Interview: Jesse Eisenberg (Now You See Me)


Upon sitting down with Jesse Eisenberg he started asking me questions, which is the opposite of how an interview is supposed to go, but totally awesome of him. That pretty much sums him up so our conversation about magic led into him taking a deck of cards and blowing my mind with a pretty cool magic trick. Of course I couldn’t take video so I was the only one who could see it, but trust me it was pretty awesome. 

He learned this trick because he was playing a magician in Now You See Me and figured he should be able to pull a few tricks off. One other trick? Playing an stage magician despite normally being cast into less verbose roles. We got to chatting about how he went about creating the character and working with the film’s stellar cast.

Were you interested in magic before the film? If not how did you get into it?

It’s pretty quick to become interested in magic because its the kind of thing that if you know a little about you want to know a lot more. A lot of these tricks are based on misdirection and similar principles so its easy to become obsessed with knowing how things are done. Before the movie started I really wasn’t that interested in magic. I was mostly interested in my character from a performers stance because my character is a great stage performer and I want to be a great stage performer so this let me live out the fantasy of fulfilling that. 

Then once is tarted studying magic I became really interested in it and learned some basic hand tricks and how some of the broader tricks are accomplished. 

So if I whipped out a deck of cards you could just do a trick now?

Yea, you got a deck of cards?

(The rep went out to grab some cards)

Do you do any magic?

I use to as a kid.

Why did you stop?

I grew up, I guess.

I think that’s pretty common. A lot of kids do it and then grow out of it somehow. My character would have been practicing for 25 years every day to get as good as he is. I didn’t have the kind of time though.

(The rep hands him an official Now You See Me card deck)

Where did you get this? Can I have one to give to my mom?

Does your mom still dig getting stuff from your movies? 

Oh my god. My mom will be so thrilled to get these. I just finished a play last week and gave them a poster to put up in their house, and she was like, “What room should we put it in?” I said I don’t know, wherever it is out of your way. She said, “I don’t want it to be out of my way.” It was so sweet.

(He then went on to perform the magic trick. I chose a card from the deck and put it back in and he made it move to the top of the deck. He picked the wrong card on top then did a really quick flip that turned it into the right card.)

Wow. (Ed.: I seriously sound like a five year old in the recording.)

Yea. That took about four weeks to master, especially the last part. It’s called the snap change. I was doing it for everyone on set and then everyone on set decided to learn it. There were like 100 crew members walking around doing snap changes at each other. 

The film has a really big ensemble cast with big name actors.

Yea, it was great to work with other actors who take their job seriously. I think it’s easy in a movie like this with such a complicated plot to kind of forget about your role and just be running around. When you’re surrounded by these great actors it’s easier to focus. Even though the film takes place around the world and there are crazy locations my job is to really think about what my character would be thinking in these situations. When you’re surrounded by other people doing the same it makes it easier to do that. 

Why do we love heist movies, do you think?

I think they simultaneously make you feel smart and stupid. In this kind of movie you’re trying to figure out what is going on, and you feel smart if you think you’re the one who did figure it out. Then you realize at the end that you’re probably wrong and it makes you feel stupid, but in a fun way. Then, because the movie is about magicians pulling off these heists, we’re using our magic to be elusive. It’s an extra layer of impressiveness.

Your character changes tonally when he’s on stage versus off. Did you like playing that bigger than life part?

It was so much fun being able to do that. I just finished doing a play in New York and was terrified to go out on stage every night even though I was only playing for 200 people. I immediately went from that play to doing this movie where my character feels more at home on stage. It was kind of a relief to be able to play a character who loves being on stage after spending five months with a guy, by which I mean myself, who was terrified of it. 

Who was the magician you most tried to emulate?

It was hard to find an exact person. I first looked at David Blane and wanted to play it like that. I at first wanted to do it casually and wear a hoodie and approach people on the street. (Director) Louis (Leterrier) had a different idea. He wanted us to be flashy and have attitude so I looked at David Copperfield who kind of has that attitude. I tried to do both of those guys. A kind of guy who can perform on the street like David Blane, but with the intensity of David Copperfield, which is probably better for the movie because it ramped up the excitment and tension.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.