Before New York, the Eigemans did a brief stint in England. “I was going to be in an acting school in London and then I promptly got thrown out of an acting school in London,” he said. “Well, it wasn’t that I got thrown out as much as I was not invited back, which is the same thing, just more polite.”
Back on this side of the pond, Linda interned at CNN (she still works there, as a senior producer) while Mr. Eigeman parked cars at the River Cafe. (They’ve been in Brooklyn pretty much ever since; his neighbors include actor Gabriel Byrne and the novelist Arthur Phillips, with whom he frequently lunches.) Back then, he’d occasionally gamble away his night’s earnings—“I could lose a couple hundred dollars a night, and that was all I made the night before,” he said. “So it was like a zero-sum game. I lost everything.” Needless to say, Mr. Eigeman doesn’t gamble any more.
He is most frequently recognized for having played Max in Kicking and Screaming. His favorite “fan” story involves a fellow restaurant patron visiting his table and putting down a scrap of paper that read “Broken Glass,” an homage to a scene in Mr. Baumbach’s film when Max sees a pile of broken glass on the floor and puts a piece of paper over it saying “Broken Glass” instead of cleaning it up. “I was like, ‘That’s fantastic.’ It’s a huge compliment, it’s also very clever, it’s everything you want,” he said.
But nearly every role Mr. Eigeman has played has echoed his very first as Nick Smith in Metropolitan, which went on to earn an Oscar nomination for Mr. Stillman for best original screenplay.
“EVERYBODY SHOULD BE SO LUCKY that that would be their first film,” said Mr. Eigeman, who got the part after answering an ad in Backstage magazine. “Because it in a way was so extreme, it was really like acting, you were really swinging for the fences all the time. I’m not sure if I would have the balls to do that now. The bravery of ignorance is spectacular. But also you had to think like, this was 1990-whatever, one or two or something. Film was really happily sexual, dark. Sex, Lies and Videotape. Even Eating Raoul. … I was like, C’mon, this [Metropolitan] is crazy! And you know, it gives you brain freeze because you’re like, ‘I am going to do a 14-page monologue about collars and cummerbunds.’”
Speaking by phone from his home in Paris, Mr. Stillman said that Mr. Eigeman was “impressive right from the start.” He cast him as the lead in his next two films, despite the fact that by the time they made The Last Days of Disco in 1998, they were “under a lot of pressure not to work together again. People were worried about typecasting, and that he would be too associated with my films.” Disco’s producers wanted a star in the role of Des, the sleazy nightclub manager who breaks up with girls by telling them he might be gay. Mr. Stillman insisted, however, on Mr. Eigeman. “Chris was just so much better than anyone else,” he said.
Mr. Stillman suggested that possibly “the roles he’s played in my films do him a disservice, a bit.” But Mr. Eigeman begged to differ. In fact, he seemed downright content with his whole freaking life. “I’ve been really, really, really lucky because I’ve worked with some incredible directors and I did some films that people can look back on and think, ‘Oh that was a good film and that was of the time,’” he said.
And unlike his characters, he’s not afraid to grow up. Well, maybe.
“Even though I am in my mid-40’s I live like I am in my mid-20’s,” Mr. Eigeman said. “Like, if you turn the sound off, I don’t think there would be any real difference from my mid-20’s to my mid-40’s, and that’s all about to change.”