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Category: Jesse Eisenberg

LAFF 2012: Woody Allen gives Rome (if not himself) some love

June 15, 2012 |  6:30 am

Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love," starring Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Allen, opened the Los Angeles Film FestivalWoody Allen stood up in front of a Los Angeles Film Festival audience and offered a  glimpse into his self-flagellating mindset. Then he left the podium, and his movie pretty much did the same thing.

Unveiling his new Italy-set ensemble romantic comedy, "To Rome With Love," on the festival's opening night at Regal Cinemas in downtown L.A., Allen told the audience -- perhaps only half-jokingly -- that he was very sensitive to criticism. "If you hate it and think it was a waste of time, don't let me know. I get depressed easily," the 76-year-old Oscar winner told the crowd.

Allen's English- and Italian-language film, which features countless shots of Rome  bathed in a golden light, shows a set of parallel characters teetering on the brink of their own uncertainties.

INTERACTIVE: Films playing at the L.A. Film Festival

Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) uneasily contemplates an affair with his girlfriend's best friend (Ellen Page). Young newlywed Antonio (Alessandro Tiberi) wrings his hands as he tries to avoid being caught in a series of lies with a brassy prostitute (Penelope Cruz). His wife Milly (Alessandra Mastronardi) self-consciously flirts with an unctuous movie star (Antonio Albanese) as she considers her own affair.

Allen himself even turns up, as a malcontented father of a young American woman marrying into an Italian family. He then questions himself and needles everyone around him -- particularly wife Phyllis (Judy Davis) -- in the manner of countless Allen characters before.

But perhaps no character betrays what Allen the director is thinking more than Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni), in a vignette that's both a criticism of reality-TV fame and an exhumation of Allen's own complicated relationship with celebrity. Perhaps the most boring man in all of Rome, Leopoldo leaves his house one morning to find himself besieged by paparazzi and talk-show hosts obsessing over details as mundane as his breakfast and shaving rituals.


Some of this satire seems clearly aimed at a Kim Kardashian famous-for-being-famous brand of celebrity. But Allen's ambivalence about his own public profile is never far from the surface.

INTERACTIVE: Films playing at the L.A. Film Festival

Though it is as serious as a sprinkling of Parmesan -- the new user-friendly title, which replaced the more cryptic "Nero Fiddled" and even more esoteric "Bop DeCameron," seems fitting -- the movie also distills seemingly every Allen preoccupation of the last three decades. Fidelity! Mortality! Sex! Celebrity! (On that last score, Allen does give the final word to a character who says that being a celebrity is "better" than the alternative. And Allen did show up to LAFF, something he didn't do for the Oscars in February.)

"Rome" hits theaters on June 22 courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics. Allen and the distributor of course last brought out the time-jumping 'Midnight in Paris," the French stop on Allen's global tour (he next shoots in San Francisco) and an Oscar-anointed blockbuster.

After that warm reception for "Paris," the early reviews of "Rome" have, perhaps inevitably, been mixed, with some holding it up unfavorably to his 2011 best picture nominee.

Allen told the LAFF crowd, "I had a wonderful time making this picture in Rome. That does not mean you will enjoy it," perhaps alluding to those early reviews.

No matter the reaction, Allen shows little sign of letting up. At several points in the new film, Davis' Phyllis tells Allen's Jerry that he "equate[s] retirement with death. As Allen prepares to shoot his eighth (!) movie since turning 70, one gets the sense those words are close to the filmmaker's heart.


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Woody Allen's "To Rome With Love" to open Los Angeles Film Festival

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Fabio Armiliato, Judy Davis and Woody Allen in "To Rome With Love." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Woody Allen’s 'To Rome with Love' to open L.A. Film Festival

April 12, 2012 | 11:05 am

To rome with love

After whisking audiences to France last year with “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen is bringing another Europe-set comedy to the big screen with this year’s “To Rome With Love.” Film Independent announced Thursday that the new movie will open the Los Angeles Film Festival on Thursday, June 14.

Written and directed by Allen, “To Rome With Love” marks the filmmaker’s first on-screen role since 2006’s “Scoop.” Also starring Ellen Page, Jesse Eisenberg, Alec Baldwin, Penélope Cruz and Greta Gerwig, the film depicts the romances and adventures of people in Rome. The cast plays a collection of Americans and Italians.

“I can’t think of a better way to kick off this year’s festival than with the original independent filmmaker himself, Woody Allen. It’s a true honor for Los Angeles to host the North American premiere of 'To Rome With Love,'” Festival Director Stephanie Allain said in a statement.

The festival's screening at L.A. Live's Regal Cinemas will be the film's North American premiere.

“To Rome With Love” opens in Italy on April 20, and Sony Pictures Classics will distribute the film in the U.S. for a limited release on June 22.

The Los Angeles Film Festival, sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, runs June 14-24 and will screen over 200 feature films, shorts and music videos. Passes are currently on sale to past festival attendees and Film Independent members, and will be available to the general public on April 22.


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— Emily Rome

Photo: Ellen Page and Jesse Eisenberg in "To Rome with Love." Credit: Sony Pictures Classics

Fleischer: Why I followed 'Zombieland' with '30 Minutes or Less'

August 9, 2011 | 11:13 am

Ruben Fleischer grew as a filmmaker while shooting 30 Minutes or Less

After Ruben Fleischer's "Zombieland" became a surprise hit in 2009, the director was sought after for a slew of high-profile projects, ranging from "Mission Impossible IV" to a Will Ferrell comedy.

Some heads in Hollywood turned when the young filmmaker opted to direct the smaller "30 Minutes or Less," an R-rated buddy comedy about a pizza delivery guy played by "Zombieland's" Jesse Eisenberg who is kidnapped, strapped with a bomb and forced to rob a bank.

At the premiere of the film in Hollywood on Monday night, Fleischer said he selected the project precisely because it was small. He was, he says, "psyched to do something a little bit where I could define my voice as a filmmaker."

"With some of these bigger movies where you tether a big franchise and there's a huge movie star involved, as a young director, you kind of get lost in the process," he said on the red carpet (video below). "So for me, I was really excited just to get a movie where I felt comfortable, where I could define it, and say a little bit more about my tastes as a filmmaker."

The results, he said, give him heart. "I'm proud of it. I think it's as funny as any movie, and it was a good stepping point because my next film now is a more dramatic piece."

He's referring, of course, to "The Gangster Squad," the upcoming period drama about the Los Angeles Police Department's attempt to bar the mafia from Los Angeles in the 1940s. The film, which begins production in four weeks, has a high-profile cast that includes Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn and Josh Brolin.

And how is he planning to wrangle all of those egos, exactly?

"It'll be a learning experience, I think," he said with a laugh. "It's almost schizophrenic juggling this film's release and then also the preparation that I need to do for the next one. But I'm not complaining. I'm happy to be in this situation."


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-- Amy Kaufman

Photo: Ruben Fleischer at the premiere of "30 Minutes or Less." Credit: Fred Prouser / Reuters

A Noah Baumbach-Jesse Eisenberg reunion brews

May 31, 2011 | 12:22 pm


EXCLUSIVE: Noah Baumbach introduced many of us to Jesse Eisenberg when he cast the young actor as the son of divorcing parents in 2005 breakout "The Squid and the Whale." Now the two look to be reuniting -- with Eisenberg all grown up and playing one half of a couple.

According to a person who was briefed on the project but was not authorized to talk about it publicly, Eisenberg is in talks to play one of the lead roles in "While We're Young," an intergenerational couples drama that will be Baumbach's next film. Eisenberg, nominated for an Oscar for his performance in "The Social Network," could be working with another Oscar nominee, Naomi Watts, who's also in talks to star in the drama, according to the person briefed on the project.

Representatives for Eisenberg and Watts were not immediately available for comment. The person briefed on the project cautioned that formal deals for Eisenberg and Watts are not yet in place.

Baumbach's independently financed film is about a 40-ish childless couple that begins feeling alienated from their friends as those friends start to procreate, and strike up an unlikely friendship with a younger couple. The film is being produced by Scott Rudin, who was also Eisenberg's producer on "The Social Network."

Ben Stiller, who starred in Baumbach's most recent "Greenberg," has already been set as the older male. The actress playing the young female has not been set.

Baumbach's new movie has faced a bit of a casting shake-up. James Franco was initially set to play the  role that Eisenberg could occupy (if it's not one 2011 Oscar nominee, it's another) and Cate Blanchett the older female part, but each fell out in recent months.

Eisenberg, who voices a lead characater in spring hit "Rio" and will be seen this summer in the comedic action movie "30 Minutes or Less," has had his choice of big roles since breaking out as Mark Zuckerberg. He's getting ready to shoot Woody Allen's new film in Rome this summer.

Watts was last on the big screen in the political drama "Fair Game" last year. But she's about to be a frequent presence: later this year she'll appear as J. Edgar Hoover's secretary, Helen Gandy, in Clint Eastwood's biopic about the FBI chief, as well as as star in Jim Sheridan's dramatic thriller "Dream House."


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--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Jesse Eisenberg, left, in "The Squid and the Whale." Credit: Samuel Goldwyn Films

Life in a time of 'Rio:' Just how dominant could animation get?

April 18, 2011 |  7:30 am


At this point, it's more notable when a new animated movie doesn't win the box office than when it does. The latter has been happening a lot lately. In a winter-spring period when few movies have mobilized us to the theater, animated movies have been the exception.

No film demonstrated that better than this weekend's  "Rio," Carlos Saldanha's fish-out-of-water story (with a bird), which took in $40 million on its opening weekend, the first time in 2011 any picture has done that. (It's already piled on $168 million overseas.) And the movie's U.S. run appears to be just getting going. North American filmgoers gave the Brazil-set, Jesse Eisenberg-voiced picture an "A" on CinemaScore, suggesting that many more of us will  continue to come out in the weeks that follow.

The movie's success is hardly unique among the computer-imaged animal set. Before "Rio," the opening-weekend figure to beat this year, according to Box Office Mojo, belonged to "Rango," the Johnny Depp-voiced western about an outcast chameleon. Not far behind that was "Hop," the hybrid Easter comedy that demonstrated the power of animation: The movie got people into theaters despite the presence of Russell Brand.

Animation has been increasing as a part of our movie-going diet for a while now. In 2010, animated movies made up fully half of the box-office top 10, the first time that's ever happened. So far this year, the above trio of animated releases opened stronger than movies featuring Justin Bieber, Adam Sandler and a superhero. Tweens, comedy lovers and fanboys may be considered the most prized constituencies in moviedom, but none of them turn out like an animated film's core audience.

Why has the category become so dominant?  For one, supporters point out, filmmaking talent has migrated there. There are a lot more animated movies than ever, and they are, on the whole, better than ever. Once a monolithic niche, animation now boasts not only Pixar at the top of its game but a Fox division firing on all cylinders ("Rio"), a DreamWorks Animation finding its stride post-"Shrek" and even live-action filmmakers, such as Gore Verbinski, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" director who helmed "Rango" with the producing help of Graham King, a key force behind "The Departed."

Continue reading »

'Rio' kicks off a Brazilian beauty boom

April 14, 2011 |  8:37 pm

Rio Movies set in Rio de Janeiro have often showcased its grittier side -- the Brazilian city's shantytowns served as locations for the 2002 Oscar-nominated crime drama "City of God," the 2005 documentary of slum life "Favela Rising" and Bruce Banner's hideaway in 2008's "The Incredible Hulk."

But Hollywood is presenting a decidedly more tourist-friendly view of Rio this year, highlighting its bustling beaches, dramatic mountaintop statues and charming locals in everything from an animated family film to a street-racing franchise to the next "Twilight" installment.

In the animated "Rio," which opens this weekend, a domesticated macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) ventures far from his cozy home in Minnesota to the exotic, colorful land of his birth. The movie depicts icons of the Brazilian metropolis (which you can check out in this photo gallery) like the massive Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain, the samba dancers of Carnival and the antique trolley cars. The music was executive produced by Brazilian bossa nova king Sergio Mendes.

"Rio is a tough city, and people are very skeptical about it getting better," said Carlos Saldanha, the native Brazilian director of "Rio." "This movie brings a message of hope. Hopefully it will open people’s eyes."

The Brazilian tourism board is also optimistic about the persuasive potential of Saldanha's film, creating a short promotional video titled "Brazil Calls You. Celebrate Life Here" to run before screenings of the film this weekend.

"Fast Five," the next installment of the "Fast and the Furious" franchise is set in Rio as well, and the "Fast Five" trailer opens with a shot of the Christ the Redeemer statue. "Fast Five" will live stream its premiere from Rio this Friday, and has had stars Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson riding the city's cable cars with reporters all week.

These cinematic travelogues come in advance of another event that should set all eyes on Brazil  -- the Rio-set 2016 Olympics.

But the South American location may be gaining favor for another reason -- it helps studios make a strong pitch to a new audience. "Rio," which opened internationally last week, became the top-opening American movie in Brazil, earning $8.4 million there, according to Boxofficemojo.com, while also taking in solid hauls in nearby Argentina ($1.5 million) and Chile ($1.4 million).

And though Hispanics account for only about 15% of the U.S. population, they made up nearly half of the opening weekend for the last film in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, according to studio exit polling, and "Fast Five" is being marketed heavily to Latinos in the U.S. in Spanish-language spots.

Then, of course, there is Rio's steamy reputation, which got even hotter when Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson filmed multiple takes of a kissing scene on the city's busy streets late last year for "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1." Forget natural beauty: Rio may ultimately garner the most visitors for being the city where Bella and Edward finally act on all that pent-up lust.

-- Rebecca Keegan


 Photo: "Rio." Credit: Blue Sky Studios/Fox


L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Working with veterans

November 10, 2010 |  7:01 am

Director David Fincher is known for insisting that actors do multiple, multiple takes on the sets of his movies. So before Andrew Garfield even began filming "The Social Network," the 27-year-old said he was worried about the director's demands.

"We were told a bunch of horror stories about actors keeling over and dying ... having to, like, urinate in jars because they weren't allowed off-set," he said Friday at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre during a roundtable moderated by Los Angeles Times entertainment writer Amy Kaufman that also included  Jesse Eisenberg and Carey Mulligan.

Ultimately, Garfield said, he didn't end up passing out on set. Instead, he discovered Fincher's style "was actually an incredible gift for young actors" because it allowed the freedom to "do your own thing."

Fincher was also incredibly "in tune" with his actors, said Eisenberg, who also starred in "The Social Network." During one scene in which Eisenberg's character -- Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg -- is being deposed and has a notepad, the actor jotted down which takes he considered best. Then he compared notes with Fincher.

"The two out of the 50 that I thought were good were the ones that he had circled as well," Eisenberg said. "...When you do a lot of takes [for Fincher], it’s not this kind of haphazard obsessive compulsive behavior."

Mulligan, meanwhile, said she had a somewhat different relationship with her "Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps" costar Michael Douglas, who played her father in the film. In January, the veteran actor's son Cameron pleaded guilty to drug charges, and in April was sentenced to five years in prison. After production had wrapped, Douglas learned he had throat cancer.

"Michael and I didn't really hang out or have any contact -- in a nice way," she said. "I think he sort of kept a distance. He didn't want to get all pal-ly with me, because we had this sort of weird relationship [in the film]. ...I think Michael was in a sort of interesting place in his life, and I was terrified of him."


L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Adjusting to fame

L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Andrew Garfield on 'Spider-Man,' Carey Mulligan on Mario Lopez

L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Jesse Eisenberg gets feedback

L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Getting into character

L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Adjusting to fame

November 9, 2010 | 11:08 am

On the red carpet, actress Carey Mulligan always seems so poised. Her secret?

"I learned something this year, which is if you have a martini before you do red carpets, that's a very good idea," she joked Friday at the Egyptian, where she sat alongside Andrew Garfield and Jesse Eisenberg on a Young Hollywood Roundtable moderated by Los Angeles Times entertainment writer Amy Kaufman.

Of course, it was only a year ago that Mulligan first became the subject of intense media attention during awards season, which culminated with her earning a lead actress nomination at the Academy Awards for her role in "An Education."

"Last year, I was just horribly nervous all the time," she admitted. "And those banks of photographers. I literally weep by the end of it."

What's helped ease the anxiety of such situations, she said, is bringing her family along to the ritzy events.

"If you bring your family and you see it through their eyes -- we went to the Oscars, and my brother was in the car with me, and he was, like, hopping, he was so excited," she said, "because all of the policemen had enormous guns, and they were checking all of the cars for bombs."

Still, the 25-year-old insisted that having "Academy Award nominee" before her name hadn't really affected her career -- though it is pretty cool.

"It's really cool, first of all, when you see it in the trailer," she said. "It is kind of cool. But no, it doesn’t change anything. ... The offers don’t roll in, and you still have to audition and fight for the jobs that you want and get disappointed and it’s the same deal, really. You just get a little bit more access to cool people, but it’s the same."

Check back for a final clip from the event on Wednesday.


L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Andrew Garfield on 'Spider-Man,' Carey Mulligan on Mario Lopez

L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Jesse Eisenberg gets feedback

L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Getting into character

L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Andrew Garfield on 'Spider-Man,' Carey Mulligan on Mario Lopez

November 8, 2010 |  1:17 pm

Actor Andrew Garfield received some of the biggest news of his career earlier this year, when he found out he’d landed the role of Spider-Man in the upcoming installment of Sony’s popular franchise.

Up to now, Garfield, 27, has been best known for his roles in smaller, more performance-oriented films, like this fall’s “Never Let Me Go,” or “Boy A,” which earned him the best actor prize in 2008 from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. Sitting amongst his peers Carey Mulligan and Jesse Eisenberg at a Young Hollywood Roundtable at the Egyptian Friday night, Garfield told Los Angeles Times entertainment writer Amy Kaufman that he wasn’t planning to approach Spidey any differently from his prior roles.

“I’m just gonna still approach it like I’m doing a short film of ‘Spider-Man’ that my friend is directing,” he said. “And that’s kind of how I have to approach it, or I’ll lose my mind and crack under the pressure.”

Continue reading »

L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Jesse Eisenberg gets feedback

November 7, 2010 |  3:01 pm

It's no secret that Facebook has not been a big supporter of "The Social Network," the hit fall film that centers on the controversial founding years of the company. Jesse Eisenberg, who played Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg in the movie, tried to meet the terse tech whiz but was rebuffed.

During a roundtable Friday at the Egyptian Theatre with three of Young Hollywood's brightest talents -- Eisenberg, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield -- Los Angeles Times entertainment writer Amy Kaufman asked the actor if he'd heard from anyone at Facebook since the movie's release. 

Eisenberg, who has a cousin who works at the social-networking site, verified a report that Zuckerberg had rented out a movie theater so the company's employees could view the film. Afterward, Eisenberg said, Zuckerberg treated the staff to a round of appletinis at a bar (it was the favored cocktail in the movie), deeming it the "new drink of Facebook."

But perhaps more surprising was a message that Eisenberg's cousin relayed to the actor from Zuckerberg. 

"He wanted to say that he liked the parts he thought the movie got right, and he wanted to say that I did a nice job," Eisenberg said.

Of course, the self-critical actor took the compliment with a grain of salt, saying he felt "terrible" that Zuckerberg felt he had to be "diplomatic" about his response to the film.

"I realized how uncomfortable this must be for him," the actor said.  

Check back Monday for more excerpts from the event.


L.A. Times Young Hollywood Roundtable: Getting into character


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