Eisenberg delves into doppelganger drama in Ayoade's 'The Double'

Tue May 13, 2014 9:25pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The appearance of a doppelganger precipitates a severe psychological identity crisis in British actor-director Richard Ayoade's latest film "The Double," as actor Jesse Eisenberg faces himself on screen.

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."   Continued...

British actor-director Richard Ayoade poses for a portrait in West Hollywood, California May 6, 2014.  REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn