Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart are two of the finest young actors in Hollywood. Eisenberg has appeared in Roger Dodger, The Emperor’s Club, Cursed, The Hunting Party and his break-out movie, The Squid and the Whale, a well-reviewed independent drama with Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels. Stewart, meanwhile, first rose to international prominence starring opposite Jodie Foster in Panic Room. She has since starred in Cold Creek Manor, Zathura, Fierce People, In the Land of Women, Into the Wild and the global smash Twilight. In Adventureland Stewart stars as Em Lewin, the first girl to steal the heart of the film’s main protagonist, James Brennan, played by Eisenberg. They spark on screen and in real life, encouraging each other throughout the interview…
What was it about Adventureland that appealed to you?
Jesse Eisenberg: I think that Kristen and I were just saying the characters are so well rounded. It’s rare that a movie like this that can come out in many theaters and be a movie that a lot of people go to, with characters that are so richly drawn and so honestly put together.
Neither of you will have memories from the ’80s. Was it fun to go back and explore the era?
Jesse Eisenberg: Yeah, it was interesting to see. I was born in 1983 and so the ’80s were done by the time I grew up a little. But I did have this like romanticized notion of what the ’80s were. I mean, they weren’t romantic for me, but I had this notion of a simpler time. I guess also it was a selfish time, right? It was called the Me generation or the Me decade or something. I do have like some vivid memories of what the aesthetic was of the ’80s, so it was interesting to see that from the perspective of an adult. And I really liked it. I did actually like two other movies that take place in the same year – or ’86 or ’87, and so yeah, I kind of I do like the period. It’s nice also there were no cell phones!
Kristen Stewart: And who knows if the story actually could have taken place without that, because at least my aspect of the story is reliant on the fact that she can be a different person depending on who she’s with, and she can’t always be contacted. She’s not doing a Facebook depicting every emotion that she is going through. So she can get from people what she needs and she can sort of reinvent herself, which people do naturally. It’s not like she is being fake, it’s just that she has different aspects that she can show different people. I feel like nowadays everyone perceives you the same way. You can’t even have a private life away from your family; it’s like everything is very hands-on!
Is this school of comedy something that really appeals to both?
Jesse Eisenberg: Yeah I haven’t really seen a lot of them but whenever they’re making something that’s funny, if it’s derived from the characters rather than just from something happening to the characters. I guess that’s the ideal version of what a comedy is.
Kristen Stewart: You feel for the person telling the joke and you’re not just watching a comedian arbitrarily be funny. The characters are actually more like people that you’ve gotten to know and that you care about and now they’re being funny. You just laugh harder at your friends.
Jesse, knowing that you are playing the director in his younger life, does that put extra responsibility on you? You did something similar in The Squid and the Whale…
Jesse Eisenberg: In Adventureland, the story is fictionalized a little bit. But no, if anything, it was really nice and wonderful to have Greg there to discuss all of the situations. It just meant that the script had a more personal quality to it. You could just tell by reading it once that it came from something more real than most scripts that you read. It felt more authentic. All the characters did.
Does Greg have mannerisms that you were trying to pick up on?
Jesse Eisenberg: Yeah, Greg is extremely, extremely earnest. He’s extremely careful about what he says. It’s all in the script. It’s all self-explanatory; if you just read the script, you’d probably know something about him, even before you met him. But that’s all that all comes from him, this over explaining, this very sincere quality.
Kristen, did Greg tell you about any of the people your character was based on?
Kristen Stewart: I think she was based on a compilation of girlfriends of his from the past. Like a melding of a couple of different people – failed relationships with girls that were kind of damaged, but not a specific person. So it wasn’t like one relationship that he had. This was just the movie.
Did you meet anyone like that that when you were growing up and did you have any similar experience?
Kristen Stewart: No, I never met a terribly introverted damaged girl at a theme park in the ’80s [laughs]. But I related to her because I like characters that are written, that are whole, that don’t feel it’s easy to tell what would be right and wrong and how they would feel about something. I’m not like the girl in the movie; she’s a real person. So her – I got all my inspiration from her. I could imagine what it would be like to not like yourself very much and not have a mom and not have a dad to reassure you and sort of be kicking it alone. Also to feel like you’re sort of smarter than everybody but no one gets it. I get all that, and then the masochistic aspects girls are good at. I can relate on that level.
But that was more of a rebellious thing with that character…
Kristen Stewart: Yeah, I think that was more about like her dad getting to know that she was actually a real person and not just like a little girl – that your little girl is going to grow up into a woman that does things on her own, who makes her own personal choices that wouldn’t necessarily coincide with his. It was as if she’s a grown up now, and that’s hard for a dad to deal with.
The music is so important to the film, but was that just ancient history to you?
Jesse Eisenberg: Lou Reed is still very still popular now. I don’t know if anybody else in the movie is still kind of popular now, but I loved Lou Reed for a while. I was so happy to see that he would be included in the movie – he was even in the script obviously because it’s part of the plot. I didn’t really know that much of the music, but Greg had made us like some mixed CDs of the songs from the movie. I loved all the ones that the characters are supposed to love.
Kristen Stewart: I really like Lou Reed. I like a lot of the sort of alternative music. I’m not to into like Rock Me, Amadeus, though [laughs].
So what’s the worst summer job that you ever had?
Kristen Stewart: I’ve never had one. I’ve done sort of funky movies over summers. And once I didn’t like a production designer, if that counts as a bad job! [laughs]
Jesse Eisenberg: Yeah, I’ve never worked during the summer. I take summers off. [laughs]
What was the most enjoyable scene that the two of you shot together?
Jesse Eisenberg: I was going to say the bumper cars, but actually, it wasn’t fun at all. It just seemed like something you could say in an interview! Actually, acting in bumper cars is terrible, because the really only way to film it and get a close up is to literally mount the camera – this heavy thing on the car and it’s just the worst because you can’t act at all with a thing on the car.
Was there anything fun about shooting on the actual theme park?
Jesse Eisenberg: No, I think the insurance didn’t cover us. We didn’t go on any of the rides until the shoot ended, for fear of us dying!
Kristen Stewart: Yeah, we weren’t allowed to go on the rides until the end, and then they stuck us on the most dangerous rickety wooden old ride that they had at the park. That was the one ride that we got to ride. And we did it like 15 times. It’s especially funny though to see Jesse on a ride because his enthusiasm is very restrained. He’s like, ‘Oh yes, that was very fun’ [laughs].
Jesse Eisenberg: [Laughing] I agree, that was enjoyable!
Kristen, what are you looking forward to in the next movie in the Twilight series, New Moon?
Kristen Stewart: I’m looking forward to all aspects of the movie. A lot more is introduced, like the world of the werewolves comes alive, and the second movie is much more quaint. Edward leaves her, which is interesting, considering the first movie is based entirely on their devotion to each other. So to see them cope without each other and to see this character, Jacob, who is supposed to represent light and warmth. He pulls her out of a rut that’s seemingly impossible. And it’s really tragic. There is actually a lot more to work with. The first one was good because it was ultimate love and abandon, and that’s good, but it’s also kind of one note. Now it’s a different story.
Has life changed drastically? Are you just aware of being watched all the time?
Kristen Stewart: Not on a day-to-day basis, it’s only like at press junkets and things like this that you have to watch what you say. But really people don’t really recognize me often. I think I just look different in person or something. I’m also not very approachable, and maybe they’re just like ‘Ooohhh, she’s scary!’ [laughs]
Has that film changed your life?
KS: I don’t have a grand plan. I don’t scope things out. I don’t look at a project and how it relates to others. It’s not like, ‘Oh this is the next step and this is probably smart for me.’ Adventureland, for example, was something that I wanted to do because the characters were easy to invest in. It’s just there to be played. They played like real people – you feel responsible for someone that you feel will die right on the page unless you bring them to life. Whenever you feel that, it is something worthwhile. But with regard to Twilight, it’s made it easier to do things that I really like, things that like an independent movie that nobody would normally see. Now it’s like, ‘Oh let’s go see Bella in this stripper movie; it’ll be crazy!’ [Laughs]
Presumably you’re referring to Welcome to the Rileys…
Kristen Stewart: Yeah, with James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo, who is just incredible. It was the most fruitful life-changing experience on a movie that I’ve ever had. It was just the hardest subject matter I’ve ever had to deal with. I play a very broken young girl who is a runaway. She’s a street kid. She’s working in a strip club and James Gandolfini’s character is just as sort of dead inside and they wake each other up. It’s really good.
Jesse, what are you working on next?
Jesse Eisenberg: I’m doing a movie in Georgia. I play a very broken young girl who is a runaway [laughs]. No, it’s called Zombieland. So look out for it. I am not a zombie in the film though – I’m running from them!
Interview By: Emma Loggins