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 Central’s Make Me Laugh. It was only Swardson’s second television appearance, and so the first headshot he ever autographed remains in Eisenberg’s 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 Eisenberg’s hapless pizza delivery guy, strap a bomb to his chest and force him to rob a bank.
Jesse Eisenberg: I was disappointed that we didn’t 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: There’s a tricky mixture of tones going on here, because the movie is a broad, crowd-pleasing comedy that’s also very violent.
JE: I was shocked when I started reading it.
NS: When I first read the script I couldn’t 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 there’s 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! I’m 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 they’re 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 that’s 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 don’t drive. I live in New York so I don’t have an opportunity to drive ever, so it was fun. I bike. That’s how I get around in New York. Especially since in the last six months have people started to recognize me on the street.
PW: Aren’t 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 I’m on the subway. It’s 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 you’re just sitting there for most of the time, until you’re 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.