Jesse Eisenberg says he lucked out by casting Julianne Moore in his feature directorial debut, “When You Finish Saving the World,” which premiered Thursday on the opening night of the 2022 Sundance Film Festival.
“Because she was so prepared and so raw and real and had worked so hard on the nuance of this unusual character, the first take she did of every scene was the best,” he told Brian Welk at TheWrap’s Sundance Studio. The Oscar-winning actress plays the director of a domestic violence shelter in the film, which will be released by indie studio A24.
Eisenberg, who adapted his own 2020 Audible Original drama, also took a good-natured shot as his own skills as a first-time director “This speaks probably more to my bad note-giving than it does to anything else,” he said. “It speaks to her preparedness and my lack of good feedback.”
When adapting his audio novel for the screen, Eisenberg said he was interested in fleshing out the the role of the son, played by “Stranger Things” star Finn Wolfhard. “He was an un-mined character,” said Eisenberg, adding that the role represents “the ironic trend in modern culture, which is a kid who plays music on the internet and has lots of fans, goes to school and no one cares about who he is.”
Eisenberg’s career is filled with disaffected, neurotic youths in such films as “Zombieland,” “Now You See Me” and his Oscar-nominated turn in “The Social Network.” But he said that he would not have been considered, and has doubts that he’d be able to pull off, the role that Wolfhard plays in his film.
“Finn is obviously a brilliant guy in real life and yet he plays kind of the fool here,” he said. “He plays (the role as) ignorant and blissfully unaware of how others see him. And yet he can plausibly also play the rock star version of the character, who theoretically thousands of people around the world would idolize. He’s able to play those things so well that I don’t think I would have been cast in the role.”
He added, “When I can get over my envy of him I am enamored.”
As for Moore, Eisenberg pointed out that the Oscar-winning actress displayed such a level of professionalism on set that his directorial notes were of little use. During the six months he spent editing the film, in which Eisenberg said he had about five takes for each scene to choose from, it was almost always Moore’s first take that ended up in the film.
“To me, she’s the greatest actress in the world,” he raved. “(She’s) able to play intellectually aloof while also incredibly feeling, neurotic while also self-confident, poised and unsure. On top of that, she’s the most unbelievable collaborator.”
Watch the video above.