Jesse Eisenberg Hadn’t Seen ‘Succession’ Before Casting Kieran Culkin in ‘A Real Pain’

Jesse Eisenberg thought it would be a real issue landing Kieran Culkin for indie film “A Real Pain.”

Eisenberg, who writes, directs, and co-stars alongside the “Succession” Emmy winner, told IndieWire at 2024 Sundance that he had never seen the viral HBO drama series prior to casting Culkin as his onscreen cousin in the coming-of-age film.

“After I wrote like 20 pages of the script, I had sent it to my little sister,” Eisenberg said. “I had not seen ‘Succession.’ My sister said to me, ‘There’s one person who could play this part: Kieran Culkin.’ I finished the script. Talk about a year later, we’re in the position to make an offer to him and I was just praying he would do it.”

Eisenberg continued, “Kieran is not a person who likes to jump out work from project to project. He’s incredibly picky. There was a poll, there was even an article about him trying to drop out of a movie. So we were worried he could do it. It was hard to get him, but he’s so good in the movie. We both are good in the movie but he’s great.”

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“A Real Pain” follows two cousins, played by Eisenberg and Culkin, as they travel to Poland after their Holocaust survivor great-aunt’s death and end up joining a Holocaust tour.

“The movie is trying to balance these two things, trying to balance these big, thematic questions about pain and history and trauma and you know, historical generational trauma, et cetera,” Eisenberg said of his sophomore directorial effort. “But it’s also trying to be this kind of intimate, almost buddy comedy. And so trying to do those two things. So if I have showcased anything as a director, my hope is that it’s showcasing the ability to maybe like combine those two elements. That’s the goal at least.”

Culkin previously admitted that he tried to “get out of” starring in “A Real Pain” during an Interview magazine conversation due to its production location.

“This is going to sound terrible, but I’ve tried to get out of it because it’s going to make my life miserable. But I don’t want to not do it because it’s such a beautiful script,” Culkin said of Eisenberg’s semi-autobiographical film. “I was finding every reason to not do it. I was like, ‘I’ll watch his first film [“When You Finish Saving the World”], maybe it’s going to be terrible.’ I watched it, and I was like, ‘Shit. It’s really good.’”

Culkin continued of “A Real Pain” at the time, “Well, let me reread the script, I’m going to find holes in it. Maybe I was in a good mood when I said yes to it. I reread it and it was so wonderful. When I finished it, I went to my wife and I was like, ‘I’m sorry, honey. Fuck, I have to go do this movie.’ It’s just too good.”

And like Eisenberg, Culkin himself still hasn’t even watched all of “Succession,” namely its jaw-dropping finale. Culkin said he “couldn’t sign into” his Max account while filming “A Real Pain” in Poland.

“It was an app issue,” Culkin said of the international glitch during a “Succession” cast roundtable (via Entertainment Weekly). “Then I went on vacation, then after that I was like, eh, that was like three months ago. I want to go back and see it.”

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