When Jesse Eisenberg calls for our interview, he begins, “This is Jesse Eisenberg, from the movie.” That formality is so him — the movie star who doesn’t want to come off like a movie star. But it’s not fake-modesty; he seems truly sincere. The actor, 32, has found a filmmaker even more neurotic than himself. “Cafe Society” is Eisenberg’s second with Woody Allen, after 2012's “To Rome with Love.” In Allen’s 47th movie, Eisenberg plays a young man in the 1930s who comes to Hollywood and winds up falling for a studio secretary played by Kristen Stewart — unaware that she’s sleeping with his movie mogul uncle (Steve Carell).
Like me, you grew up on Woody Allen movies. What was the one that turned you into a fan?
The first movie I saw that really hit me in a profound way was “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” I saw that somebody could make something that was funny and accessible and at the same time introspective, contemplative, thoughtful, intellectual and analytical without compromising any of those elements. What was yours?
The movie was “Sleeper,” but it was actually his album, “Stand-Up Comic.” Have you managed to find his obscure, almost impossible-to-see 1971 TV short “Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story”?
No, I haven’t.
It’s on YouTube, but since you know Woody Allen I feel weird pointing out that you can watch it by not terribly legal means.
I don’t think he would care. He seems to have no interest in his mythology or reading about himself. He’s so productive, to the exclusion of all celebration of himself.
That’s a strange perspective, but I get not wanting to go back to your previous work. How do you feel about watching your past films?
I never watch anything I’ve ever been in, even once. Most likely I’ll feel critical about it, but I’m also concerned about any kind of vanity it would provoke. I just don’t watch anything. It makes me too uncomfortable. I like to stay busy. I don’t like to revel in the celebration of previous things — which is a big part of the entertainment industry, of course.