Facing Jesse Eisenberg
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The face of Facebook is creator Mark Zuckerberg. But the face of Zuckerberg is 27-year-old actor Jesse Eisenberg, who plays the young billionaire in the film The Social Network. Although it would be difficult to match Facebook’s membership count of more than 500 million, the movie—directed by David Fincher and written by Aaron Sorkin—seems to have earned almost as many admirers, and Eisenberg has received widespread praise, including a Golden Globe nod, for his captivating portrayal of the Facebook impresario. As the nominations started piling up for The Social Network, we caught up with Eisenberg to discuss the film, his life since it hit the big screen and his own computer skills.
How did you first hear about Facebook?
JESSE EISENBERG: My cousin Eric Fisher told me about the site. He went to the University of Pennsylvania, and he was in computer science and involved in building websites. He is incredibly creative, and he was completely in awe of it.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not the film is an accurate portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg. Do you feel it was?
JE: It’s so hard to say. What I know about Mark Zuckerberg is what everybody else knows about him, and that is only what has been made public. I never met him. We heard early on Facebook didn’t approve or wasn’t involved, so it became impossible to meet him.
How did you go about researching your character?
JE: Mark wrote his college essay about fencing. I took some fencing lessons because I noticed he has a uniquely straight posture I don’t have. When I read he was a fencer, I thought his posture might be attributed to that. But it was more interesting to me what that meant psychologically—the competition, what dangers there are [with fencing].
FROM LEFT: Scenes from The Social Network: Justin Timberlake with Eisenberg; the actor with costar Andrew Garfield; Rooney Mara and Eisenberg
In preparing for the role, you listened to Zuckerberg’s voice on your iPod while driving to work. Why?
JE: I got the recordings from YouTube and put his interviews into MP3s. I listened to them so I could get into the spirit of what that person would be going through, what the pressure of being on 60 Minutes was like.
Have you encountered any negative fallout from people who see the film and then associate you with the character?
JE: My mother saw it, and she said her reaction was that she wanted to slap me and then hug me. That seems to be the common reaction from people over 25. It seems those under 25 see Mark as a hero.