Jesse Eisenberg Interview: Now You See Me 2, Lex Luthor, and Woody Allen

Dave Franco, Jesse Eisenberg, and Jon Chu at CinemaCon
Dave Franco, Jesse Eisenberg and Jon M. Chu at CinemaCon (Photo by Dan Steinberg / Invision for Lionsgate / AP Images)

Lionsgate’s screening of Now You See Me 2 at the 2016 CinemaCon was halted 15 minutes in when an unattended backpack caused security to evacuate the Coliseum at Caesars Palace. The screening was ultimately cancelled but Jesse Eisenberg, who reprised his role as J. Daniel Atlas in the sequel, still stuck around for the Big Screen Achievement Awards that were held hours after the screening was halted. Prior to taking the stage to accept CinemaCon’s Male Star of the Year award, Eisenberg answered a few questions about his current film projects during a small press conference.

Asked about working with Woody Allen and if he’s playing a version of the award-winning filmmaker in Allen’s Cafe Society, Eisenberg said he wasn’t trying to channel Woody for the role. “If there’s any effort in that regard it’s to avoid that kind of thing because no one can do it as well and it would seem to be a mistake to not take on the role in its own way,” explained Eisenberg. “But, that said, the dialogue is written by him and it has a specific cadence. He’s directing you so in between takes his speech patterns and his mannerisms are kind of the thing that is most present for me. And, I’ve liked him so much since I’m younger so probably there’s those two kind of competing interests that I have and I’m not sure which one will win out because I’ve not seen the movie.”

Eisenberg said he doesn’t watch the movies he’s in and he didn’t pay attention to any of articles about Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice while working on the film. “I really try to stay in a bubble. There’s really no way to kind of respond to people criticizing you for a role you haven’t yet screwed up. It’s certainly odd. Almost everything else I’m in you’re kind of in the strange position of obsequiously begging people to see it. And then suddenly I’m in a movie like that where you’re actually doing the opposite; you’re trying to kind of avoid saying anything about it. You’re not allowed to kind of talk about it. It’s shrouded in total secrecy, so it’s certainly kind of a different experience. But it doesn’t affect me that much because I don’t read anything about it or watch it or anything like that.”

I asked Eisenberg if the character from Now You See Me was one he wanted to go back and explore in a sequel and he replied, “Now You See Me, these two movies have been really like the only time I’ve relaxed in my life because my character is a performer. I’m also a performer, obviously, but this guy is like the most confident performer. He has worked hard establishing this incredible skill set and he doesn’t apologize for it. He is confident, probably in excess, and I, in a lot of ways, am kind of the opposite. I perform on stage for a living as my main job and I have total stage fright and anxieties about going up there, so playing this character in Now You See Me and Now You See Me 2 again is like really the only time I can feel totally at ease because when you’re playing a character for a long time, you know several hours a day for an extended period of time over the course of a few months, you end up just unconsciously taking on the experience of that character, the feelings of that character. I mean, if you make the face of somebody confident for 12 hours a day over the course of a few months you end up just tricking yourself into thinking that you have all those feelings. And so for me this is like the only time where I could actually lower my medication.”

Eisenberg also explained that to him it’s easier to play a character who has some kind of eccentricity or strange behavior that seems very different from himself. “Those are the roles that are most comfortable to play for actors because you just lose your self-consciousness. If you’re playing a character that’s very similar to you, you’re kind of hyper-aware and second guessing every aspect of that performance because it seems so close to you. You can be very hyper-aware of the inconsistencies or the superficialities or whatever the artifice that you’re doing. But in a part like [Lex Luthor], it’s so different from me – looks different from me, sounds different from me, behaves different from me – I can kind of just lose myself in the character and I don’t feel any of the kind of usual self-awareness.”

Watch the entire Jesse Eisenberg interview: