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Jessie Eisenberg: “No, I have not watched ‘Sad Affleck’"

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ShortList talks to Jesse Eisenberg about sexy baldness, staying offline and Batman v Superman

Both Jonah [his Louder Than Bombs character] and Lex Luthor are kind of dickheads. Is it more fun to play jerks than nice guys?

I can’t think about any character I play in an objective way, so I don’t see him [Jonah] as a bad guy. I see him as confused and trying to do the right thing but can’t. Those are always the most interesting characters to play. Lex Luthor looks at Superman as a genuine threat to humanity: someone who can destroy cities singlehandedly. He looks at Superman as an unchecked nuclear weapon. You could look at him as a xenophobe and bigot but you could also look at him as a saviour of his race. That’s how he thinks of himself.

Is it strange working one minute on one of the most expensive films of all time and the next on a small project like Louder Than Bombs?

The scale’s different but my job is pretty much the same. My experience was almost comically similar in that I spent the first four hours of my day getting a wig on my head and contemplating grief.

Presumably we haven’t seen the last of Lex Luthor. Are you due to appear in any other DC films beyond Justice League?

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I hope so. I would love to. I’m not an expert in the comic-book canon so I’m not sure where else he would be able to show up. But I loved playing the role. It’s such an odd character and it’s a character that can exist in so many different ways.

The wig. What was it like wearing that for such a long time?

I wore a wig for 90 per cent of my role, but underneath was growing my hair so that I could match it for the final scene where the character loses his hair – because that’s my hair. It was an arduous process. I had to fit a lot underneath the wig.

What about the famous argument that bald men are sexier? Are you looking forward to Sexy Lexy Luthor?

Yeah. There’s a certain juvenile quality to the character prior to losing his hair that makes him necessarily eccentric and younger-seeming. As the character becomes the powerful character we know from the comic books, he’s so heavily associated with his sleek baldness. He’s the inverse Samson.

Have you seen ‘Sad Affleck’?

No, no, of course not.

You’ve not seen Sad Affleck?

No, of course not. I don’t watch anything, I don’t read anything, I don’t see the movies. I’m part of the movie but not part of the reception of the movie. All the other stuff has nothing to do with me.

So you wouldn’t be aware of the negative reviews the film’s been getting?

No. I genuinely am separated from it. The only time I hear about things are times like this, where I’m speaking to somebody about the movie. After I work on a project I cocoon myself from anything about it.

You’re never tempted to take a cheeky peek?

Whatever temptation I would have felt was snubbed out a long time ago. It’s much easier. Now, when I’m on set, I’m not watching myself thinking that I’m at some point going to enjoy watching this particular scene at a movie premiere. I’m just totally invested in an immediate way and it ends there. It’s really frustrating to try to control things that are totally out of your control.

Are you happy with how you portrayed Lex Luthor?

Yes. On a movie like that you walk away feeling like you had a lot of opportunities. The irony is that on the bigger movies you end up having more time to work on characters than on the movies that seem to be more exclusively focused on character minutiae.

What are you working on at the moment?

I wrote a TV series, adapted from my book called Bream Gives Me Hiccups, about a mother and a son who are stuck together after a divorce. We’re casting it and I’m directing it.

You got a good deal of flak for your New Yorker humour piece about a bad film critic. Did it stem from a gripe about a specific film review?

No, I don’t have a gripe against anybody – and I’ve been somebody who’s been attacked on the street. I don’t have gripes. I don’t even think of the word.

How do you feel about the press it got?

I have one feeling about that and the reaction to it, which is total mortification. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything that I feel really embarrassed by. Embarrassed because something I wrote hurt people’s feelings even though it could not have been farther from my intent. I have no feeling but appreciation for film critics. I feel not only embarrassed that I have possibly hurt somebody’s feelings, but I feel embarrassed that I have in some ways hurt myself. If I could go back I would of course not do it.

Louder Than Bombs is at cinemas nationwide from 22 April

[Image: Soda Pictures]

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