Writer-director Riley Stearns is doing well for his sophomore feature, the Art of Self-Defense. And why shouldn't he? The humor is darker than the very funny night and serves as a smart exploration of the men's content.
Jesse Eisenberg makes Casey a little 30 – which changes his life after he has been violently attacked. He starts learning karate at a very strange studio (has been studied by Stearns on jiu-jitsu for six years). Soon he is no longer practicing French and listening to contemporary adult music; instead, it is a heavy German metal revealing a new attack. It cannot be predicted, a little unhappy and very entertaining.
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Stearns, 33, claimed to block the film before it was released. He is friendly and considerate, talking about the films, truthfulness and his attractive Instagram account, which allows him to fly his dorsal flag.
Jesse Eisenberg (left) and writer-director Riley Stearns attend the Munich Film Festival on June 27, 2019, in Munich. (Photo: Hannes Magerstaedt / Getty Images)
Question: We are talking before the film was opened. Is this a fun or stressful time?
Answer: More than anything, I'm just ready to be around. And not in a terrible way. It's almost like a kid I am about to graduate to high school. I'm excited for them, I'm glad, but I'm really ready to go out and live. They have a college, I need my help here and there, but I'm starting to think about having the next child. It is exciting, a relief and a proud pride.
Q: Where do the roots come from?
A: The short story is that I was doing jiu-jitsu at that point for a few years, and I just wanted to make a film in the world of martial arts. I wanted to do something that I like to enjoy, that I enjoy being creative. I wanted to explore some ideas that would not be set in the life of the karate, my own thoughts and fears about what is meant by masculine and what we do to men. I liked the idea of taking the traditional sports film and shaking it in a way.
In "The Art of Self-Defense," Casey (Jesse Eisenberg) decides to study a karate. (Photo: Bleecker Street Media)
Q: You do jiu-jitsu. Why don't you use the film instead of karate?
A: (Laughter) This is a good question, and why. I go back home for Christmas every year. Of course, someone from my family says, “How is the karate going? It makes a karate. “They have very different art forms! That said, I wanted to make something more universally attractive. Talking genericly, there is a great appeal for karate. He is kicking and acting. Jiu-jitsu is dudes rolling around and getting turned.
Q: Do you think this is a message film?
A: No. I said that it is all day in every interview, and that it is really important for me to be entertaining… that I feel I can talk about what I feel, but not in a pre-determined way or so it feels like with a message film.
Q: It makes you think about things. Like, why are certain types of music not specifically considered, but are there metals?
A: It is a very personal film. I am a huge fan of metal. I always wanted to learn French or Italian growing up. I love the romantic sound of these languages. I also felt that I was not involved in sport. I think everyone can get involved. Who is to say what is masculine and what is feminine sport? I think things are changing … a generation that is a little younger than my generation, they won't have those thoughts and ideas that clouded us as children. They will really be able to accept their individuality and be less connected (with old constructions).
Q: Looking at the film, I can not imagine anyone but Jesse Eisenberg as Casey. When you wrote the film, did you think of it at all?
A: That is so nice, but he never intended to go into it. I didn't write the roles to a memorable person, because I didn't want to be stuck on my ways (unless I could get them). I like to write a white face. But after I had to wear Jesse, it was a great feeling. It's better in the role than anyone you might think of.
Q: It is fun and odd type is talking to you, because I followed you on Instagram for years.
A: (Laughing) Sorry! No, thank you. I have a sort of character on Instagram, a bigger version for me. It is a type of protective layer from the world. Instagram is a fun, dumb thing to be a little dork on the movie and promote it.
Q: On Instagram, we have seen that you go from no visible tattoo to full sleeve.
A: Usually these tattoos are super masculine, but I like it. I like the art. It's fun. I had to report type to my mom. He went from a half sleeve and then after starting in a full-scale mode, I felt more like myself than I had before. It is a strange thing to say and strange feeling. It is not like gender confusion, where a boy is a boy and they are not in their mind. It is not the same thing, but it made me feel that I would like it to be more like me, more like the one I thought. It is a huge, open, and fun thing to do.
Q: Will you do more?
A: I'm going to do more. I have a tattoo of mixed tape (inspired by the film)… I want to do something else when the idea is right. It doesn't seem that I have to be covered, but I like the idea of working with different artists.
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