Jesse Eisenberg talks acting, life in Great Hall


Katlyn Campbell/Iowa State Daily

Jesse Eisenberg, actor known for starring in Zombieland and The Social Network, visited Iowa State for a Q&A held in the Great Hall of the Memorial Union on Jan. 27 during ISU AfterDark.

Kyle Cravens, & Thomas Shreve

ISU AfterDark was host to acclaimed actor Jesse Eisenberg Friday evening. The Great Hall in the Memorial Union teemed with energy awaiting the late, intimate conversation between the mediator and Eisenberg.

The actor/playwright wasn’t alone however, as a nearly hour and half long comedy performance from Barry Rothbart warmed the crowd. Rothbart has been on the edge of greater fame for some time now, and has been performing all over the country to gain popularity. He was named one of Variety Magazine’s “10 Comics to Watch” back in 2013, and it was apparent why he earned that status from his performance on Friday.

His jokes were rooted around storytelling and past experiences, and his interactions with the crowd were stellar. Some audience members even returned the favor and made Rothbart laugh.

The comedian’s only downfall was his somewhat flat ending, which seemed to drag on. He seem unprepared as I kept expecting a tie in to an earlier joke for his finale, but it never came. Although the ending could have had more flare, the performance was stellar, and he made new fans out of many attendees at the Great Hall.

With Rothbart bidding the ISU audience adieu, the evening with Jesse Eisenberg could begin. Just the act of Eisenberg stepping onto the stage was enough to make me chuckle, as the characters he portrays in movies really reflect his personality.

His quick manner of speech and shy movements made him feel vulnerable. Everyone could relate and sympathize with the actor, making him seem like one of the most down to earth residents of Hollywood.

It was refreshing to see an actor of Eisenberg’s caliber be so humble. He felt like another student, even though he now has a newborn at the age of 33. He was witty and the crowd ate everything up; they were eager to piece together the young man’s life.

Through the moderator’s questions, Eisenberg revealed a lot about his past and views on the world. Growing up, he was infatuated with the NBA and all things basketball.

“I always figured I would be on the [Phoenix] Suns,” Eisenberg said. “But then I stopped growing.”

Because of this he had to pursue other interests, and this led him to writing. He was never taken very seriously in the field growing up, so he wrote early works at the age of 23 to gain respect and recognition.

After receiving his early breaks in Hollywood, Eisenberg went on to explain his conflict with his persistent anxiety issues.

“I feel nervous getting a cup of coffee, so I drink tea,” Eisenberg said.

It’s something he’s dealt with his whole life, and it seeps into his profession in little ways. He tries to control the anxiety and stay away from worrying about things that are out of his control.

“My anxiety is a product of how much I care about my work,” Eisenberg said.

He has always liked to immerse himself in the characters he plays, and he sees his anxiety as a way to stay in touch with his characters’ human flaws.

He recently played Superman’s adversary, Lex Luthor, in “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” and, whereas many actors would see the stoic character as an invincible entity, Eisenberg wanted his interpretation to have problems like any human does. He understands that he is a villain for a reason, and his fixation on Superman plays with Eisenberg’s quirkiness and anxiety well.

More questions from the moderator revealed Eisenberg’s personal life outside of Hollywood. For starters, he doesn’t live in Los Angeles, choosing instead to live in New York and the midwest with his longtime girlfriend.

This is due, in part, to the fact that he simply deems himself a rather meek and different person than many of his colleagues. Outside of his longtime friendship with Woody Harrelson, he doesn’t keep many ties to his work or co-stars in L.A. while not filming.

Another reason Eisenberg distances himself from the public eye is his fear of being consumed by the industry. He wants to satisfy himself before any fan and he finds it hard to listen to the critiques of his work, because it is impossible to impress everyone.

“I called my dad after immediate dislikes for Batman v. Superman,” Eisenberg said. “I never call my dad for problems, and I was considering quitting for a time because of the scrutiny. The expectations fans have is impossible to overcome sometimes.”

In his time away from filming, Eisenberg tries to write everyday, putting pen to paper for potential Broadway plays, among other things.

His upcoming work in Hollywood includes the long rumored “Zombieland 2” and “Justice League”.

It might be hard to balance his profession with his newborn.

“Because of the kid, I sleep less and smile more,” Eisenberg said.