The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

Jesse Eisenberg pitted against himself in Ayoade's surreal flick 'The Double'

  • Print

TORONTO - A shift in his shoulders, a change in his gait and a fresh facial expression were often all Jesse Eisenberg needed to convincingly transition between two characters who were physically identical but emotionally entirely different in "The Double."

But the experience didn't just end when the cameras stopped rolling — the actor best known for playing Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in "The Social Network" found himself behaving more like one character or another depending on which one he played on a given day.

"It just ends up infiltrating the feeling you have about yourself. With the more confident character I felt better about those scenes just because while you're acting in them you're feeling good about yourself," he said.

"Only in retrospect do you realize that you were kind of taking on the feelings of the role."

The film, which is based on a novella by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, tells the story of an incredibly mild-mannered, almost socially invisible man who suddenly finds his life turned upside down when his doppelganger shows up.

Eisenberg, who plays both the meek Simon and his extroverted polar opposite James, found that alternating between both characters amounted to a filmmaking experience he could relish.

"In terms of switching back and forth it was just a lot of fun. It kind of kept it fresh," he said. "The way movies are shot is so laboured that by the end of the day doing the same scene over and over can feel really boring, but I never really had that experience."

Eisenberg did, however, have to deal with watching his own scenes repeatedly so he could act alongside himself — an uncomfortable scenario at first, but one that he later turned to his advantage.

"That's like generally something I don't like to do ... but this was kind of necessary," he said of having to scrutinize himself on screen.

"Ultimately it was a really fun thing to do because you can kind of take your own pace. I can kind of do something with one character to highlight what I want to highlight in the other character."

The entire film plays out in an unsettling, dystopian world that isn't rooted in any specific time or place. There's barely any sunlight and not a single shot of the sky.

British director Richard Ayoade deliberately made those decisions as he set out to create a piece that was slightly surreal.

"It was all meant to be in a kind of dreamy feel," he said, adding that he wanted the film to be left open to interpretation.

"What I find very frustrating is when people say who am I meant to relate to in this film, as though essentially it's meant to be like an arcade game where you're the centre and the character is merely a kind of experiment to see how you would have reacted."

Strange as the film is at times, it is also punctuated with moments of dark comic relief.

Basing the movie around a doppelganger, in particular, was something Ayoade thought had great potential for humour.

"Someone has this person who looks exactly like him and no one notices, but even when people do notice this doesn't bother them. And there seemed to be something very comic to me about it," he said. "No one had ever done anything, I think, like that."

Mia Wasikowska, who plays Simon's oblivious love interest in danger of being lured away by the charming James, was attracted to Ayoade's creative approach.

Having two characters who look exactly the same — right down to their drab suits and shaggy haircuts — with diametrically opposed personalities lent much depth to the film, she said.

"Whether the internal you will ever kind of match the external version of you and whether those two parts of you ever align is kind of an interesting thing to explore," Wasikowska said.

"There are so many ways you can interpret (the film) and I think each individual will have a different perspective on it."

"The Double" opens in Toronto on Friday and will be released in cities across Canada later this month.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Your top TV picks for August 25-28

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A Canada Goose cools off in a water pond Monday afternoon at Brookside Cemetary- See Bryksa’s Goose a day Challenge– Day 27-June 25, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A young gosling prepares to eat dandelions on King Edward St Thursday morning-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 17- bonus - May 24, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Do you agree with the mandatory helmet law for cyclists under 18?

View Results

Ads by Google