In the new film Now You See Me, Jesse Eisenberg stars as a tightly-wound magician whose performances with three colleagues earns him nationwide attention and notoriety. Eisenberg, who previously earned an Oscar nod for his performance as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network (2010), recently visited D.C. to talk about his new heist film.
During the interview, several other local critics and I spoke to Eisenberg about the connections between his new film and the Occupy movement, his past experiences with magic and the his budding writing career.
The theme for your film, which is kind of Robin Hood-esque– kind of take from the rich and give to the po0r– how does that resonate with the times that we’re living in right now?
Eisenberg: When we were filming the movie, Occupy Wall Street was in the news all the time. I guess it’s less in the news now just cause it’s not happening with the same intensity but I think probably the feeling is still there. And so I was kinda surprised when we would perform these magic shows, we would perform for people who were extras. Hired to be the audience members but the reaction that we would elicit when we would talk about what these businessmen have done to a fictional audience with fictional businessmen was so intense that you realize ‘oh, the feeling is in the air even in a fictional circumstance that everybody knows is not real.’ People still really feel angry and so I assume [people] watching the movie and not being a fictional audience– as the audience who watches this movie will be– will probably feel the same feeling.
Did you bring any of (Mark) Zuckerburg to your character here?
Eisenberg: I guess both of those guys feel like they’re really the best at what they do so I guess they’re both confident except [that] this character genuinely feels that way. He’s not acting out of some kind of insecurity whereas I think [the] other guy’s acting more from feeling excluded. My character genuinely thinks he’s the best in the world at what he does. He probably even is because he’s like the most successful magician.
What was your first experience with magic?
Eisenberg: I was exposed to magic because my mother was like a clown growing up so she would perform at birthday parties. And she would not perform at my birthday because everybody knew that it was my mother so it would not be surprising. She would barter with a local magician Bruce and Bruce would do my parties for free and my mom would do his children’s parties for free and so I got to be exposed to magic but I just knew him as Bruce and so it was strange to see him put on this persona and that’s what I thought of with this character that I was playing now. My character would be a real person…
Are there any plans to do a sequel to Zombieland?
Eisenberg: No, I think there were but then they decided to do a TV show instead. I guess it would preclude a sequel cause it would be more of the same brand.
We know that you do a lot of writing for the New Yorker so I was just wondering how you got into writing.
Eisenberg: I used to write jokes a lot. I recently went to clean out [the room where I grew up in] and I found some of my old jokes… I’ve been writing jokes since I was very young and I’ve been reading New Yorker humor columns for a long time so I’ve been submitting to them for like five years and they finally started accepting my columns…
Now You See Me is in theaters now.