"The End of The Tour" is the story of two Davids meeting at a crossroads.
One, acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace, is at the peak of his success. The other, fellow writer David Lipsky, isn't unsuccessful, but idly longs for Wallace's talent and fame while on assignment for Rolling Stone magazine to profile the author.
The story went unpublished, but the recorded discussions between the men during the "Infinite Jest" press tour in 1996 were turned into a memoir after Wallace committed suicide in 2008.
Those dialogues provided the bones of the film, in theaters now, starring Jason Segel as Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as Lipsky, about that fraught, funny road trip through the Midwest.
Segel and Eisenberg continued the epic conversation with The Associated Press.
The remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.
AP: Did you find Lipsky sympathetic?
Eisenberg: Yes... he has this pressure to infiltrate this guy's life and try to expose him. That's not something that he necessarily wants to do.
Segel: One of David Foster Wallace's real priorities was empathy. Part of what the movie is about is a guy desperately trying to treat this other guy with empathy and it slowly being worn away by time, exhaustion, and the constant accusation of being a fraud.
Eisenberg: These guys were struggling with real demons and real feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.
AP: Is it ever wise to meet your idols?
Eisenberg: Probably not. If you like somebody's book, you should probably reread that instead of trying to meet them. I think of Philip Roth, because he's so prolific, and like, oh, I heard he was not nice to somebody once. Why do you want that? To expect that is pretty selfish.
Segel: Maybe if you make a person have all of those characteristics, it lets you off the hook for not writing such great books.
Eisenberg: What do you mean?
Segel: If you deify your idol, it explains why you're not that great.
Eisenberg: I imagine if it does matter to you, you'll end up being disappointed if you have the rare opportunity to meet that person at a Knicks game.
AP: Should the art stand for itself?
Segel: Lipsky makes a good point when he says, 'If your writing is so personal, then isn't reading your work another version of meeting you?' I think that's right. That is meeting someone at their best. When you meet your idol out in the wild, they're off the clock. They're allowed to be, like, 'I'm not working right now. I'm in a bad mood getting food.'
AP: That gets to Wallace's anxieties about interviews and control. Your life rights go when you die, but do they also go when you're interviewed?
Eisenberg: Wallace probably couldn't understand how people like us do it... the scrutiny can be paralyzing.
Segel: I realized a little while ago that a good use of my time wasn't sitting in my house saying I should be able to leave without being photographed. A good use of my time was figuring out what would allow me to function in a way that made me feel normal, happy, and comfortable. For me, it involved moving out of Los Angeles. Should I have to do that? No! But I want to be happy. I stopped looking at the Internet for almost anything but tech news. Even then, sometimes there will be a weird side crawl with a picture of someone you know, or some weird headline.
Eisenberg: "Bill Gates Slams Segel!"
Segel: There's a fallacy that's thrown at you by paparazzi that 'this is what you signed up for.' It's absolutely not true. I didn't sign up for any of that.
Segel: I started pre-camera phone.
Eisenberg: You're saying actors who start now are signing up for it?
Segel: No, no. There's a real distinction between people who are out in search of fame without a talent attached to it versus people who are good at a craft.
Eisenberg: Who draws the line? Who makes the call about whether you're talented enough not to be hounded by paparazzi because you're the real thing?
Segel: I think there are implicit rights to privacy. Like walking around with your kids.
Eisenberg: But you're talking about the difference between what's legal and what's disrespectful. You open yourself up to it by being in a thing that's public. It's an obnoxious argument, but they're right.
Segel: You think it's part of the deal?
Eisenberg: Whether I think it should be or not, it is. The fact that it exists means it's part of the deal. If you're aware that it's part of the deal and you still agree to perform in things or be in the public, then you implicitly agree to those terms. That might be the annoying part of the agreement, but it's part of it. All the other stuff is so good. ... If I'm in an annoying situation, I try to remember, like, I'm getting a book published that went to the top of the pile because I'm in movies. Maybe it's as good as the next thing, but I try to have that thought.