Photo Credit: George Pimentel/WireImage
Jesse Eisenberg nearly made an interviewer cry -- or at least, that's what the headlines say. While promoting his magic-themed caper film Now You See Me, the 29-year-old actor gave a pretty awkward interview to Univision reporter Romina Puga. (Watch below.)
It's funny enough that we assumed Puga was in on the joke. Until we read her blog post about it.
"So, I was just humiliated by Jesse Eisenberg," Puga writes. She goes on to quote their interactions, referring to the interview as "self-esteem butchering" and calling the actor "not very nice."
So far, the press has been sympathetic to Puga, with headlines like "Jesse Eisenberg Is the Biggest Jerk Who Ever Jerked", "Watch Jesse Eisenberg Prove He Is Mark Zuckerberg (Humiliating Young Reporter)," and the aforementioned "Jesse Eisenberg Almost Makes Female Interviewer Cry."
But this interview doesn't make Jesse a jerk. Here are a few things the press doesn't seem to understand.
First of all, Jesse Eisenberg has a very dry sense of humor -- as anyone who's seen or read other interviews with him would know. These "insults" are jokes. He's comparing the reporter to Carrot Top because she brought props, not because she's bad at her job. He also makes fun of Romina's request to say her name, because -- well, it's a ridiculous request.
In both these cases, though, he accommodates Romina's requests. He says her name. He does the trick. He just gives her a little bit of a hard time about it, and she doesn't play along. That's not on him; that's on her.
From the blog post, it seems that Puga is mostly upset at Eisenberg's lack of enthusiasm. Here's the thing about that: This interview was filmed at a press junket. What happens at a junket is that actors sit for dozens of short interviews, during which they're asked the same questions over and over. It's tedious. They get bored. So when Romina asks Eisenberg to do that card trick (which he'd probably just done for 25 other reporters), and refers to costar Morgan Freeman by his last name (rather than his full name or first name, as interviewers usually do), Eisenberg tries to lighten things up. Unfortunately, the interviewer takes it as a personal affront.
And when he says "you're on my time?" That's actually true. The reporter would have been assigned a window, probably 4-5 minutes, to talk with Eisenberg. Only the celebrity's publicist would have the authority to extend the interview. Could Romina have walked away? Sure. But she wanted her footage, because it was her job to get that footage. Just like it was Eisenberg's job to answer her questions. Celebrity interviews can be friendly and fun, but they're still work -- on both sides.
It's unfortunate that Puga felt the need to write that blog post, because she could have easily pretended she was in on the joke. We would have believed it. (We're still not entirely convinced she's not punking us. Come on! She asked him to debunk the broken-thumb trick! It was funny!) But if it was simply a bad interview, then that's ok -- she's in good company. Here are four other celeb interviews that famously went south.
Mila Kunis for Oz the Great and Powerful
BBC Radio dispatched a very nervous young reporter to talk to Mila at a junket. Lucky for him, she handled it like a champ.
Tommy Lee Jones for Men in Black 3
Reporter Kevin McCarthy came equipped with lots of creative hypothetical questions -- none of which Jones wanted to answer. Whoops.
Ryan Lochte for What Would Ryan Lochte Do?
Lochte was so dumbfounded by the questions posed to him on this morning news show that the anchors couldn't keep a straight face.
Christina Hendricks for Mad Men
A reporter offended Hendricks by calling her full-figured -- and she refused to take a hint when the actress was clearly annoyed.
Quentin Tarantino for Django Unchained
A reporter from London's Channel 4 tried to talk to Tarantino about violence in film. Apparently, he was sick of the topic. When the reporter pressed the issue, Tarantino replied, "I'm shutting your butt down!"