Jesse Eisenberg And Kristen Stewart 'American Ultra' Set Interview

Last summer, on the New Orleans set of American Ultra, a bunch of other journalists and I played a game. Lionsgate allowed us to tweet about being on the set of the film – which is a rarity on a set visit – and the results were astounding. You see, American Ultra stars Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart. And Stewart has a massive and rabid online following. With every tweet about being on set, we'd see who get get the most interaction, the most retweets and favorites. It was fun and I believe the winner was someone who got numbers well into the three hundreds.

You can read our full report from the set of American Ultra here but, below, you can read a transcription of the group's interview with Eisenberg and Stewart. You get to read their playful interactions, fascinating insights and most importantly – thoughts on the film, which opens August 21. Check it out below.

Jesse Eisenberg American UltraHave you been enjoying the training and all the physical action stuff?Jesse Eisenberg: Yeah, I started a few months ago, 'cause my character has to be kind of... trained. But doesn't remember that he was trained. So it kind of comes like it comes to him instinctively.Is it more about choreography than strength training?

JE: Yeah. I was in Michigan working last month so they hired these great guys. Every day off I had, was working with them. They were teaching like Southeast Asian style fighting. And Rob Alonzo is the Stunt Coordinator.

How did you first get the project? Was it you read the script and you were like wow, I wanna do this character?

JE: Yeah, it was a great role. The script was in was finished the week I read it. And yeah, just loved it. Oh hi.

Kristen Stewart: Hi. Hello. How are you doing?

JE: Okay.

Jesse's just telling us how he when he first read the script and like how it came about...

KS: I... read the script in a fairly straight forward and conventional way as actors get sent these scripts from their agents. And, you know, it's a really, really original and strange script. I've really never read anything like it. And I jumped at working with Jesse. We really had a good time on Adventureland a couple years ago. And I've sort of declared we should definitely make a movie every five years. So just in keeping with that, jumped on this one.

Max was saying that, Kristen, this is a role that's actually more towards your real personality. Is he accurate in that?

KS: Phoebe's a sort of very straight forward and sweet, fairly unassuming girl. I didn't have to bring any quirks to her. I didn't have to bring any certain things that make her very much different from myself. I think it was just about immersing myself in this extremely surreal and weird, heightened, unique [reality]. It's created in a very whole way. It's definitely not set in our reality. But it is also hyper real in an odd way. So yeah, the character has been about retaining her truths, while still not revealing certain plot points that I'm not supposed to. And then making sure that it's consistent and emotional and also funny. We're always about to die. We're constantly, constantly about to be like killed or having to kill somebody. And it's also like a broad comedy at the same time. And so to balance that has been difficult. I am sort of essentially playing like myself, if I was living in this world.

JE: Very strange situation.

KS: Yeah, exactly.

Eisenberg Stewart American Ultra 2Talk a little bit about the looks of your characters. [Kristen], you dyed your hair. [Jesse], you have a little bit of a different look yourself. How much was that in the script? How much was working to develop it?

JE: Yeah, I wanted to wear longer hair and a wig for few reasons. The character is somebody who would not have gotten a haircut in several years. He is somebody who's kind of immersed himself in nothing. In his own laziness. And enjoying his own laziness. So I thought he would not have gotten a haircut. He wouldn't have kind of groomed himself in any kind of consistent way. And it gives it a better turn for when he has to defend himself. So that this is a guy who is couldn't be less prepared to do this.

KS: Yeah, we have spoken to Max a bit. I think the basic idea before it was actually a real thing was if you were to take the most unlikely people, like two dinky little stoner kids, Jesse Eisenberg and me, and then suddenly see them thrown into this really high speed, intense and disarmingly realistic action movie, it's funny. It's like 'What!?' It doesn't feel familiar. It feels a little bit shocking. And so in order to make that hard hitting, which is like the sort of basis for wanting to make the movie, I look like I dyed my hair maybe a year ago and haven't maintained it. My interests are fairly flippant. Where we're very directionless. There's nothing very defining about either of our looks. Everything is very haphazard and comfortable and practical. And we're just like stoners essentially. So that was all of this.

Can you talk about the scene we're seeing today? Jesse's character is saving your character, so I think we sort of see what you do, just kick ass with a bunch of weird stuff in a supermarket. What is the goal in the scene?

KS: In this scene?


KS: It's tough because like I don't really know...

JE: Oh yeah. In an attempt to kind of keep some...

They told us everything.

JE: Oh they told you everything?

KS: Everything?


KS: That sucks.

They told us a little more than you guys were probably prepared for us to know so I don't know what you should say.

KS: I mean, basically we start off within our relationship in a little period of unrest. We're not too happy with each other in the beginning. And then as the movie goes on, you see just how in love these two kids are. Like they're really, truly obsessed with each other. And it's a very pure thing. It's really true. And basically him coming back into this scene to save me is like, kind of reconciling this. I've like shattered his dreams basically. So this whole thing is him coming back and he becomes a man. Yes, exactly. And sort of redeems himself in every way. He really steps into the role that he should have with her, which is like her fucking man. And then he gets her back. She gets him back. It's a happy thing.

American Ultra FightMax Landis was saying that your character, Jesse, your character's  goal in the movie never kind of changes throughout. You want to propose to her and get married to her. Is that an accurate description?

JE: Yeah, at the beginning of the movie, he has the ring. He's planning to propose to her that day. And then everything blows up in his life. And he keeps the ring in his pocket throughout the movie. And he keeps looking for little moments, but then people try to kill him, so he keeps being interrupted. But it's really sweet. And he has no tact, so the times he chooses to propose throughout the movie are the worst possible times.

KS: It's so funny.

JE: So he's lucky that they get interrupted. 'Cause it's kind of like this running sweet joke that ultimately, you know, ultimately comes to fruition at the end.

Does the comedy kind of come more from the situations or from the dialogue or are you kind of playing it straight and it's just kind of everything around you is just a bit heightened?

JE: I think we're aware of the humor, but the scenes we've had have been surprisingly dramatic. When you read the script, you can understand these are very dramatic scenes the characters are experiencing. Something that's very heightened, but they have to experience it in a real way. So all of our scenes, Kristen and I were talking about this in rehearsal, this will be the most emotional movie we'll do for a while even though probably for an audience it's more fun. But as an actor, because you're in these heightened situations and the two of us don't like fake it, so to speak. So we are experiencing real emotions and it's kind of several histrionic scenes. But they should be funny based on the context. But it doesn't necessarily rely on us to be kind of silly.

KS: It's interesting figuring out which jokes should...'cause reading the script, there have been jokes that I love that really just like make me laugh genuinely and then you get to set and you're like 'We can't do that.' It's traipsing all over what we've built. Like it's like–

KE: It's too silly.

KS: Yeah, exactly. And then some things you get there and it's like 'I didn't think this was gonna be funny.' I thought this was gonna have to be played completely straight, but the ridiculousness of the situation is too much to ignore. And so one of our characters can say something silly and funny. And it's like he's really funny. Like you're hilarious. Like constant.

JE: She is too.

KS: But I think the movie's gonna be hilarious. I laugh every day even when we're about to lose our lives.

Eisenberg Stewart American UltraHow is Nima kind of orchestrating all that? Kind of getting you into that scene and when you come to the set and say this might be a little too silly, how does he kind of talk to you and play?

JE: Nima is doing the right thing as an actor. He's doing the right thing. Like he will ask us to do what's emotionally realistic before anything else.

KS: Yeah.

JE: And things are usually, in my experience, things are usually funnier if that's the case anyway.

KS: Yeah.

JE: 'Cause you don't kind of lose the thread of reality. And he's great. He has an obsessive attention to detail. Maybe you saw in the last [scene], I don't know if you were watching carefully, but, he was trying to get kind of a millisecond of something correct. So it's great, that extends to the acting too. He asks us to do things.

One of the things we keep talking about is the creativity of the physicality in this movie. And the creativity of some of the violence and the kills. And so your character [Jesse,] obviously practices that. We talked to Walton [Goggins] a little bit about that but we didn't hear about you, Kristen. Do you get to do some of the physical stuff and some of the creative, fun kill stuff?

KS: I'm trying to think. I don't kill any.. well actually I kill two people, but with a gun. So I guess that's not very creative. That's the least creative way you can possibly kill someone.

JE: Aside from just waiting around for them to die.

KS: Yeah, you're right. No, but then I wouldn't really be the one killing them. So and actually that's extremely creative.

JE: That's really creative.

KS: I'm just gonna sit in here and...

JE: Yeah, lock the door.

KS: Yeah.

AdventurelandI'm curious for the two of you, working together for the first time since Adventureland, what's it like reuniting?

KS: Awesome. I think me and Jesse work in a really similar way. It's hard to put my finger on it but our approach is just very similar. I don't know, I think we rehearse in the same way. The way we get ready for things is similar. We don't really like to go over things too much. It feels a little bit disrespectful to the material itself. You know what I mean? It's like you can overdo shit and then you have these weird memories of rehearsing it in a room. I think we both just sort of wanna really experience something and if we've chosen a project it's because we have a good feel for it. And rehearsal's been all about like just talking and getting on the same page, even though we were totally on the same page already. Just realizing that we were. I'm really comfortable with him. I feel safe. I would do anything. It's fun. I think he's kind of fun to hang out with too and that makes it all a good experience. Yeah.

JE: Oh yeah, I mean, I couldn't say enough about her. She's a phenomenal actress. I remember when we were working together, she was 18 or 17 or something and after the first scene, I just went over to the Director and I said, 'She's really funny.' 'Yeah, I know. I'm like 'No, she's really funny.' Like she's genuinely very funny.

KS: Which is not my thing.

JE: Well you're funny in the way that's a little obnoxious then. But she does it in a way without drawing attention to herself being funny. She has a great sense of humor. And serves the other actors.

KS: It doesn't come across. It's just personally it does sometimes.

JE: Right, by accident. And she is the least vain person you'll meet. And she's also like a very pretty woman. So it's...

KS: He's really vain all day long.

JE: Yeah.

KS: I'm just like 'Jesus, he is in makeup so much longer than me obviously.'

JE: Yeah. Anyway, she seems to serve the story and the other actors like before herself. It's a wonderful quality

KS: Likewise.

American Ultra Kristen StewartI know Topher was talking about lines and monologues that his character needs to have. I was really curious about Max's writing when it came to the relationship banter. You seem like you guys have the timing to make that good. Is there just some particular dialogue that stuck out in your minds when you kind of looked over the script?

JE: Yeah, he's such a wonderful writer and writes these characters in such specific and real ways. They seem like not only new, but they seem relatable in this very real way. We have this scene. We go to a party of her friends and I'm kind of stuck in the corner, but telling her 'It's okay' and that she should enjoy herself. Then later that night, she comes and kind of saves me, like rescues me from the party. We're sitting on the hood of our car and down the road a car has crashed and a guy has gone through the windshield. You don't see it. It's just all from our point of view looking far down. And I start telling her that I feel like I'm the tree stopping that car. And she's the car and this tree has just been stopping for so long and the car has just been moving for so long. And suddenly the tree on this night stopped this wonderful, beautiful thing that's been moving. Which is this car. And I feel like I'm the tree. And it's just really sweet. They're smoking weed, so it's a kind of a stoned thought. But it's so beautiful and it sums up this relationship in such a sweet way. The way they both think about each other and for Kristen, it's heart breaking for her because she is actually kind of harboring this–

KS: Guilt.

JE: Horrible guilt.

KS: Unbelievable guilt. Yeah. That you don't find out about until it's so far into the movie.

JE: Yeah, so it's all stuff like where everything feels so specific and meaningful because Kristen is experiencing it in two different ways and I'm kind of experiencing it in one way, but in a very personal way. He's a really wonderful, special writer.