When you think of actor Jesse Eisenberg, your mind doesn’t immediately jump to confident and cocky screen roles. (Remember him in Adventureland?) But, confident and cocky are the perfect descriptors of Eisenberg’s latest character, J. Daniel Atlas, and one Eisenberg wears well.

A wildcard illusionist with an insatiable thirst for adrenaline and a knack for sleight-of-hand, Atlas is perpetually “on, ” even when off stage according to Eisenberg, a habit (or talent as it could be seen) tied to believing in his own mythology.

During our brief chat with Eisenberg on the red carpet of the Now You See Me premiere in Toronto, we asked the actor if he ever considered channeling a little of Atlas’ confidence to help calm his own nerves when preparing for premiere events or live stage productions; his reply was an enthusiastic yes. “My character is so confident just cause he decides to be confident, and I suppose if you kind of fake it, I guess it has some kind of outward effect, and you can appear more confident than you feel inside.”

Also, in attendance at the premiere were Steve Lund (Beauty and the Beast) and Paul Greene (Somewhere) from the new and upcoming Canadian TV series Bitten. In the spirit of all things magical, we asked Lund if he had the ability to vanish and reappear anywhere, where it would be. A safe in a bank in Paris perhaps à la Atlas? The actor doesn’t hesitate to answer: “I have been thinking a lot about Micronesia…it’s just North of Australia. It’s a series of really, really tiny Islands,” he says. “I think I would like to just go there right after this. I will see if one of those guys can hook me up with some teleportation tactics.”

As the audience poured into the screening, Eisenberg introduced the film, and I personally could not help but notice a similarity between Eisenberg’s and Atlas’ confidence and stage presence. Mature and from all appearances well past his days playing the underdog in love with the fantasy girl-next-door, Eisenberg isn’t letting himself get typed cast into the geeky roles that were at the centre of his early films including Zombieland and Adventureland — the features that made him an audience favourite. Judging from his performance in Now You See Me, it would seem the actor has used his Social Network role as the cocky nerd to transition into a Hollywood leading man.

The first to be cast in this must-see summer blockbuster, it’s as clear to the audience as it was to the filmmakers that Eisenberg is suited for the role of J. Daniel Atlas, all tricks aside.

On screen, the actor’s confidence and blunt humor hardly seemed like an act, whether it’s an illusion or not, it’s safe to say that Eisenberg’s talent is continuing to evolve upwards.

Mesmerizing and unpredictable, Now You See Me leaves the audience, literally, spellbound. Despite the bank robberies and a car chase, this is not your standard heist movie as the stolen money is not pocketed, but rather delivered to the hands of their audiences in attendance. The Four Horsemen: J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) each present a particular skill set that form an invincible crew and make for dynamic exchanges.

Between Merritt’s mind reading abilities and hypnosis, and Atlas’ confident demeanor and illusions, they are always several steps ahead of their law and the audience — its all part of the act. The illusions — spectacular as they are — would be incomprehensible to theatre audiences were it not for Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who walks FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) through the secrets behind the art, shedding light onto his case and drawing viewers even deeper into intrigue.

With action and illusions filling up the story from beginning to end, the surprise is in the reveal of the plot —  now you see it…now you don’t.

Published May 31, 2013