Please explain what just happened.
It’s interesting that that’s your opening question. That’s actually Larry King’s traditional closing question although with Larry I sense he genuinely wants to know.
What is your earliest memory?
I actually have a very clear earliest memory. I remember being in this blue velvet jumper. I’ve seen pictures, I looked like Little Lord Fauntelroy. I’m at my birthday party and we have an entertainer dressed as Mother Goose reading me and my friends fairy tales as I sit on my mother’s lap. That was my 17th birthday.
If you weren’t an actor/writer what other profession would you choose?
Honestly, I’d love to work in the intelligence community. I love the Middle East, I love international relations. I think other than the potential death thing, the CIA would be someplace I’d enjoy working. I didn’t take any Middle Eastern language courses in school, though, so that may be an issue. When I infiltrate the inner circles of al-Qaida and ask where bin Laden is in perfect intermediate-level Spanish, I feel like someone might notice.
Please describe the current contents of your refrigerator.
Ito En iced green tea and nothing else. My cholesterol is 230. According to my doctor, I’m basically a solid so now I’m on like a green tea IV drip. Supposedly the anti-oxidants will save me. That and I changed my diet. Apparently my diet was very high in oxidants.
What verb best describes you?
Is this a trick question? I’d like to think caring. I feel like I care an awful lot about the people in my life, about the work in my life, which I hope makes me a good friend and a good son and a good actor/writer.
What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?
A severe center hair part may not be the most effective method of attracting members of the opposite sex. I think I thought I was the Jewish Hugh Grant, he sort of had that center part thing happening, but I don’t know that I wore it as effectively.
What are the steps you take to regain your composure?
I don’t really lose my composure that often. The only thing that really unraveled me a little was one relationship I was in. When it comes to that sort of loss of composure, however, my best tool is writing. When I’m very happy, it’s much more challenging to write an excellent screenplay. If I’m sad about a girl, that’s creative diesel fuel. If I ever end up in a really healthy, happy relationship, my writing career will be in major trouble. My lit agent will immediately sabotage it. Not because he knows that, he’s just with WME and they hate love.
Long term: being able to consistently write and act and tell the sorts of stories on film that made me want to work in movies when I was seven. Clint Eastwood, for me, is the dream career. Not necessarily in terms of the specific stories he chooses to tell–which are amazing–but more in terms of the ability to produce films of such consistently amazing quality over five or six decades. Orson Welles is an amazing director, writer, actor but he made the best film he’d ever make on the first shot and spent the rest of his career catching up to that. Clint Eastwood is going to be 80 this year and he’s making, I think, the best films of his entire career. That’s insane and, to me, that’s sort of the dream. In that respect, I’m very lucky that my first film, “Flipper”, set the bar very low. I performed in a musical industrial for Varivax, Merck’s chickenpox vaccine after that, and it felt creatively like a major step in the right direction. Short term: Lebron James in a New York Knicks uniform this fall.
From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?
Parents. No question. I have amazing, amazing parents who did everything right. When I’m a parent one day, I’ll always know I could be doing it a little bit better because I’ve seen what that looks like in action.
What change do you want to be in the world?
I genuinely thought I was filling out the census until this question.
Are you pro- or anti-emoticon? Please explain.
Extremely pro. I have a blackberry and use blackberry messenger compulsively and they have the most amazing assortment of emoticons. One friend in particular, Natalie, is particularly adept with emoticons. I don’t even know what they mean sometimes and I still love it. For weeks, I thought she was sending me a borderline offensive Asian caricature emoticon before I realized it was just the emoticon for “hugs.”
How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?
I acted with Dylan Baker in a short film that I also wrote and produced called “Pitch” and Dylan’s very first film was “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” which Kevin Bacon was in.
What makes you feel most guilty?
I was in a direct-to-DVD family comedy called “Spooky House” about a magician who loses his wife in a magic trick and spends the rest of his life as the best friend of a jaguar named Shadow. If there were a cinematic Nuremberg trial, I don’t think any of us involved in that film would see daylight again. Except for Ben Kingsley. He’s got to get amnesty for “Ghandi.”
Please list three things you never leave home without.
Blackberry, wallet, Metrocard.
What is the worst piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
Don’t be an actor. Don’t be a writer. You’ll never work in this business.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?
Advising the person who gave me the above advice, in so many words, what they should go do to themselves.
What do you consider the harshest kind of betrayal?
MTV ending “The Hills” just when Heidi and Kristen are really starting to turn batsh*t crazy.
Of all the game shows that have graced our TV screens throughout history, which one would you want to be a contestant on and why?
None. I’m like the worst at any competitive endeavor. Sports, too, just awful. Speed walking, though, does seem mildly appealing. I remember watching that during Sydney games and if they catch you running, you’re like out. Disqualified. That, to me, seemed like the most Jewish of the Olympic sports; a sport where you’re actually penalized for moving too quickly.
What do you want to know?
Who wrote these questions and why.
What would you like your last words to be?
I actually don’t want to give it away, so, I’ll respectfully pass.
Please explain what will happen.
“Holy Rollers” will be released in NY and LA on May 21st. The film will then be released in theaters across the country starting on June 4th. And years from now, we will look back on this as the “Avatar” of Hasidic drug dealing films. So go see it. In all seriousness, it’s an absolutely wonderful, moving, riveting film that takes you inside these two totally fascinating worlds–the Hasidic world of Borough Park and the narco-trafficking world of Amsterdam–and tells you a very universal story about faith and identity through the eyes of these cripplingly human characters. And Jesse Eisenberg wears peyos. So, it really has everything.
Photos: Noah Kalina.