Creating an account with Tribecafilm.com gives you access to more features and services, like our weekly newsletter and other special features just for the film community.SIGN UP
Fact: the summer after you graduate college sucks. Even if you have grand plans—like a graduation trip through Europe—life, invariably, will come crashing down on those dreams. And that’s where we begin with Adventureland.
Loosely based on writer/director Greg Mottola’s (The Daytrippers, Superbad) own life, the film opens with a freshly-minted college graduate, virginal James Brennan (played by Jesse Eisenberg), finding out that his graduation trip to Europe is canceled. His parents can’t afford it. On top of that disappointment, if he wants to pay for grad school next year (at Columbia’s Journalism School—kid has a bright moneymaking future ahead!), he’s going to have to find a job and save some money while staying at home in suburban Pennsylvania.
Typical for a kid who’s just graduated college with a Rennaissance studies degree, the only place that will take him is the titular “funtastic” amusement park, Adventureland (filmed in Pittsburgh's Kennywood Park, founded in 1898).
There are upsides to running a Games station and wearing the dorky games games games games Adventureland t-shirt, though, and the funky, low-key fun of Mottola’s work—and his genuine appreciation for the rhythms and weirdness of suburban life—shines through as James meets a host of characters, from Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the wacky park proprietors to the sublime Martin Starr as Joel Schiffman, the Russian literature enthusiast. And then there's the foxy, pouty Kristen Stewart (filmed before she signed on as Twilight's Bella) as Em, the worldly (yet naïve) college student. There are genuine giggles, hijinks, and eerie beauty to be found in those flashing flourescent lights, and a kid becomes a little bit more of a man over the span of one crazy summer.
Tribeca had the chance to talk with the downright ubiquitous Eisenberg—one of the go-to actors if you need a young, introspective lad—who was up in New York for two days on a break from filming his new project, Zombieland, in Atlanta. (When he’s not acting, the native New Yorker is a student at The New School.) Despite the fact that he was taking a break from fighting zombies, the self-effacing actor, whose persona on the phone was hilariously similar to his shy and smart characters, said, “Ultimately, I'm there in spirit, for the next three weeks. Fighting them [zombies] or running from them, depending on the situation."
Tribeca: So, you’re carving out a niche as a guy who plays younger versions of directors. [In 2005's The Squid and the Whale, Eisenberg played a younger version of director Noah Baumbach.] Why do you think that is?
Jesse Eisenberg: I don’t know. Maybe it’s, well, I don’t have many friends who are actors, so maybe the typical personality of somebody who gets into performing is pretty extroverted. I personally don’t feel that way—maybe that’s part of it—people who write and direct movies are more introverted.
Tribeca: We talked with Eva Amurri last week, who co-starred with you in The Education of Charlie Banks and mentioned your love of wordplay and your website, oneupme.com. What’s up with that?
JE: Rest in peace, oneupme.com. The website closed down just recently. We were trying to foster abstract, weird thought and wordplay. It closed down because the Internet is a competitive place. It was nine dollars a year for the domain and that was nine dollars too much for what I was doing with it.
Tribeca: You’ve been to the Tribeca Film Festival a couple of times and your films have been well received. What was that like for you?
JE: The first year we were there, the movie we were in, Roger Dodger, won an award [it was the first Best Narrative Feature]. It was such a misrepresentation of what life would be like. It was great, but also misleading, it was nine months after the movie was made, so it was also misleading. [Eisenberg is referring, however obliquely, to the fact that not every film plays a festival, wins an award, and gets distributed quickly.]
Tribeca: So how many questions about Twilight have you had to answer while doing junkets with Kristen?
JE: About half of the questions during our interviews were about that. But it got me off the hook!
Tribeca: How was it working with Martin Starr? It’s so nice to see him with a prominent role in a movie. He was the heart of Freaks and Geeks.
JE: He’s very funny, very dry.
Tribeca: What, specifically attracted you to the role in Adventureland?
JE: Well, Martin was in it. [Dry, funny joke.] It’s kind of rare to have a movie that feels so authentic and personal, because it was based on this guy’s life. You read the script and it felt so personal and lived in, and those are usually the most enjoyable things to do.
Tribeca: The movie really nails that kind of just-out-of-college ennui. Have you experienced anything like that in your life?
JE: The first time I left the country, when I got back to America I assumed I would get back and change the world and then it didn’t work out that way. Then you do something little, sign up for an organization, send a check to somewhere.
Tribeca: How much improvisation was there on set?
JE: I only saw the movie once, so I couldn’t place how much stayed in. [Greg Mottola] was really encouraging of us to kind of improvise, which is something I like to do because it keeps it fresh, because if you’re living in the character, being the character, it’s nice when the director trusts actors to go off script. I know we improvised some funny stuff about Watergate but it was taken out [of the final cut], because the kids at the mall don’t like that.
Tribeca: How was it filming at Kennywood Park?
JE: There were some obstacles to shooting at an amusement park. Some of the people who were extras in the movie had to go on rides 100 times in a row. We were filming in November—it was supposed to be a summer movie, and we had to put ice cubes in our mouth, so our breath wouldn’t freeze. [Kennywood has] old world charm. The amusement park that it’s based on is in Long Island, and it’s modern looking. [Kennywood] has an almost nostalgic quality to it.
Tribeca: What’s your favorite amusement park ride?
JE: Any one that doesn’t come off the back of a truck. You shouldn’t go on any ride that could fall off a truck on the highway.
Producer Ted Hope (who recently wrote about the precarious position of New York's Tax Credits for Film) has embraced Twitter and social networking. Check out some of his websites, including Truly Free Film, Hammer to Nail, and These Are Those Things. [The budget for New York State (and Film Credits) is currently being discussed; this Facebook group has some updates. Do call your local representative.]