30 Minutes or Less: Aziz Ansari & Jesse Eisenberg on Point Break & Improv

In July, Aziz Ansari and Jesse Eisenberg served up slices of pizza at Goathill Pizza in San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood in an effort to connect with their fans and, more importantly, to promote their comedy heist movie, 30 Minutes or Less. In it, Jesse plays Nick, pizza delivery guy (hence the promo manual labor) and Aziz plays his best bud Chet. They find themselves in a sticky situation when Nick is kidnapped by two amateur hour criminals (played by Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) and they strap a bomb to him and is forced to rob a bank or else he gets — you guessed it — he gets blown to mulch. He solicits the help of his smart-ass BFF (that would be Chet) and they try to do their best to execute a plan through absurd hijinks.

After their pizza pushing, the two sit with at a table in the back of Goathill Pizza with a small herd of journalists — me being one of them. As we all get settled in and place our recorders in front of them, Aziz begins his playful attack on one of the journalists who doesn’t put a recorder on the table.

“You are a lot more confident in your reporting than these guys are.”

We laugh. He turns his attention to the girl next to me who is clearly a go-with-the-flow chick. She sits there, chillaxin’ with her military surplus garb. She’s grinning like she just smoked a bowl and says she hasn’t “written something down in pen in forever” — although she has her questions written on a used burrito bag from Chipotle.

“So you don’t have a recorder?!” he sarcastically jabs the girl.

“No! It’s right here!” she jabs back.

“Then why do you need to write something down?” he turns to me. “Where’s your recorder?”

I get awkwardly nervous and say, “It’s right here sir.”

“Just in case, right?” he says.

I don’t know what he means by that, but I agree in fear that he will make fun of me and deflate my self-esteem, “Yes. Just in case.”

As we shoot the breeze a bit more we find out that Jesse cites Dog Day Afternoon as his favorite bank robbery movie while Aziz enjoys Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing, Heat, and Point Break, which is referenced in the movie — so I decide to bring it up.

“What’s your favorite line from Point Break?” I ask.

“I haven’t seen it a while — what’s your favorite line?” Aziz turns it on me.

I get nervous so I say the first thing that comes to mind: “Vayo con dios!”

“Who says that?” At this point, he’s quizzing me and I feel my armpits getting sweaty.

“Keanu says it,” I respond.

At this point, the burrito bag girl interjects, “Keanu Reeves is in that movie?”

Aziz stops the conversation and says, “That’s the only conversation I have ever had and someone has said, ‘Keanu Reeves is in it?!'”

There’s laughter at the table and Aziz throws a deadpan look at burrito bag girl and says, “Do me a favor. Get out.” He’s obviously joking and more laughter ensues — although her lack of Point Break knowledge is grounds for dismissal from the interview. That said, we continue the playful banter of the 30 Minutes or Less roundtable interview.

How was the experience working with Ruben Fleisher on Zombieland and then on 30 Minutes or Less?

Jesse: It was great and similar in an important way. He seems to make these funny, broad, visually arresting movies but never compromises the authenticity of the characters. He did that in Zombieland in a kind of “silly” world and was able to take those people seriously. This is grounded in a bit more realistic situation but still broad and extreme.

What attracted you to this role?

Jesse: If the character in the movie seems like it would live outside of the world of the movie — there’s a lot of scripts I read where the character is in service of the plot and the character would not have any life outside. This movie, even though it is a broad comedy and there are silly scenes, the characters are always the same throughout — and that’s a rare thing.

If you guys were put in Nick and Chet’s situation what would you do?

Aziz: Jesse’s answer is that he would email his assistant to do it.

Jesse: I don’t need to email her, she already knows.

Aziz: Hmmm…what would you do?

Jesse: I would do exactly what these guys do. I mean, is there anything not in the script that we would do? They go to these bomb-disarming websites, they get a plastic gun and spray paint it. They buy a ski mask and some 5 Hour Energy Drinks. What’s so great about the whole premise of the movie is that it forces these guys — who would never do anything like this — to live out this fantasy.

Aziz: The movie attempts to play the situation LIKE it was real — they can’t call the cops because there’s these bad guys are watching them. I read something online about the movie where some guy said, “Huge plot hole: why wouldn’t they just call the cops?”

How much improv was in the movie?

Aziz: It’s hard say a percentage. The script was great but there were a lot of little moments we found and a lot of lines that came up with that did end up in the movie. When you are actually on set, wearing the costumes, things come up in your head that you can’t really come up with when you just read the script in a room.

There’s a scene when you guys are in a store buying the plastic gun, 5 Hour Energy Drinks, ski masks — and Chet randomly picks up a slider press. Would you actually buy a slider press?

Aziz: That is a great example of what came about when we were on set. Every time we were in the store, I would go up to the register I would grab different things to try to make him (points at Jesse) laugh. I grabbed that slider press and it was just so huge and clunky. I made a choice in my head that Chet was hungry the whole day. I thought that he would like sliders. I thought it wasn’t going to be in the movie and then when I watched the cut. I texted Ruben and said, “Really?! You put the Slider Press in?” I couldn’t believe that!

Are there places you won’t go in your comedy?

Aziz: All of that is a situation by situation basis. I don’t think there is anything offensive in this one. If I get a script and it says some really offensive stuff, then I say “Hey, I’m not going to say this.”

Lastly, and most importantly, do you have a favorite Winklevoss twin?

Jesse: We have a great disagreement about that topic.

Aziz: I love those characters in (The Social Network) — but you know who really cracks me up? The REAL Winklevoss guys. Something about them is SO funny. I saw a photo of them at the premiere of the movie and they were all fired up and it’s like you wanna say “No one thinks you made up Facebook man!” Two super big guys who are fired up — there’s something so funny about it.

30 Minutes or Less opens in theaters today.

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About Dino-Ray

Dino-Ray Ramos is a movie hobbit, social media swaggerist, pop culture junkie, smart-mouthed Asian American warrior, and a well-rounded inhaler of all things entertainment. After uprooting from Texas, he migrated to San Francisco where he shares his irreverent take on high and low brow aspects of culture. In addition to feeding TheFinerDandy.com he writes for AfterElton.com, Hyphen Magazine and the San Francisco Chronicle. You can also boost his self-esteem by following his musings on Twitter
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