There has to be some irony in the fact I missed a key opportunity to ask Jesse Eisenberg about a very incendiary comment while interviewing him about a movie where he plays a journalist who scored a rare interview with one of the greatest authors of the 20th Century. It may not fully fall under the definition of irony, but it certainly deserves some sort of shake of the head.
Eisenberg and Jason Segel were in Los Angeles on July 14 to discuss their roles in the critically acclaimed drama “The End of the Tour.” Directed by James Ponsoldt (“The Spectacular Now”), “Tour” chronicles the five days Rolling Stone magazine writer David Lipsky (Eisenberg) spent interviewing the usually press-shy David Foster Wallace (Segel) following the release of his 1996 novel “Infinite Jest.” The movie debuted last January at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival and both actors received strong marks (HitFix”s Dan Fienberg described Segel”s performance as “transformative”) and its expected to be, at worst, a minor player on this Fall”s award circuit. On this specific morning, however, Eisenberg was making news on a different subject.
It had been only a few days since Comic-Con 2015 had come to a merciful close. Eisenberg had joined his co-stars on stage for a massive “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” panel that Saturday morning. The “Social Network” star is playing Lex Luthor in the “Man of Steel” follow-up and had actually been to Comic-Con in 2009 to support “Zombieland” six years prior. It turns out returning to San Diego wasn”t necessarily more enjoyable the second time around. Walking the red carpet for the LA premiere of “Tour” the night before, he”d described the experience to the Associated Press as the following: “It is like being screamed at by thousands of people. I don't know what the experience is throughout history, probably some kind of genocide. I can't think of anything that's equivalent.”
Describing anything as genocide is likely going to spur some sort of reaction and within hours Eisenberg was trending worldwide on Twitter and Facebook. The Oscar nominee followed up with AP on the 14th clarifying, “I of course was using hyperbole to describe the sensory overload I experienced.” A quote he provided at the same press day I attended and where I stupidly forgot to check social media beforehand. So, instead of Eisenberg on camera providing HitFix with a politically correct mea culpa you have before you a conversation actually about the movie.
Eisenberg discussed what he learned from meeting with Lipsky before filming began and inferred that his opinion of journalists hadn”t really changed after playing one. He admits, “I couldn't do your job…I would feel pretty uncomfortable.”
Segel, on the other hand, was blunt about the personal pressure he put on himself to play such a serious role noting, “What if it turned out I was terrible at it? That was the scary thing to me.” (Clearly, his insecurity fueled something truly special).
You can watch the entire conversation in the video embedded at the top of this post.
After the interview finished I grabbed my video cards and walked to the hotel elevator. It was after checking my phone that I discovered that the Internet was blowing up over Eisenberg”s initial remarks. On the one hand, I”m glad I was able to have an insightful chat with two actors who performances deserve serious attention from movie (and Foster Wallace) fans everywhere. That being said, was I kicking myself for missing a chance to ask Eisenberg about his now infamous comment?
You bet I was. What reporter wouldn't?
“The End of the Tour” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.