, adding, “I perform on stage for a living, as my main job, and I have total stage fright and anxiety so reprising this character in Now You See Me 2, is really the only time I’m totally at ease. When you’re playing a character for a long time, several hours a day, for an extended period of time, over the course of a few months you end up subconsciously taking on the experience of that character. If you make the face of somebody confident for 12 hours a day, over the course of a few months, you end up tricking yourself into thinking that you have all those feelings and so, for me, this is the only time when I can actually lower my medication.”
In fact, Eisenberg confesses that he has a much easier time portraying characters who aren’t like him than ones who are similar to his real personality. He explains, “It’s much easier for me to play a character with some kind of eccentricity or strange behavior. Those roles are most comfortable to play because you just lose your consciousness. If you’re playing a character who is very similar to you, you are hyper-aware and second-guessing every aspect of that performance because it seems so close to you. But in a part that’s so different to me, I can just lose myself in the character and I don’t feel any of my usual self-awareness.”