Jesse Eisenberg on Hasidic Ecstasy Dealers, Facebook
Published May 11, 2010
MIKE O’CONNELL AND JESSE EISENBERG IN THE LIVING WAKE
Ever since his debut in 2002’s Roger Dodger, in which he played an awkward 16-year-old who enlists the help of his Manhattanite uncle on his quest to lose his virginity, actor Jesse Eisenberg has pulled off a string of almost unanimously-praised turns as nebish-y, complicated youths (see also: 2005’s The Squid and the Whale, and 2009’s lighter Adventureland). With three films seeing release this month (The Living Wake, Holy Rollers, Solitary Man), and a just-wrapped portryal of Mark Zuckerberg in the sure-to-be huge Facebook movie, The Social Network, Eisenberg is likely on the verge of his first big moment. We spoke to him about working with the “genius” writer-actor Mike O’Connell on his dark comedy, The Living Wake, Hasidic Jewish ecstasy dealers, and why he doesn’t like social networking:
INTERVIEW: The Living Wake, which is screening in New York and LA this week, was actually made a couple years ago, right?
JESSE EISENBERG: We made it in 2005. I guess with these very small movies, it’s hard to find a distribution company.
INTERVIEW: Can you tell me about working with Michael O’Connell, who wrote and acted in the film?
EISENBERG: Mike’s a genius. I think he’s probably most known for this web video where he sings a rap called, “What’s It Gonna Be?” with Doctor Ken playing his sidekick. You should look it up–it’s really funny, but it doesn’t compare to this. It’s a very funny and comedically crass song, but The Living Wake, the character he plays in it is, I think, one of the most amazing characters I’ve ever seen. Mike is a very soulful and sweet guy but, at the same time, he has a cutting sense of humor. It’s crass and cutting, but it comes from a very sad, sweet, and often dark place.
INTERVIEW: And Holy Rollers, otherwise known as “the Hasidic Jewish ecstasy movie,” also just premiered.
EISENBERG: Yeah, the Hasidic Jewish ecstasy movie, which we just finished. It’s coming out much more quickly than we expected.
INTERVIEW: Was the plot based in reality at all?
EISENBERG: I guess the studio is calling it “inspired by true events,” which includes almost every story ever told, but this actually is loosely based on a story of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn who became ecstasy mules in the late ‘90s. They were smuggling in ecstasy from Europe; obviously, no one bothered to check Hasidic Jewish kids’ suitcases for ecstasy.
INTERVIEW: The Social Network is another sort of unusual success story. How was filming that?
EISENBERG: It has one of the best writers of all time, Aaron Sorkin, wrote the script and David Fincher, one of the best directors ever working, and then the third kind of the triumvirate–Scott Rudin produces the greatest movies. So, it was like the ideal experience. And it was a long shoot, so they did it exactly the way it should be done, they had everything going for it, so it was just a real honor to be part of it. The story was wonderful, the characters are incredibly well written and acted, and it was an honor to be there every day.
INTERVIEW: And Mark [Zuckerberg] wasn’t actually involved in the making of this, correct?
EISENBERG: I’m not sure how much the guys were involved… The fact that it was based on something real was less relevant. It was more that we were telling this really interesting story. The funny thing is that, while we were there, my cousin got a pretty high level job at the company, at Facebook. He wasn’t telling any secrets, but it just was funny to think that my cousin is now pretty friendly with him.
INTERVIEW: Are you a Facebook user?
EISENBERG: I’m not. You know, because my job is already semi-public… You know, I get stopped on the street occasionally, and it traumatizes me for the day that somebody knows who I am. I think that if I did any kind of social networking interaction, it would probably freak me out.
INTERVIEW: So you’re not a big attention-seeker?
EISENBERG: Yeah, I guess not. You know, it’s just the nature of what the job is like, already public. And if you do interviews and talk about yourself, the last thing you want to do is, do interviews, talk about yourself, and then go online and tell everybody what you ate for breakfast.