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Jesse Eisenberg: 'Woody Allen is so clever he makes movies in ways no one else can'

Actor Jesse Eisenberg admits stepping onto the set with the director made him nervous. He tells Susan Griffin why he's grown to love the film-maker's unique methods

Published 02/09/2016

Star power: Jesse Eisenberg
Star power: Jesse Eisenberg
Jesse Eisenberg as Bobby Dorfman with Blake Lively as Veronica Hayes in Cafe Society

Cafe Society marks Jesse Eisenberg's second collaboration with Woody Allen, but the nerves were no less prevalent. "No, I have a general level of nerves that's pretty consistent," says the 32-year-old, in his trademark fast-talking patter.

But at least this time, the New Yorker knew to expect the 80-year-old director's less conventional film-making process.

"That first movie I did with him [2012's To Rome With Love], and the first scene, I didn't even see him until later in the day," reveals Eisenberg.

Instead, the assistant director told him where to stand and when to deliver dialogue, he explains.

"We finished the scene, went to the next one, and I still hadn't seen Woody Allen, which is a very unusual experience for an actor. Normally actors - at least I," he clarifies, "can be very indulgent about things.

"Woody Allen is just so efficient and clever that he's able to make these wonderful movies in a way which no one else is working. He shoots efficiently, and yet the acting is wonderful and the film looks beautiful."

Cafe Society revolves around the glamorous movers and shakers who'd congregate in fashionable cafes, which became particularly popular in New York during the Thirties, the period in which the movie's set.

Eisenberg plays Bobby Dorfman, a boy from the Bronx who's looking for more out of life than his father's jewellery store.

He travels to Hollywood, then celebrating its Golden Age, in the hope of working for his high-powered uncle Phil (Steve Carell), a high-powered agent.

"Bobby starts the movie as an almost blank state, a kind of naive dreamer, who thinks he can go to Hollywood and will be swept up by a welcoming industry," explains Eisenberg.

"Of course, that's not what happens. But he thinks he wants something more exciting, and he is part of a generation and culture that made that dream feel like it was possible."

While in Hollywood, Bobby falls in love with Phil's assistant Vonnie, portrayed by Kristen Stewart.

"I think both characters are constantly attracted to and resisting the allure of the glitzier side of the city of entertainment. But Vonnie provides a wonderful antidote for Bobby. She is cynical, funny, and seems to have a real-world perspective.

"I looked at this movie as a bittersweet story about two people who just can't connect, for whatever series of circumstances, and are left lamenting what could have been in their lives.

"So there's this sweet, nostalgic, maybe heartbreaking theme, and yet my sense is that Woody Allen sees this story more cynically.

"That this kind of pure romance is not possible, that people are too, at least in the case of this movie, self-interested rather than 'other-interested', so to speak."

  • Cafe Society is in cinemas now

Belfast Telegraph

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