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Jesse Eisenberg wants to humanize his characters, even Lex Luthor

Jesse Eisenberg attends the
Jesse Eisenberg attends the "Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice" premiere in New York City.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

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Jesse Eisenberg is the new Lex Luthor. But “Batman v. Superman” isn’t the only thing Eisenberg has going on. A play he wrote, “The Revisionist,” opens March 29 at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. And another Eisenberg movie, the indie film “Louder Than Bombs,” will be released on April 8.


The Frame’s John Horn caught up with Eisenberg on the Warner Brothers lot, where the actor/writer explained about why he doesn’t get to talk a lot about writing while he’s working on a film like “Batman v. Superman.” 

While the movie is happening, I’m kind of in this paranoid state that I’m going to screw it up. Or I’m in this villainous state, like when I’m playing Lex Luthor I’m kind of actually trying to summon these horrible feelings that would probably not bode well for a nice conversation. 

Did you find yourself summoning some particular person to play Lex Luthor? 

Yes, I have known people who are like charming, passive-aggressive Machiavellian manipulators ... You know, this character exists in this world and the movie made a great effort to make a psychologically realistic villain ... My goal with some of the characters that I write is to humanize people that seem otherwise horrible. And I think, similarly, with the character in the “Batman” movie... my goal is to take a character as far as I can go as a horrible person and try to humanize them. And my goal as an actor and as a writer is to try to shed a light so that the audience can, if not sympathize with them, at least understand them.

What is the checklist that you are looking for in a role and is it different in a movie like “Louder Than Bombs” than it would be on a big action movie like “Batman”?

No. I mean, there’s really one criteria on the checklist, which is, Can I do something that I find interesting in this context? I was actually doing those movies at the exact same time. There was an action sequence at the end of “Batman,” which I’m only sporadically in, and it gave me a month off to go film “Louder Than Bombs.” And the producers of the “Batman” movie were gracious enough to let me out.

But it’s pretty much the exact same experience, especially with those two movies. I would go in at like 4 in the morning — it takes four hours to put a wig on — and then I would experience grief for 12 hours. In “Louder Than Bombs,” my character is grieving over the loss of his mother and it motivates him to leave his wife after [she gives] birth. And in “Batman,” my character is grieving over a bad childhood, and it forces him to want to kill a guy who flies around in a cape. It looks very different and, like you said, the similarities probably begin and end with that they’re both projected onto a screen. Although that’s even different because the “Batman” movie is playing in IMAX.

Stay tuned for a longer interview with Jesse Eisenberg, which includes a conversation about his play, “The Revisionist,” and more.   

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