If you’ve never been to a press junket for a film, basically, the way it work is, the stars (or director or whatever) come in, and, for the better part of a day, they answer questions from reporters shuffled in for 20 minutes at a time. Inevitably, it’s either the same questions over and over again (“what was it like working with ____?” “Tell us about your character.”) or a zany reporter attempting to incorporate you into his/her shtick. And it’s pretty hard getting a bored person you’ve just met to play along with your shtick, trust me. It’s rare that I’ve gone to one where I haven’t wanted to c-punt at least one of the other reporters, and I wasn’t even the one who had to answer their lame questions. Basically, it’s a system almost perfectly designed to create testy exchanges, just like the one between Fusion reporter Romina Puga and Jesse Eisenberg the other day during the press tour for Now You See Me (a movie about bank-robbing magicians).
An exchange that led Puga to write:
Jesse Eisenberg is the quick-witted bully you think he is. He’s smart, sharp, and mean.
My goal at the press junket for his new movie Now You See Me was to loosen him up and have some fun — but I should’ve known better. He didn’t let me make him look like anything other than who he wanted me (or the public) to see. I caught him smirking at my attempts to be funny a few times, but he would immediately catch himself and insult me.
Yes, he compared my use of props to Carrot Top’s.
Having a conversation with Jesse Eisenberg was like having a conversation with my stubborn-as-a-mule older brother; he has to counter everything you say. But unlike my brother, who I am able to get up and walk away from, I had to sit through five minutes of tortuous conversation — scratch that, of arguing — with the 29-year-old New Yorker.
When the five minute “interview” (more like self-esteem butchering) were finally over I went behind a curtain to wait for the memory cards from the interview. I peaked around the curtain to ask Jesse about his neighborhood in New York (he lives a few blocks from where I used to live) and he immediately says, “You’re still here?”
I finally walked away.
As a junket reporter might say, meee-yow. You know a lady’s upset when she uses more than four consecutive Hs.
As it happens, I’ve actually done a junket with Jesse Eisenberg myself, back when he and Aziz Ansari were promoting 30 Minutes or Less. Obviously, I didn’t learn everything there is to know about the guy in the 40 minutes we spent together in a group setting, but I did come away thinking he seemed like a bit of a weird guy (especially compared to Aziz, who’s loud and outgoing and seems comfortable playing the host). Not weird-rude, just sort of uncomfortable and fidgety (in an uncomfortable setting). I think he was chewing on a piece of paper the whole time we were there. Basically, nice, but slightly shy and Asperger’s-y, like pretty much all the characters he’s played.
I definitely don’t think “bully” is accurate. But hey, don’t listen to me, LET’S GO TO THE GAME TAPE: (*pulls out telestrator and foam cowboy hat*)
He does bust her lady-balls a bit at the beginning about calling Morgan Freeman “Freeman,” which doesn’t derail the interview entirely (that comes later), but, when he sees that she has questions written on her hand, it does lead to the memorable quote:
EISENBERG: Are you secretly hiding questions for the interview? You’re wondering what it was like to work with Morgan Freeman, you couldn’t remember that?
PUGA: I wrote uh–
EISENBERG: “Don’t call Morgan Freeman ‘Freeman’ like you’re on a little league softball team together”?
Nicely done, Eisenberg, that’s A+ ball busting. But the interview carries on peacefully until a few seconds later, when he starts giving her grief about her props:
EISENBERG: Do you know the comedian Carrot Top?
PUGA: He’s horrible.
EISENBERG: —Well you are like the Carrot Top of interviewers.
If you just read it like that, or interpreted it the way Puga clearly interpreted it, it sounds like he’s saying “you’re horrible.” But if you watch the video, you can see Eisenberg was clearly gearing up to compare her to Carrot Top before she said “he’s horrible” (and otherwise, why would he bring it up?). So the “horrible” was more her judgment than his, but she took it like it was his. Not that you can blame her, but you can see that was the moment that the interaction went from “playful negging” to “this guy’s being mean to me,” and everything else he says (that he still seems to think is playful sparring, either because he’s not picking up her cues or because he’s in too deep already and doesn’t care) just digs him in deeper. Now come on, you two, let’s kiss and make up. Dr. Mancini hates to see two cute kids fight.
Anyway, I hope Romina Puga goes on to do lots more press junket interviews because…
1. This is the most press Now You See Me is going to get all year, so in that it was successful. And…
2. She’s super pretty. (*swoons*)
I’m tough but fair.