AFI FEST 2010: The Los Angeles Times Young Hollywood Roundtable

Allison Loring

by: Allison Loring
November 8th, 2010

One was seduced by an older man in AN EDUCATION, one by power in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, and one by fantasy in THE IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS. Each of the three actors who made up the Los Angeles Times Young Hollywood roundtable - Carey Mulligan, Jesse Eisenberg, and Andrew Garfield - are quickly making names for themselves with impressive resumes before they have even hit thirty.

If you watch any of these actors’ films, their talent and passion for their craft is obvious. When asked if there was a moment when they realized they could (and wanted to) make acting their career, the specific moments varied, but their overall answer remained the same: it was always their dream job.

Garfield explained that it is hard to imagine that you could make a career out of essentially being a child for a living, constantly living in that world of imagination and play. For him, there was a point right before going on stage for a public performance when he realized acting was actually important work, not just a way of getting attention or having fun. He saw that acting was art and in that particular moment “understood what art was,” the weight it carried, and was able to see it as a tangible career rather than just perpetual make-believe.

Eisenberg echoed Garfield and said that his moment came when one of his early films ended up being successful (THE SQUID AND THE WHALE), which helped propel him to have the confidence to try and pursue a career in something that is known to be unstable with no guarantee of success. Mulligan said that, for her, the first play she acted in was key and made her want to pursue acting as a career. She applied to (and was unfortunately rejected from) drama schools, but after going to an open audition for Joe Wright’s PRIDE & PREJUDICE, won a part and took the opportunity to learn from everyone on set instead.

Despite having worked with some heavy hitters already, such as Oliver Stone, Noah Baumbach, and Robert Redford (to name a few) and accolades already under their belt (Mulligan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in AN EDUCATION), each still find themselves learning how to navigate the sometimes-treacherous waters of the film industry. Garfield explained that having been raised in England under ideas of repression and humility makes the idea of being your own advocate feel counterintuitive. He compared it to being a chess player where you need to make the right moves in order to be in the right place at the right time and joked that he was “never really good at playing chess.”

All three have acted in films that were either based on real life material or real life events. Both Mulligan and Garfield acted in NEVER LET ME GO based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, while Garfield and Eisenberg portrayed two of Facebook’s original founders, Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg in THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Garfield said that lack of public information on his character actually allowed him to feel free to interpret Eduardo as he saw fit, whereas Eisenberg had a bit more of a restrictive frame to work within for such a public figure as Zuckerberg. Both actors explained that since the film was not a documentary and only an interpretation of actual events, even with the information they had, they still felt able to put their own spin on their characters.

Mulligan said she carried Ishiguro’s novel with her on set and would refer to it often when building her character and creating her world. Mulligan said the book was “perfect” and provided her with any extra details needed to bring the character of Kathy H. to life. Because Kathy was an unreliable narrator, Mulligan felt she could look for the cracks in her telling of the story and play into those moments. Both Mulligan and Garfield admitted they hung around after they were done filming to watch, and ended up working with the younger actors (Izzy Meikle-Small and Charlie Rowe) playing the younger versions of their characters. Mulligan admitted that they “didn’t want to let it go” and ended up rehearsing with Meikle-Small and Rowe to help meld the younger and older performances together.

When it comes to improvising or going off script, Eisenberg said he loves having the freedom to do so and explore his characters beyond what is written. However, he only does so if it feels unique and appropriate for his character and is not just “filling space.” Garfield noted that he loved the fact that THE SOCIAL NETWORK was told from varying viewpoints because it made everything subjective and each person’s argument believable. Eisenberg and Garfield revealed that by the end of filming, each found themselves actually taking up their character’s side and believing they were in the right, which helped provide real conviction in their performances.

While on the subject, director David Fincher’s preference to do many takes was brought up and Garfield confirmed it to be true, but said he found it to be a gift because it allowed them to try everything, make mistakes, and not feel the pressure to be immediately perfect. Eisenberg actually took notes during some scenes when he had a pad in front of him to remember which takes he liked best, and often those takes ended up being Fincher’s favorites as well. Both actors agreed that this only confirmed that, regardless of how many takes they did, Fincher was always in tune with the actors.

The three all agreed that they do not like to watch their own performances. Garfield said it is simply too easy to be self-critical and is almost impossible to think of yourself as “any good.” He compared it to the reaction most people have when they listen to a recording of their own voice. To this day, Garfield has still not seen NEVER LET ME GO and only saw THE SOCIAL NETWORK because it would have been rude to leave the screening he went to of the film.

Eisenberg said his father told him that maybe it needed it to be hard so you could gain value from it by creating productive fear. Just like anything, if it is too easy, it does not feel like you have accomplished anything. Mulligan said the practice of watching the monitor is something she discovered when she began working in America and never does it. She prefers just to see the final result and kick herself over her performance to in turn use to make her next performance even better. Eisenberg elaborated that the final version never matches what you think you had done because it will have music playing over a line you thought was important or it is edited to give a different impression on the audience.

With Garfield on deck to be the next Spider-man, he was asked how he planned on approaching his first lead role in a larger scale film versus the smaller films he has acted in until this point. Garfield said he would approach that film as he would any film he has done and try to stay focused on his character, even in the moments when he is doing action sequences and stunt work. For him, the character is always the most important and he does not think that idea of focusing on that should be based on the size of the film. He did admit that may all change when he begins filming in a month, but that was his current goal and was self-deprecating when acknowledging that he does feel the pressure of the role as he also wonders why they cast “that English fool!”

As each start to have more and more success, dealing with red carpets and the paparazzi is becoming a bigger part of their lives. Mulligan said in the past year she learned that having a martini before walking the red carpet helps and bringing your family with you allows you to see the experience through their eyes and actually enjoy it.

When looking to the future, Eisenberg said he hopes one day the projects he ends up being the most proud of end up being the same as the ones that get the most attention. Mulligan said she loves going to work each day and hopes to continue getting immersed in a new story and group of people as she goes from project to project. Garfield wants to remain forever unsatisfied and retain his love of diving in to the chaos of new characters to explore emotions and experiences he otherwise may not have the opportunity to.

Mulligan is currently filming DRIVE with Ryan Gosling, Eisenberg is preparing to graduate college and is in production on 30 MINUTES OR LESS with Danny McBride and Aziz Ansari, and Garfield will begin production on the highly anticipated reboot of SPIDER-MAN next month.

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