In "The Double," Eisenberg plays both Simon, a shy,
introverted and forgettable office worker, and the brash,
egotistical James, a physically identical man with a polar
opposite extrovert personality. The film opened in limited U.S.
theaters last week and will be showcased at the Seattle
International Film Festival this week.
Ayoade, 36, is best known for playing nerd extraordinaire
Maurice Moss on British TV comedy series "The IT Crowd," but the
bespectacled actor is carving out a career behind the camera.
For his second directorial feature, Ayoade adapted Fyodor
Dostoyevsky's classic 1846 novella "The Double" about a man who
meets his doppelganger and descends into a psychological crisis.
In his film, Eisenberg's Simon endures a similar journey as his
doppelganger James begins to take over his life in a callous,
selfish manner, manipulating love interests and work colleagues
to believe Simon's existence is inconsequential.
"I liked the central premise of this person who is so
unnoticeable that no one cares when the doppelganger arrives.
It's not a story about a regular person, it's really a metaphor
for his situation rather than an incident," the director said.
Casting Eisenberg was key for the independent film, which
featured the actor playing opposite himself in numerous scenes
that Ayoade said needed meticulous timing and rehearsal.
"We needed someone who could internally animate the two
different roles," he said. "The characters looked different when
he was playing each one ... he has a very expressive face and
his thoughts do radiate depending on how he's commanding them."
The director has a soft spot for outsiders like Simon, both
playing one on television and centering his 2010 directorial
debut "Submarine" about an intelligent but disconnected Welsh
If "Submarine" was defined aesthetically by sweeping landscapes
and natural light, "The Double" sits on the opposite end of the
scale, visually dark and oppressive in its setting, an extension
of Simon's feelings of being trapped.
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Shot over 53 days on an abandoned office estate, "The Double" is set
in a vague non-period that lends to the film's Orwellian alternate
world, littered with kitsch 1980s-style television shows and music
from 1960s' Japanese singers.
"It needed to be an environment that he couldn't escape from,"
Ayoade said. "He needed to feel this was it, like you feel in a
dream that's going badly, you can't get out of it."
"I CAN'T ACT"
Ayoade may best be known in the United States for his role alongside
Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Jonah Hill in 2011 neighborhood
vigilante comedy "The Watch."
But Ayoade, who has two young children and confessed he rarely likes
to leave his London house, said he doesn't have any designs to
conquer Hollywood, at least not as an actor.
The filmmaker, dressed in a sharp navy blue suit with a yellow tie
and a shirt covered with illustrated insects, sprinkled the
interview with self-deprecating jokes ("I have hay fever, it's not a
cocaine habit," he quipped, after blowing his nose into a
That mixture of self-awareness and biting humor sets the tone for
Ayoade's upcoming book "Ayoade on Ayoade," which will feature the
director interviewing himself about film.
"I can't act," he said with a laugh. "Acting is a strange thing,
it's a strange and hard thing, and it makes you think about all
sorts of things and makes you crazy.
"You try not to think about yourself in life, otherwise it's
terrible. I'm not the most interesting thing that can be thought
about in any given situation."
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Andre Grenon)
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