Film Forum

Wasikowska, Eisenberg provide double the star power

Fun fact: The two young stars of our upcoming film "The Double," Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska, began dating each other after working on the film together. Via Magnolia Pictures.

Fun fact: The two young stars of our upcoming film “The Double,” Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska, began dating each other after working on the film together. Via Magnolia Pictures.

The Richard Ayoade film “The Double” looks intriguing and compelling on many levels, but the black comedy wouldn’t be billed as one of the best films of 2014 so far without its two young stars, Mia Wasikowska and Jesse Eisenberg.

In a dual role, Eisenberg plays the shy and timid character Simon as well as his doppelgänger James, whose confidence proves him to be Simon’s polar opposite. The confident James takes the meek Simon under his wing and tries to help him connect more with the world. But Simon realizes that James is slowly taking over his life — stealing his job, his apartment, and even the girl he’s in love with.

The Los Angeles Times applauds the two young actors, saying, “It is the interplay between Wasikowska and Eisenberg that gives ‘The Double’ both its tension and its charm, as Simon and James vie for her affection — one with the best of intentions, one with the worst.”

First, an introduction to each star. Eisenberg, 30, was born in Queens, New York and grew up in East Brunswick, New Jersey. His mother worked as a clown at adult parties and now teaches cultural sensitivity in hospitals; his father is a sociology professor. Eisenberg began acting in community theaters as a child and appeared on Broadway by the age of 13. He starred in his first feature film “Roger Dodger,” at age 19.

He’s best known for his role as the sarcastic douchebag based on Facebook’s creator Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network”; he has also starred in the magician-heist film “Now You See Me,” taken on the roll of an Orthodox Jewish teen turned drug dealer in “Holy Rollers,” and starred in the 2009 comedy “Zombieland.” In between movies, he writes plays and stars in them; his third play, “The Spoils,” will be available off-Broadway in spring 2015.

Wasikowska, 24, was brought up in Canberra, Australia by her Polish-born photographer mother and Australian photography teacher father. When she was eight, her family moved to Poland where she trained 35 hours a week as a ballerina. She quit ballet at 14 after an ankle injury, and she was inspired to become an actress after seeing Krzysztof Kieślowski’s “Three Colours” trilogy. She started acting in Australian soap operas and made her American debut at age 17, when she played a suicidal gymnast on the HBO show “In Treatment.”

Her big break came when she was cast as Alice in Tim Burton’s “Alice In Wonderland” in 2010. She has since been in a steady stream of films; she played the daughter of Julianne Moore and Annette Bening in the 2011 Oscar-nominated film “The Kids Are All Right,” she starred in the British romantic drama “Jane Eyre” alongside Michael Fassbender, and in 2013 she starred in the British-American psychological thriller “Stoker.”

In a moment that recalls Hitchcock's "Rear Window," Simon uses a telescope to spy on Hannah in "The Double." Via Magnolia Pictures.

In a moment that recalls Hitchcock’s “Rear Window,” Simon uses a telescope to spy on Hannah in “The Double.” Via Magnolia Pictures.

In an interview with The Independent, Eisenberg described what it felt like to play two different characters who were visually the same, yet complete psychological opposites. “Your body moves in a different way. You have a different posture. You have a different feeling inside, which ends up looking different outside, I suppose. The only difference is they’re sometimes standing face to face.”

His co-star Wasikowska plays Hannah, the love interest who doesn’t really notice Simon (or even remember his name), but who instantly falls for James. She works in the copy room at Simon’s workplace and lives in the apartment across from Simon, who spies on her through a telescope, creepily evoking Alfred Hitchcock’s famed “Rear Window.” Hannah is an ambiguous character seen through Simon’s point of view; there are times when we question whether she’s cruel or just completely oblivious.

In an interview with Hunger TV, Wasikowska says she was drawn to her character because she couldn’t understand her. “Usually I can read a character and clearly visualize them but Hannah was really hard for me to tell who she was exactly — whether we are supposed to like her or hate her.”

Wasikowska says that she admired Eisenberg’s ability to play both characters as completely different people. “I was so impressed when I saw the film, the fact that you were never confused as to who was who. Simon was always Simon and James was James.”

See “The Double” on July 11 at the historic Tower Theatre.

Rebecca Horwitz earned her B.A. in theatre from UC San Diego. She currently serves as the Filmworks summer marketing intern.

Every second Friday of the month, Fresno Filmworks screens first-run independent and international movies at the historic Tower Theatre.