Now You See Me Jesse Eisenberg Interview

Jesse Eisenberg joined co-star Isla Fisher in London for a Q&A event to promote their magical new film Now You See Me. The film has already worked it’s magic on the US Box Office prompting immediate talk of a sequel. Here’s what famously fast talking star Jesse had to say:

Tell us a bit about your character?

I play a slight of hand magician so my biggest danger was probably a paper cut. I got several of those… in weird places. Atlas is like the greatest sight of hand magician in the world, the kind of guy who realised at 5 years old he didn’t want to have a normal life so he just stayed in his bedroom and practised magic. Now he has developed the attitude of someone who thinks he’s the best at something. So he’s a great magician and basically a bit of an arrogant guy.

Is Atlas his real name?

Yeah it is he’s Jewish… they changed it at Ellis Island. No, really he’s created a magic persona, like David Copperfield which is actually a Dickens novel.

You character’s quite a showman, did that come naturally for you?

Isla and I play these confident magicians and I think both of us have a little stage fright in general. I think at least for me and for Isla too something just got switched on in us. When you get into a character that’s really comfortable performing on stage you just trick yourself into feeling that confidence. Then you feel it for real.

What was it like filming magic shows in front of thousands of people?

That scene was filmed primarily with the camera on a cable and it was circling the stage. The opening shot is several minutes long and it tracks all around us performing and then ends up on a close up of Morgan Freeman who’s sitting in the audience. It was complicated to shoot these scenes but also fun because you get to perform like a full length show as opposed to just shooting it piecemeal. We filmed the shows over the course of weeks; it took so long to film them all. So it was almost like we practised on camera. By the time we were doing it fully it was almost like we’d done it for days.

Can you still do any magic tricks now in real life?

I’ve retained some of the muscle memory for little tricks. But one of the weird things about this job is that you learn how to do and immerse yourself in something so specific for a concentrated period of time. Then at the end you leave and move on to something else and you never have a chance to use that weird skill again.

Why do you think people are so fascinated by Magic?

It’s like Santa Clause for adults. You want to believe in something not real and it’s fun to believe in that. It’s interesting because when I was practicing magic on set I would perform for the crew and after I would do a trick I would inevitably tell them how I did it because I felt too strange keeping the trick from them. I learned very quickly that people wanted to be deceived. There’s something fun in not knowing the secret.

How did you train and prepare for the role?

David Kwong was the magic consultant for this movie and was our magic teacher. He was great and available for us for like a month before the movie 24 hrs a day. He was also instrumental in coming up with some of the illusions that are in the movie.

What was it like working with your Director Louis Leterrier?

He French and he actually gave me these obscure French movies; he said he wanted the acting to be like in these movies. I was sceptical because when I read the script it seemed like it was this very plot driven movie that was big and broad in scope. He said I want to get great actors to do this and I wanted the acting to be treated the way it was in these French films. Gerrard Depardiue wasn’t available, because he was in Belgium not paying any taxes. But the director followed through on both of those things. He followed through on getting great actors and on treating the actors with respect. On a movie like this the acting can get a little lost because the plot is so interesting that the acting can be seen as secondary. But that just wasn’t the case here. We were given a lot of time to try things.

What made his approach so special?

He did the most amazing thing which I’ve never seen done on a movie which is to film two actors doing the same conversation one after the other, but then go back if you’ve learned something from what the second actor has done and reshoot the first one. Things like that never happen, especially on an independent movie that would be considered more of a character driven movie. Normally you just don’t have the time.

How much room if any was there for improvising given the complex plot?

Before shooting we’d worked out what parts of the script were malleable and what parts weren’t. There were a lot of scenes where what we did in the small meat of it wouldn’t affect the plot in a substantive way so in those moments we’d be able to improvise. We were able to come up with things like backstories. For Atlas and Henely we came up with this complicated history where she was my assistant and had a crush on me, but then she became very successful and I felt threatened by her success. We were still able to improvise within that very complicated framework.

We’ve heard you helped bring Woody Harrelson to the project, what was it like working together again?

I’d known Woody Harrelson for a while and we’d wanted to do something together and this presented a great opportunity to do that. It meant that we got to work together but in a different dynamic from Zombieland. Its fun to work with the same people but it’s less fun to work with them in the exact same dynamic. In this movie we play rival magicians who are both a little competitive with each other because we both think we’re the best in our respective fields. I’m a slight of hand guy and he’s like a mentalist. He’s really funny and works very hard, he comes up with like a million variations of a joke and he tries them all out.

Speaking of Zombieland do you think there’s still any chance we’ll see a sequel?

We wanted to do a sequel to Zombieland but then they tried to do a TV series instead. Then someone told me the TV series was cancelled so maybe it will happen again. Although it seems like maybe you wouldn’t want to do a movie after a TV series. Zombieland was originally written as a TV series so it made sense that they wanted to try to make it into a show. But they should have made a sequel I think.

We heard you came back to reshoot much of the end of the film, why was that?

It’s not atypical of a movie like this where there’s so many little plot details. They also ended up not using about 90% of what we reshot. In a movie like this you want to make sure it’s perfectly clear and constantly interesting. When you have a complicated plot like this obviously sometimes you end up shooting scenes that don’t wind up in the movie.

Was there anything you were happy was changed?

When we shot this movie we filmed in New Orleans which has been ravaged by several natural disasters and we would be raining fake money on these people, you could see that even though they knew it wasn’t real there was still an intense kind of anger and joy there. You realised how real hose feelings are. It felt sanctimonious because it’s a fictional movie and we’re not actually giving money back, so it seemed odd to reference a real disaster there.

How easy do you think Now You See Me is to follow?

It’s the kind of film when you read the script you have to go slowly but when you’re actually watching it it’s a very visual type of movie, it’s not very dialogue driven really. The director is very visual in the way he shoots scenes from all these different angles so that afterwards in the editing room he can choose how much to reveal and how much to hide. There’s all these twists in the movies and he shot it multiple ways to have the opportunity to be able to reveal only what he wanted to.

Now You See Me will be magically appearing in cinemas across the UK on 3rd July. 

Check out a bonus Gallery of Q&A pictures below:

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