Here are the full interviews with Ruben Fleischer and Jesse Eisenberg, part of CHUD’s Set Visit Report for 30 Minutes Or Less. These were round table interviews, so I can’t vouch for the quality of every question, though we had a pretty rock and roll group on set that day. There’s a pretty epic amount of conversation here, but it’s good stuff Enjoy!
Other Interview: Danny McBride & Nick Swardson
Q: You had huge success with Zombieland, did you feel any kind of pressure about what project you wanted to do for the next one?
Yeah, a lot. I was super aware of choosing something I thought– I felt like I wanted to show my taste as a filmmaker in a way and since I’m not a writer and in full control of coming up with those stories I want to tell, it’s really selecting material. And so I wanted something that was tonally in the vibe of what I really love, and the movies that this reminds me of are Dog Day Afternoon and Out of Sight, Raising Arizona, The Big Lebowski. A little bit of Reservoir Dogs- those types of really original films. This script is definitely original, and that was important to me. But also in terms of scale of the movie, I had a lot of opportunities to do a lot of big movies, and I was a little nervous about doing something that I would call ‘biting off more than you can chew’ and taking a big movie just because you can, but maybe not being ready for it, not being able to deliver and screwing up my career by laying an egg or something like that. I really wanted to do something that was on a scale I felt comfortable with, but at the same time was an original story that I could craft, that was funny, had a great cast, and was a story I haven’t seen told before.
Q: You said before, ‘sorry we’re not shooting a lot of action today,’ but in all the movies you mentioned, the dialogue is the action. Is that the case here where it’s more volleys of dialogue as opposed to barrages of bullets?
A: It’s a little bit of both. I just remember on the set visits for Zombieland (which Nick was a part of: Part 1 & Part 2) we were smashing zombies or shooting things at a bigger relative scale. So this to me isn’t as exciting if I were visiting a set, as seeing a bunch of zombies getting their heads blown off. But I think the direction is in the relationship and the comedy, and this movie’s got a lot of all of those things. It’s got seven really incredibly original characters and the comedy is amazing. You have this type of talent in there –to me, the funniest people there are– and they’ve been killing it the whole film.
Q: There’s a whole line in Chekov about “if you bring a bomb on stage in the third act, it better go off in the third.” I’m not asking if a bomb goes off in the third act, but are there discussions about fulfilling the promise of a bomb going off?
A: Well, I agree with the notion that you can’t have it not go off.
Q: Do you think you would like to use these action comedies as a stepping stone to do a huge action movie?
A: Perhaps! I just want to make sure whatever I take on, I can deliver. I’ve only made one movies, so to do a huge hundred-million-dollar movie and have to bear the pressures of something of that scale, it’s very intimidating. Also our this movie, because we’re not doing it directly through the studio but through MRC and working with really cool producers, we’ve had pretty much complete creative freedom, we didn’t have a single note on the script from anyone and we didn’t have any casting requirements. So we were pretty much left to our own devices to make this movie, and to me that’s the most important thing, having that creative control. On those bigger movies you have so much more politics and it’s not your movie as much. If you’re involved with a huge star or a huge franchise you’re just a pawn in that whole situation. I just wanted to have something where I felt like it’s mine and can my hands on it and craft it.
Q: Are you referring to Mission: Impossible 4 right now?
A: Well anything like that, or there were a couple of superhero type things and… whatever, just bigger movies there are bigger people than you, than me. If it’s a huge director I can see that being one thing but with me, I’m on my second film with a small, twenty-million-dollar movie under my belt. I’m not the final say on a lot of things.
Q: I’ve already heard two F-bombs out there, obviously this is R-rated?
A: Oh yeah.
Q: How far across the line are you going with this thing?
A: The F-bomb is not a stranger to this set, there’s a lot of profanity. There’s not much else… There’s some nudity, that’s the first time I’ve shot nudity. But there’s a lot of swearing.
Q: It doesn’t seem like you really mind people taking liberty with the script and there’s obviously a lot of improv already, is that something you encourage on set?
A: Yeah, a hundred percent. Especially when you have people like Danny or Nick or Jessie or Aziz, Pena too. They’re all just so good at it. We have a great script and I always try and get something resembling the script to begin with, but when you have people at that level of talent it would be, to me, just a waste not to access it. Some of the funniest things we’ve shot already have been things they came up with in the moment. I feel like as long as it’s not completely self-indulgent and that you exercise restraint in the editing room and don’t put in a ton of improvs just for the sake of it, what it allows you is more than just doing the scene the same way every time and then you just have a lot of versions of that scene. When they’re constantly coming up with stuff, you have so many more options. When you play it for an audience, if that joke doesn’t work you have three more to go to as opposed to just the scripted joke or whatever.
Q: They let us look at the pages you guys are shooting today, and I could already hear Danny saying the words. Were these the guys that were always in mind?
A: I’m sure you’ll talk to the writers about this, but I think they wrote it with Danny in mind. There’s no way it could have been written for anyone else. When I read the script, specifically Danny, he was my first thought. I said when I was making it that the only person I want to have playing that role was Danny. We really did everything we could to make it work with this schedule, and it was the only way I was going to make the film was if Danny played Dwayne.
Q: They’re wearing those masks out there- logistically were you thinking that you could not do it the way that you were, that you could loop it later…
A: The reality of those masks is we can use any line from any take, or anything that we come up with later down the road. But they don’t have the masks on for much of the movie. This is actually the first time we see the masks in the movie, and the longest. There are only two other scenes where they’re wearing them, and they’re much more reduced.
Q: Was there a point at which you thought you could just get the lines of the script and loop it later?
A: Well I won’t do as many takes, that’s for sure, because you’re not seeing facial expressions, and we have all the different lines from all the different sizes to chose from, and we know we can ADR it. So I know I’m not going to hammer the performance on a bunch of masks.
Q: Have you heard from the Dominoes corporation about the film’s title?
Q: I already noticed between rehearsals and them putting the masks on, their physical performances instantly amped up. How much have you guided them towards that?
A: A lot of that’s just Nick’s instincts, knowing on the wider shots that they’re so small in the frame that being bigger is better –they’ll probably tone it down on the close ups– but they don’t have much other acting to do other than with their bodies, so I think it’s smart to try and access that. I think Dwayne should be a little more serious, and then Nick’s character is a little bit more of the sidekick so he can be doing more of the comedy stuff I think.
Q: What’s key for you in terms of making sure there are actual stakes when there’s that action/comedy balance you have to maintain?
A: It’s something that’s really important to me actually, and this movie has real life-or-death stakes, and I think that’s pretty important and keeps it grounded. That’s why I cast Jessie- he’s such a talented actor. He’s funny, but he’ll play the reality really well. Sometimes with these action comedies where there’s life-or-death stuff, because it’s all comedians who don’t make too much of acting, they don’t play it real and it just goes into this farcical world, and that was definitely not my intent with this movie. I want the reality of this movie to be as real as Dog Day Afternoon or any of those great 70s movies, Straight Time and movies like that. But for the comedy, I want it to be as funny as a Danny McBride, Nick Swardson, Aziz Ansari comedy.
Q: How tough was it to get Jesse Eisenberg, did you have to sort of plead with him, or-
A: No, we love working together so I don’t think it was too much of an issue. Honestly, he was the only person I wanted and I think he really wanted to do it, and it’s great that it all worked out.
Q: Are you going to work with him again in the future?
A: Yeah, hopefully Zombieland 2.
Q: I’m curious, today is a five page scene and you’re filming it in multiple ways with different cameras and different set-ups. How do you keep the energy on set going when you’re filming the same thing for hours upon hours?
A: That’s just the actor’s job. They’re really good at it. If you cast people that are super talented. I don’t think it requires so much from me and it’s really them. This scene especially is helped by the fact that they’re wearing masks. So if Danny and Nick are slacking, we would never know it. It really is fine, but I haven’t really had an issue with that. Yesterday. we did four and half pages with Jesse and Aziz in a big emotional scene and they’re just so good that they can get there every single time. It requires subtle reminders here and there, but it really is work with the right people, and they’ll deliver the performances.
Q: Do you think the masks have unleashed something in the actors?
Nick seems to be enjoying the physicality of it. That’s what he said. That it was really weird acting in a mask. He’s never done it before. I think that in both of them, you get the performances through their vocals. I don’t know if you guys can hear it at all, but it’s the same old guys. It’s awesome.
You’re making a movie out of somebody who has a bomb strapped to him. This could easily go into very dark places. How do you keep it from becoming too grim and at the same time how do you maintain the tension constantly of “Oh. He has a bomb strapped to him.”
Again, I think it’s just casting Jesse to keep it real and then casting Aziz to keep it light. As a duo, they really complement each other well. Jesse plays the realness and Aziz keeps it light. That’s a really good balance. Then everyone else in the movie have more lighter stories. Jesse is really the one with the cross to bear, but everyone else keeps the movie sort of up.
Q: Zombieland was terrific and had a lot of shifts in time and place. This is almost like a pure classic Greek theater unity of “It’s ten hours” Was that one of the pleasures? That you would just do this purely linear story mostly through the eyes of one character?
Yeah. Well, actually this has a lot more characters than Zombieland so it has been fun juggling all these different stories. It’s kind of like three pairs. There’s Jesse and Aziz, Danny and Nick, and then Michael Pena and Bianca are another one. Then there is Fred Ward, who plays Danny’s father, and he is a funny sort of hovering figure that Pena at one point interacts with. So, it has been fun juggling lots of different people as opposed to Zombieland where it was just four people in a car. But as far as the linearness, it’s essential to the story. It was fun playing with those jumps and the flashbacks in Zombieland, but I don’t think you need it to make a good movie. It’s fun to just do a more straightforward one.
Q: If it’s ten hours, why is it called 30 Minutes or Less?
He’s a pizza delivery guy and that’s the slogan of their Vito’s pizza. Their premise is that they will deliver 30 minutes or less anywhere. So, he constantly has to pay for pizzas out of his paycheck because if he doesn’t get in there in time it’s free. But there is a moment where it’s like “You have 30 minutes to do it, man! You got to go! This is your specialty!” and then he…the final says a slight double entendre…but, really, it’s about a pizza guy.
Q: Right now we are living in a time where there are action movies of all kinds of different tones. We have Pineapple Express and some of these guys were involved in one of the darkest action-comedies there has ever been I think.
Q: Observe and Report
Right. Right. Yeah.
Q: So when you are settling and thinking about the tone of your film, what was your thought process?
I really love those 70s kind of movies. For me, it’s really Dog Day Afternoon, and to a lesser degree, the Coen Bros. The other movie I didn’t mention before is Fargo. Like Fargo is probably the biggest reference point as far it’s a serious plot, they’re doing fucked up shit, but, yet, the characters are endearing and funny in their fucked up ways. You’re totally with them and it’s funny, real, and everything all at the same time. Fargo, to me, is probably the best reference point for this film as far as the groundedness, the tone, and what I hope it will be. I think it’s probably more actively comedic than Fargo is. The Coen Bros. have such an understated comedy and we have comedians, but I want that level reality of that film as well.
Q: Will you go as dark in terms of violence and blood?
We don’t really have much blood in this movie, but I think it has dark moments for sure.
Q: Zombieland has, arguably, one of the best cameos in cinema for the longest time. Are there any surprise cameos in store with this one?
I wish there was. It didn’t really lend itself. I think people will be really siked to see Fred Ward in a big role again. He’s so phenomenal. He wasn’t the name that instantly leapt to mind, but he so delivers. I think that a younger audience is going to be really siked to become familiar with him.
Q: Are there any Easter eggs in this that maybe go back to your first film?
No. Other than Jesse Eisenberg, I’m not really sure. I’m not as clever as J.J. Abrams and those guys who fill it with all of these things for people to find. For me, it’s pretty much A to B.
Q: You said that there were no script notes that anybody had given to you, but was there a discussion of making this into a real time movie? Just saying “You got two hours to do this” and then making it?
No, because there’s a lot of back-story that’s really important for the character stuff. I mean, I definitely considered it. The movie really finds its dramatic engine once this scene happens. The movie then really just motors. But I think if you didn’t knew who Danny and Nick’s characters were, their dynamic, why they are doing it, or what Jesse’s situation in life is that this event really is a catalyst for him to get his life together, for him to get his ass off the couch, and start doing all the things he never did. Then, I don’t think all of the payoffs would be as satisfying if it just started at this scene. This scene is ultimately where that would begin. I think that having the relationship to the characters really makes it all the more enjoyable for the process. Otherwise, it would be like Crank or something. Where it’s just a guy running, which is not the ambition.
Q: I wanted to know about filming on film and video.
Oh, yeah. That’s been huge. The first movie was on video. This film is on film. I’ve had a really hard time dealing with 35mm. I greatly prefer HD. This will probably be my first and last time film-film. I really loved shooting video. Maybe when this is done and I see the finished product and it looks as good as I know it will I’ll appreciate it. It’s just really frustrating not being able to see the image on a monitor that’s at all good. You end up watching these really crumby SD, staticy, terrible images and you barely know what you see and what you’re getting. Whereas when you’re watching HD, you know exactly what you’re going to have when the movie is finished.
Q: We just saw you do the same scene, take after take, how is it for you as an actor maintaining that sort of energy level to do that scene again and again and again?
Jesse Eisenberg: Sometimes it’s easier that others. Don’t drink coffee in the morning ’cause then you’ll have like peeks of energy and (39 sec). I try to main like a low level exhaustion all day.
Q: What kind of research you did to get into the working world of a professional delivery driver?
JE: Well the pizza place where we’re filming the movie, they let me go out with this guy Alex, who they thought most similar to my character. I was surprised to realize how similar he was. He was as sarcastic and self-aware as the character is. It was a perfect match for my character, also for the kinda basic logistics of how it is to deliver pizzas and who the costumers are. These guys who kidnap me in gorilla masks are surprisingly not far off some of the people we met that evening.
Q: There’s a great line about knowing that you’re going to be executed in the morning really concentrates the mind, is that a part of your characters ark with death strapped to him in an explosive vest? Does that make him aware of things he should be doing differently in life?
JE: Yeah, the emotional center of the movie is this character who has never done anything in his life. He has a line, I’ve never even quite a job just waited around to get fired. He’s in love with this girl who’s his best friend’s sister. He’s never told her. He’s just kinda ridden through life lazily. This metaphorically lights a fire underneath him to take a stand and spend these ten hours doing everything he should have been doing the last several years ago.
Q: Has it been more intense running from hordes of zombies or having this bomb strapped to your chest?
JE: This movie is more, at least for my character, was more serious in tone. Zombieland was a little more fun, at least for my character. This one if, at least for me, has to be played pretty much straight. This one is a little more exhausting because there’s no room for me because it’s set in the real world. There’s less room for me to have — there’s no winking to the audience, with this one.
Q: Were there any rules from Zombieland that you could apply to this?
JE: I was surprised when we were doing the Zombieland that Ruben Fleischer is as, that he accounts for the emotional inner life, as pretentious as this may sound, but this is the actor’s job so this is what I think about it all the time, is that he accounts for the actor’s inner emotional through line and inner life in a real way. When I read the script of that movie I didn’t necessarily think that it would earn that kind of attention. So with this, I was much more excited to go into this knowing that the director is someone who is doing a comedy that is occasionally broad and also visually arresting, but also that he will pay attention and account for the actors process and emotional experience.
Q: How hard is it to balance the stakes? Like the criminal stuff and also reacting in a way that should be presumably funny as it is believable.
JE: I guess the more serious you play something, if the context is funny then it will be funny and it doesn’t really require you to be necessarily, explicitly humorous or silly. There are some scenes in this movie, because of the grave situation are naturally that much more funny. For example the last several days we’ve been filming this back robbery where Aziz Ansari and I have to rob a bank and everything that can go wrong in the bank does go wrong. It’s because the two of us are so panicked and freaked out and taking it so seriously that it’s really funny.
Q: Was it a nice transition going into this film and working with Ruben again?
JE: From (Zombieland) it almost feels like a continuation because it’s the same crew and working with Ruben is so wonderful and feels like an extension of the same process.
Q: When you found out that Danny McBride and Aziz were going to be in this movie, does it make you nervous?
JE: Not really. I didn’t feel — I was really excited that they were doing the movie because I’ve loved them but for me it doesn’t change what my character should be doing. We’re all playing three different roles and my character is comparatively the straight man, not that I think of it this way, but compared to them, objectively speaking would be the straighter character. Because they’re so funny it gives me more room to play it straight because they can compensate and make the scenes funny and the pressure is not necessarily on me ’cause I don’t think it should be. My character is going through a very real thing.
Q: Were you the first to be involved in this project?
JE: I think I was the last one involved in the movie. I’m not sure how they casted, but it might’ve been written for Danny [McBride], his character. Ruben’s been a huge fan of Danny for years, doing Zombieland he would talk about him all the time. I know he was thrilled to get him.
Q: What do you find is more challenging to play?
JE: When you take on a role you try to do as much as possible before hand to get your mind into it, just to prepare because it’s a daunting prospect to go six months or whatever, this is three months to do something. With the Facebook movie there’s video to watch of the character I played and there’s audio and there’s images. And this one, there’s a pizza guy who can take me around. Ideas as equivalent preparation experiences.
Q: Was the pizza guy a local?
JE: Yeah, I did the Hollywood pizza place. No (laughs) the place where we’re filming here in Grand Rapids, the pizza guy took me around, names Alex, really cool.
Q: Were you anonymous? Did you get recognized?
JE: Yeah somebody gave us a $5 ’cause they liked Adventureland.
Q: Where you apprehensive about working with Ruben at all?
JE: Yeah of course not, it’s the opposite. He did such an amazing job with that Zombieland. Of course, I would love to work with him forever.
Q: I read some of the early drafts of this script and your character is more of a self-assure wise-ass than, where you looking for a change?
JE: I really love the character. When I read it, it seemed like a real person. It seemed like somebody, who me, is the movie so to speak though the change and that kind of all seemed realistic. In that way it felt similar. That’s what I look for when I’m looking to act in something. Something realistic, an emotional journey and this character had that in spades.
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