When he was 12 years old, Oscar-nominated Social Network star Jesse Eisenberg wrote a fan letter to comedian Nick Swardson, after seeing him on Comedy Centrals Make Me Laugh. It was only Swardsons second television appearance, and so the first headshot he ever autographed remains in Eisenbergs childhood bedroom to this day. Now, 15 years later, the two are sitting in a hotel room promoting 30 Minutes Or Less, an action-comedy in which Swardson and Danny McBride kidnap Eisenbergs hapless pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank.
Jesse Eisenberg: I was disappointed that we didnt have more scenes together, because Nick was my idol. I was his biggest fan and had memorized all his comedy. There are few people in your life that anything they say is funny. But it was difficult, because anything Nick says, I laugh.
Nick Swardson: It took us like a half hour to get through one line.
PW: Theres a tricky mixture of tones going on here, because the movie is a broad, crowd-pleasing comedy thats also very violent.
JE: I was shocked when I started reading it.
NS: When I first read the script I couldnt believe they were even attempting to go after something like this.
JE: This movie is a comedy. Except my character is dealing with the most intense, dramatic situation he will ever face. The movie plays very funny, but my character has a bomb strapped to him, and theres no way to half-do that. You have to do it fully.
NS: I thought Jesse kept the movie together for that reason. He grounded it in reality. We were laughing, because me and Danny got to have fun every day on set, and Jesse had to show up with a bomb strapped to him being like: Oh my God! Im fucking dying! So thank you, Jesse.
PW: We should probably talk about the Facebook joke.
JE: I know a lot of people who claim to reject all kinds of social networking because they think theyre above it, when really nobody has requested to be their friend. It was not a joke about [The Social Network.] In fact, I cringe to think that it may induce laughter that takes you outside the movie. I think thats kind of an obnoxious thing to do. I hate when I see that. I only realize now
PW: Sorry. Um, so it looks like you did a fair amount of your own stunt driving?
JE: I did a lot more driving than
NS: Than you should have!
JE: I dont drive. I live in New York so I dont have an opportunity to drive ever, so it was fun. I bike. Thats how I get around in New York. Especially since in the last six months have people started to recognize me on the street.
PW: Arent you Michael Cera?
JE: No. Just anybody from a movie. I get so frazzled when that happens, when people are taking pictures of me on their cellphones while Im on the subway. Its easier to just bike.
PW: And how was it shooting your first big action sequences?
JE: A little boring. It takes a week to shoot a car scene, and youre just sitting there for most of the time, until youre asked to scream like an idiot for a few seconds. Then you have to just sit there again.
PW: So we hear that you researched your role by riding around with a real pizza delivery guy.
NS: You did?
NS: Youre fucked up.
JE: No, It was good because it confirmed for me things in the script that I wasnt sure about. Like, in the movie I deliver the pizza to these guys in a dangerous scrap yard. When I was out with the guy I realized you do equivalent things. You are delivering pizza in the middle of the night to drunk people who live in weird places, and you have to go to their house and you dont know who is going to answer the door.
NS: If you learn anything from this movie, dont deliver pizza to a junkyard.
PW: So did you do a similar kind of research, bonding off-screen with your co-star Aziz Ansari?
NS: Yeah, their moms arranged play dates.
JE: Theyd sit us together in our diapers until we started touching. But its funny, in the original screenplay my character was not supposed to sleep with his sister. Aziz and I thought, wouldnt it be great if he had? So we ended up reshooting the scene. And the movie is so much better now.
NS: Its gonna do Avatar numbers with that change.
Read our review of 30 Minutes or Less here.