Until now, Jesse Eisenberg has juggled two different jobs in Hollywood — actor (in films like “The Social Network” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”) and playwright. At this year’s South by Southwest, he’ll add producer to his resume. Eisenberg’s name appears in the credits for documentary “The World Before Your Feet,” which follows a man named Matt Green who spent six years walking on every street in New York City. That’s a total of 8,000 miles in all.
Eisenberg said he was contacted by the film’s director, Jeremy Workman, to see if he’d back this story. “I’ve shepherded along projects that I’ve acted in and turned down producing roles because they just seem superfluous,” Eisenberg said. “This was a different situation. In my opinion, it just felt like being a public champion for something I liked.”
Ahead of the film’s premiere in Austin, Texas, Eisenberg spoke to Variety about the movie, if he’ll ever return to playing Lex Luthor in a DC Comics sequel and his thoughts on #MeToo.
What drew you to coming on as an executive producer of this movie?
It was such an unusual project. On one hand, it’s this fantastic tour of New York City. But more than that, its central character has this unusual relationship to his environment. He’s simultaneously a tourist and a philosopher.
Did you meet him?
I walked with Matt Green. His knowledge about the specifics of New York City is so unbelievable, whether it be why a fire hydrant is this color to why graffiti on this street matches graffiti in Green Point, Brooklyn, because the artist has a cousin and they do a similar tag. One of the points Matt makes in the movie is you could live on 16th street and never see what happened on 17th street. It’s because of the concentration.
It’s also amazing that you could spend 8,000 miles walking just in New York. Do you have a favorite neighborhood?
Well, I’m a bicyclist. The only place I’ve consistently gone for the last 15 years has been to visit my aunt who is 106 now and she lives in Murray Hill. I’ve biked as many possible routes as there are from downtown Manhattan to the East Side.
Are you going to reprise your role as Lux Luthor in another “Superman” film?
I hope so. I mean, I have no idea is the truth. I love playing the character. Probably in terms of movie acting, it’s the most enjoyable character I’ve had the opportunity to play. So I would love to do it again. But I don’t know what their slate is. If you have any pull, please use it.
Were you supposed to have a bigger role in “Justice League?”
No. I was in it after the credits.
There was speculation online that they cut some of your other scenes.
No, no. Actually, on the contrary, they added some stuff.
What do you think of the moment we’re in right now with #MeToo and Time’s Up?
Over the last three years, I volunteered and raised $1 million for a domestic violence shelter that my mother-in-law has run. It’s called Middle Way House in Bloomington, Indiana. They serve a great purpose for sexual assault on campus, but also, it’s an incredible resource for the region of Southern Indiana. Like everybody else, I was incredibly shocked by how pervasive [sexual harassment and assault are] in an industry that I usually think of as progressive, open-minded, eager to give opportunities to those who are less fortunate. I’m really happy this is finally becoming a public discussion. It’s obviously way too late, but better than never.
Do you think we’re at a tipping point in Hollywood?
Oh, I certainly hope so. I’ll just say on a micro-level, I read a lot of scripts, as all actors do. Male characters in scripts are never physically described. And female characters are always described, irrespective of the importance of their physicality. That’s been disgusting to me. I feel like I’m seeing that less now. Also, the last movie set I was on [“The Hummingbird Project”], we just finished in December. I was working in Montreal. There was an actor who said something to one of the people in the wardrobe department and he was fired on the spot. I do not think that would have happened six months ago. If that doesn’t indicate a turning point, I don’t know what does.
I wasn’t there. [He declines to offers specifics out of the respect to the woman involved.] Interestingly enough, on set that day was Salma Hayek, who asked me to take a look at the piece she wrote for the New York Times. And also a woman named Erika Rosenbaum [who has come forward a a victim of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein]. It just felt like the tide was turning.
Several actors who have appeared in Woody Allen films have decided to donate their salaries. Is that something you would do?
As I told you, I spent the last three years raising almost $1 million for a domestic violence shelter. So when I think about raising money or awareness for sexual assault or domestic violence, I felt that my best efforts have direct activism with this particular shelter.
Do you think you’ll produce more?
Not really. I spend my days writing plays and acting in movies. I’m not that interested in producing because when I’m putting on one of my plays, it requires so much of that anyway and I find it exhausting.
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