Justin Bartha, Ari Graynor and Jesse Eisenberg at "Holy Rollers" New York Premiere on 10th May 2010
"Holy Rollers" extended trailer starring Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Bartha and Danny A. Abeckaser, directed by Kevin Asch
Jesse Eisenberg attending "Holy Rollers" New York Premiere on 10th May 2010
Jewcy: How did you come into this role? What about this role and this film appeals to you?
Jesse Eisenberg: It was two-fold. One, I thought it was interesting in the way that it would be challenging because I didn't know that much about the Hasidic community at the time. The other part of it was that I thought that I could do it. I found an emotional way in, so what was compelling was learning about this community and playing this character that I thought had a very real conflict but in a very neat circumstance, which is being part of this community that I was always intrigued by.
You say that you felt like you'd be able to play this character. What about this character is so relatable to you?
JE: His conflict in the movie is what one might call a universal conflict. He feels like he doesn't want to go down the path that has been set for him to either be a rabbi, to marry this girl who wants eight children or to work in his father's textile store. He doesn't want to do any of those things, and that's a very understandable conflict. I feel this all the time, even though my career path hasn't been set for me, I feel indecisive or uncomfortable. So, I thought that was really relatable. At the same time his emotional state is much more heightened than mine because he gets involved in a much darker underworld. It's a heightened version of this universal experience.
What were some preconceived notions of Hasidim that you had before starting the film, and how did those notions change?
JE: I definitely did have those. I assumed that they were sexist. I assumed that they were racist in many ways because they are so isolated. I assumed that they were all fervently religious. I discovered that a lot of that wasn't the case. Some of them felt conflicted about their faith, and not everybody thought about women in the way that we assume an isolated group might. I realized that they are not this monolithic group, they are actually a very diverse group of individuals that have their own feelings about faith and life and society. There are even some, like Sam, who didn't feel as religiously fervent as the generation prior to them hoped they would.
Holy Rollers - Medicine videoclip
How did you prepare for the role? What kind of research did you do?
JE: The day after I read the script I went to Borough Park to see if I could realistically play these people. Can I talk like them? Can I walk like them? Can I even look like them? And I thought that day, yes I can but it would take a lot of research. So I read a lot of great books about Hasidic Jews who have left the community, and also it took about two years to raise the money for the movie so I had about two years where I was involved but not filming. I went to Borough Park and Williamsburg and Crown Heights and tried to speak with anyone who would talk to me; often that came down to the Chabad group, who are very interested in speaking to secular Jews. Occasionally I told them what I was doing but they never really asked. If they asked I told them, but they really didn't ask. They were open and welcoming, but not because I was filming a movie. I guess they want you to become a little more religious if you are a secular Jew.
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Did being in this environment and playing this character raise any questions for you about Judaism?
JE: I dropped out of Hebrew school when I was twelve so shooting this movie really made me want to go back to temple and be religious again. But then, I had to go shoot the zombies". Source: www.jewcycom