ARTEST HE ROOM

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film - The Sun­day Times

plays the same role again and again. Rather, he has his tal­ent, his thing, and he tweaks it, sub­tly. An eye­brow here, a quick­ened sen­tence there. Like an edgier Michael Cera or a less con­fi­dent Robert Downey Jr.

I tell him I’m about to wheel out one of his old quotes. ‘‘ One of my fa­mous quotes,’’ he re­peats drily. ‘‘ Which one?’’ One about how, un­set­tled at school, he started act­ing in plays dur­ing his teens so he could hide be­hind a char­ac­ter. ‘‘ You didn’t get the ex­act word­ing,’’ he says with a shrug, ‘‘ and I’ll send you the T-shirt. But yeah, I mean, act­ing gives you a pre­scribed set of be­hav­iours, and that can be re­ally com­fort­ing be­cause the rest of the world is chaotic and un­pre­dictable.’’

With fame, though, he has to strike a bal­ance. There’s the ‘‘ rich emo­tional in­ner life’’ when not per­form­ing, then the times ‘‘ strangers are talk­ing to you on the street’’. But he ac­knowl­edges: ‘‘ I guess it could be worse.’’

We talk about David Blaine. I tell him many Brits think the ma­gi­cian is an in­suf­fer­ably pre­ten­tious berk. ‘‘ I don’t think any­body thinks he’s any­thing other than re­ally in­ter­est­ing,’’ comes the protest. But in Lon­don, he just sat in a box. ‘‘ We’re still ex­cited by things like that here in Amer­ica.’’ Sit­ting in a box? ‘‘ Es­pe­cially sit­ting in a box.’’ We do a to-and-fro. ‘‘ Lis­ten, we are a few hun­dred years old,’’ he fin­ishes. ‘‘ We still have rev­er­ence.’’

A few weeks af­ter we met, blog­ger Rom­ina Puga re­leased a short video of her in­ter­view with Eisen­berg and I was re­minded of our Blaine con­ver­sa­tion. ‘‘ So, I was just hu­mil­i­ated by Jesse Eisen­berg,’’ she wrote; he is sar­cas­tic through- out. When asked to say Puga’s name as if call­ing to her in a crowded place, he does so qui­etly, say­ing, ‘‘ The thing is, I didn’t want to find you.’’ But then, on the David Let­ter­man chat show about the same time, he is hum­ble, as if his cock­i­ness is di­rectly re­lated to how much he re­spects other peo­ple in the room.

He tells me he has ‘‘ trou­ble com­mit­ting emo­tion­ally if I don’t think it’s the great­est thing in the world’’.

In 2011, he sued Lion­s­gate af­ter the stu­dio used his face — in the wake of The So­cial Net­work — to flog a hor­ror film he ap­peared in for mere min­utes. It was, the com­plaint read, ‘‘ false ad­ver­tis­ing’’.

Time’s up. The rain has stopped, and there’s a city — or a cin­ema — to see af­ter lunch. He says of the hor­ror film that there was a set­tle­ment, and that he ‘‘ gave all the money to a char­ity’’. That sort of ac­tion from him makes sense. He cares about what he does and how he is per­ceived on screen, and de­nies that the big­ger films — such as his blue macaw in the car­toons Rio and Rio 2 — are just done to fund his plays. He voiced the parrot on his day off from The Re­vi­sion­ist be­cause, he says with a smile, it was ‘‘ the most fun thing to do on a Mon­day . . . to go and im­pro­vise as this bird, which is such a sweet char­ac­ter’’.

We end on a joke of his about buy­ing a ticket for The Great Gatsby in 2-D, which peters out as he heads into the bath­room.

So­cial Net­work; Zom­bieland; Now You See Me;

Jesse Eisen­berg at the open­ing night of his off-Broad­way play left; be­low, from top, sec­ond left in with Joseph Mazzello in

in and with Anna Paquin in

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