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Interview: Richard Ayoade on directing two Jesse Eisenbergs in 'The Double'

Director Richard Ayoade discusses the highbrow inspirations on his new film, "The Double," and the pains of shooting a film with one actor doing two roles.

Actor and director Richard Ayoade's latest is "The Double," a loose adaptation of the novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Credit: Getty Images Actor and director Richard Ayoade's latest is "The Double," a loose adaptation of the novella by Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Credit: Getty Images

Director Richard Ayoade follows up his acerbic teen indie debut "Submarine" with something completely different: the clever, inventive and highly stylized "The Double," starring a pair Jesse Eisenbergs and Mia Wasikowska as the object of their affection in a story based on Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel. And that's not the only highbrow influence involved.

Friends keep asking me if "the Double" is anything like "Submarine," but it's quite different, isn't it?

With "Submarine," the idea of how it was filmed came from what it was about, really, and with this it would be someone who would imagine themselves in a certain aesthetic. This [character] felt like someone needed to exist in a certain environment to feel this, and that environment should represent their feelings more. You know that painter Giorgio de Chirico? He was a symbolist painter and created these odd landscapes that came more out of dreams and nightmares. More that kind of a world, where you have something that's impossible but creates an emotion, like having a building that looks like it's night but has sunlight around it creates a feeling that could not exist realistically or represent something in reality.

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You've also got a pretty horrifying bureaucracy on display here.

Yes, which doesn't exist in modern times anymore. In the book you feel the oppressiveness of class and those things, and we didn't feel that we wanted to get into class considerations because it didn't feel necessary to the psychology of loneliness, in a way. That doesn't feel like it need be socioeconomic only. And so it felt better to create something where someone could be oppressed by their job, whereas now the idea of someone taking their job seriously seems absurd because in any film if someone's working in an office you know that is their dreary reality and the repository of their dreams lies somewhere else, and the office is the epitome of that. It's like a metaphor for frustration, somehow.

How was it directing two distinct Jesse Eisenberg performances?

Really, as silly as it sounds, it just takes longer because you have to rehearse everything twice. So you rehearse as one character once, then rehearse as the other character. But probably as a result you go through the scenes much more carefully than you ordinarily would. And the other thing that's tricky is you never see it. You will never simultaneously see them together in a rehearsal. The rehearsal process was more similar to the feeling you have with shooting where you go, "That seems good, and when that's put together with this, it will be good, but I haven't seen it together yet." But he's very brilliant and intelligent and very thorough, and he has that ability that actors who do plays have to repeat things without them becoming rote.

Follow Ned Ehrbar on Twitter @nedrick

 
 
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