There are many things to enjoy about director Greg Mottola’s third feature Adventureland, but one thing that will surely get a lot of people talking is his pairing of the two young leading actors, Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart.
Coincidentally, both of them had their breakout acting roles in 2002, Eisenberg in the indie Roger Doger and Stewart in David Fincher’s Panic Room. While Stewart went on to do quite a few studio movies, including a little vampire movie called Twilight, both of them have done a number of independent films, which certainly gave them a good sense of the vibe for this movie based on Mottola’s own experiences working at an amusement park in the ’80s.
There’s no question that the duo’s romantic and dramatic chemistry in the movie is a large part of what makes it special. ComingSoon.net sat down with the two prolific young actors for this exclusive interview during a press day at the Sundance Film Festival back in January.
ComingSoon.net: Having talked to Greg, I know the general origins of the project, but what was the order of him getting you two onto the movie?
Jesse Eisenberg: I think I was cast pretty early but they didn’t have the financing so they couldn’t officially give me the role. I met with him in April and we filmed in October, so there was a long period of time where I thought I might do the movie but I wasn’t positive.
CS: You’d both done movies like this before semi-comic coming-of-age indies, so what was it about the script that made you want to do it?
Kristen Stewart: I really haven’t. I’ve never done a comedy. Any story about a kid is always a coming-of-age. It really is. If you’re a kid and you’re growing up, that’s probably what the movie is going to be about. I bet every movie I’ve ever done is a coming-of-age story.
CS: What was it about this one that interested you? The chance to work at an amusement park? Can’t imagine that would be it.
Eisenberg: It was the only desirable part of the script.
Stewart: I really liked the dynamics between all the characters, but specifically James and Em. I feel like I know a lot of these people and can relate on some level, but the fact that I’m aware of it, cancels it out anyway. They’re really very worthy of very good things and they don’t lend themselves to it because they don’t believe in themselves, so there’s really like, “Who’s the perfect guy for her right in front of her?” And she’s obviously too complicated to realize that.
CS: The fact that the movie is set in 1987 when you were both very young, I wondered if you noticed a lot of differences with young people today. Could you each relate to your characters despite them being based in a different era? Did it even seem like a period piece when reading it?
Stewart: Yeah, I mean. I think it’s so removed and the fact that we never got to experience maybe makes it more romantic. I’m sort of enamored with every time period that I haven’t lived in.
Eisenberg: It was a little different. The kids in the movie seemed a little sweeter and a little more innocent than kids today, that are so savvy. You couldn’t be that savvy in 1987 because you don’t have access to that much information and that much communication. I think that added a really nice element. It also might just be how Greg sees the world, because he’s a very sincere and sweet guy, and all the characters, even if you’re not supposed to like them immediately, they’re actually like good people. I don’t know if that’s just how he sees the world and wrote the characters or if it’s something to do with the time period.
CS: You’ve actually played a character in the same era in “Squid and the Whale” so did the Brooklyn setting make that feel different?
Eisenberg: The guy who made that movie, he always writes these characters that are really doing despicable things, and I think they’re just different perspectives and what they’re comfortable writing and what interests them about people. Yeah, so maybe it has nothing to do with the time period.
CS: Greg was worried that younger people might be put off by the time period and it being about another generation, but as someone who grew up then, I do notice that it was a time without cell phones or text messaging. Do you feel it’s another generation that’s so far removed from your own?
Eisenberg: I don’t think people will be distracted that…
Stewart: That there’s no cell phone in it.
Eisenberg: Yeah, there’s nothing that will alienate a modern audience. If anything, I think the movie just has its own personality because of it.
Stewart: Yeah, it’s more interesting.
Eisenberg: If you were going to do it in the ’40s, we were going to wear bowlers and work at Vaudeville.
CS: True, there aren’t many coming-of-age films set in the ’40s.
Eisenberg: No one came of age in the ’40s.
CS: What do you guys think of the setting and how much time did you actually spend at the amusement park during shooting?
Eisenberg: Maybe like 60% of it was filmed inside the amusement park and there were a lot of scenes that take place in other places but we were there for more than half.
CS: What was that like? Did you actually get to play around or ride rides or was it all work?
Eisenberg: It was kind of difficult to film there because even if there’s a close-up on somebody’s face, there’s a ferris wheel in the background that has to be turning with 30 people riding on it, so it’s not like the easiest thing if you’re just trying to do an intimate scene, but 100 feet in the background, they have to arrange for all this stuff to happen. It’s not the most convenient place to film but then when you watch the movie, it’s really nice, because there’s so much papering the background in the movie.
CS: Was the park actually open and running when you were shooting?
Eisenberg: They weren’t open while we were there, October/November, but I think they had a Halloween thing on the weekend.
Stewart: Oh, yeah, right.
CS: What about the music? Did either of you have any connection to the music of that time? The Replacements and Lou Reed are still relevant but what about the rest?
Eisenberg: Yeah, we loved it, except some of the stuff we hate. Like they play “Rock Me Amadeus” in the park.
CS: What else are you guys up to having finished this? It seemed like both of you guys took some time off after your earlier movies. Like after “Roger Dodger” it seemed like you weren’t around for a few years? Just going to school?
Eisenberg: Well, I didn’t get hired…
Stewart: I went to… yeah, like the whole year of the 6th grade and that was right after I did “Panic Room.” I couldn’t go to 5th grade and then I went to 6th and it wasn’t an intentional thing. I just didn’t get work, but it was really brief. It’s ridiculous. I’ve actually been working pretty constantly.
CS: Since you’ve both been acting since so young, have either of you ever had to take any kind of summer job, other than acting?
Eisenberg: I did an internship when I was 20. I had started acting, but the movie I’d done didn’t come out, and I was just trying to tell everyone there that I’m going to be in a movie and it was going to be great, and they were like, “Alright, make the copy.” It was coming out in a few months and I knew that people I was working for would like it, but they didn’t know me at the time.
CS: Kristen, I assume you’re in “Twilight” world for the next year, but do you have time to do other things?
Stewart: Yeah, right in between “New Moon” and “Eclipse,” I’m going to do a movie called “The Runaways.”
CS: The Joan Jett movie, right. What kind of research have you been doing for that?
Stewart: I mean, basically the whole cast is going to go to Runaways Camp before we start shooting, and hopefully most of the performances in the film are going to be live, and we’re going to teach the girls who get the parts how to play, because it’s like the first punk rock girl band so it’s not too complicated. They’ll be able to pick it up hopefully or at least make it look like they are. I spent New Year’s Eve with Joan and hopefully go to New York soon when I have time off and just sort of be around her.
CS: Are you going to do all the singing yourself?
Stewart: Yeah, she’s kind of backup vocals in the Runaways, but she sings a couple songs in the movie.
CS: So it’s really dealing with that period of it and not her solo career or anything?
Stewart: No, it’s literally the Runaways, it’s the band.
CS: What about yourself? Have you started shooting “Zombieland” yet?
Eisenberg: That starts February 2nd, like a week and a half I think.
CS: Is that more of a comedy horror movie?
Eisenberg: Yeah, it’s very funny, yeah, it’s a comedy… but about zombies. They’re trying to do both.
CS: Do you have other things in the can?
Eisenberg: Yeah, I’m doing a movie now in New York. This is the last week starting tomorrow, which is an independent movie. It’s about a Hasidic Jewish guy who becomes a courier for an ecstasy ring. Yeah, it’s really good, it’s based on a true story, mostly based on a guy who’s now in prison.
CS: I’m surprised you have time to make a movie in between since I thought they were making the “Twilight” sequels back-to-back.
Stewart: No, we are. “New Moon” and “Eclipse” – the only reason I can do a project in between is because they’re not shutting down, they’re just prepping the next one right after, so I have like ten weeks.
Adventureland opens nationwide on Friday, April 3.