Jesse Eisenberg Talks New Book, Working with Ben Affleck
After taking Hollywood by storm, Jesse Eisenberg is making his literary fiction debut with his new collection of stories, Bream Gives Me Hiccups.
The Academy Award nominated actor turned author—who’s also a noted playwright and contributor for the New Yorker—will be stopping by the Brattle Theatre on Thursday night to sign copies of his latest work. If promoting a new book wasn’t stressful enough, expect to see a lot more of Eisenberg in the coming months as the press tour amps up for his next blockbuster outing, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
While he’s previously said that it was “strange” playing Lex Luthor to Ben Affleck’s Bruce Wayne, Eisenberg admits that he had a wonderful experience working with the Boston-bred actor because of their shared interests outside of acting.
“He’s wonderful in the movie and such a bright guy,” Eisenberg says. “I really cherish meeting people like him, who are super interested in the rest of the world as well.”
Check out what else he had to say about working with Bat-fleck, his thoughts on coming back to Boston, and more.
You’re bringing your book tour to Boston and are no stranger to the area after filming The Social Network here. Do you have any favorite memories of the city?
Filming The Social Network there, I felt that it was, at that point in my life, the most exciting two weeks I’ve had as an actor. Then the whole movie moved to L.A. for the bulk of it, and it became this kind of boring, typical movie shoot that’s just in Los Angeles in a movie studio. The first few weeks in Boston were so exhilarating and I have really fond memories, especially filming overnight on a movie like that, which was made by a big movie company and yet we were worried that Harvard was going to shut us down everyday. So we were up in the middle of the night, hiding behind bushes getting shots. It was just an exhilarating experience working on a really big movie, but feeling like we’re doing a guerrilla shoot.
Speaking of Boston, your Batman v Superman co-star Ben Affleck is from the area. What was it like working with him?
He’s wonderful in the movie and such a bright guy. We share a lot of the same interests in politics and world affairs. It’s not like the most common conversations to find yourself having on a movie set, so I really cherish meeting people like him, who are super interested in the rest of the world as well.
When we were doing The Social Network, he was doing his movie called The Town in I think it was Charlestown. We were actually filming at the same time and I remember everybody was saying, “What? Ben Affleck is directing a movie?” Everyone was questioning him, and of course, he became such a wonderful movie director.
What inspired you to write this book and what got you into writing in the first place?
When I was about 12 years old, I started writing jokes because I liked stand-up comedy. As I got older, I found it not as fulfilling or sustainable of a format to write because I got more interested in acting and thinking about characters from that kind of an emotional place. I tried to marry those two interests of humor and character to create what’s in the book, which is a lot of dialogue and monologues and first person narratives. I would kind of characterize it as character-based humor pieces.
Jason Segel, your co-star in the David Foster Wallace biopic The End of the Tour, is also an author. Did you guys chat about the craft while working on the film?
I think both of us had special insights into our characters because of our backgrounds as writers. I think most important was the understanding of what it’s like to be in a room alone for a long period of time. Actors and people who work on movies tend to be more social. But if you’re writing something, it’s really hard to do it in a group. We had to understand that for our characters, because the movie is about these two guys who spend a lot of time alone, are thrust into a room together, and have to reconcile the uncomfortable social setting.
As an actor, you’re usually portraying characters written by other people. Do you enjoy the creative freedom writing provides?
Yes, I love having the opportunity to write characters either for myself to play or for other people to play. I also love acting in other people’s work. I’m doing a Woody Allen movie right now, and he’s the greatest writer of comedy, in my opinion, ever. So, it’s really great to not only be able to work with him and see how he constructs scenes and characters, but also to kind of live in that timing and live in that world because it becomes infused in my mind and my work. I’m able to take advantage of it and use it for my own writing.