In their new movie The End of the Tour, Jason Segel and Jesse Eisenberg play two writers— acclaimed author David Foster Wallace and Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky — who in 1996 conducted a marathon five-day interview while Wallace finished promoting his beloved novel, Infinite Jest.
Befitting their roles, Segel and Eisenberg sat down for Rolling Stone for an exclusive, wide-ranging conversation that covered everything from embarrassing summer camp stories (Segal recalls singing all of Les Misérables‘ “Castle on a Cloud” in a falsetto) to tombstone sizes and what constitutes leading a fulfilling life.
“What the characters are dealing with, in theory, is not necessarily the most dramatically potent situation — they’re two guys on a book tour, it’s not life-and-death, like 90 percent of movies,” Eisenberg says. “But I think what happened was we kind of invested ourselves to such a degree in it that it made it more potent.”
Segel also asked his co-star whether writing his new play, The Spoils, informed his performance as an author. Eisenberg replied that he was able to draw from the split experience of being a public figure in the arts, someone who might find himself in the spotlight one day and forgotten the next. Lipsky, he notes, has his own book that’s successful within his small world, but suddenly feels nervous and begins to question himself in the midst of the most celebrated author of the mid-Nineties.
Interestingly, Segel said he believed Wallace dealt with a similar insecurity: “He still feels this itch of, Why don’t I feel good? I think it comes from — he talks a lot about it in Infinite Jest — misplacing our value system. We’re sold this idea that achievement, or pleasure, or entertainment are going to scratch that itch. And that’s a very American sort of idea — if you buy this thing, or if you accomplish this, that’ll take care of it. But really I think it turns out to be about being a good friend, family member, member of your community.”