Jesse Eisenberg doesn’t have a lot of free time at the moment. He’s holed up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, filming the action/comedy “30 Minutes or Less,” and when he’s not on set — as happened on a recent Sunday evening — he’s often writing term papers as part of the undergraduate anthropology degree he’s pursuing.
That, at least in part, explains why the 26-year-old hasn’t been paying close attention to the buzz — from beguiling teaser trailers to early rave reviews — about his upcoming turn as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” the David Fincher-directed film about the founding of Facebook.
“I’m really immersed in this movie,” Eisenberg told us on the “30 Minutes” set. “My sister did send me a text message saying that there were posters up in New York (for ‘Social Network’).”
But that explains only part of it. The other explanation is that Eisenberg simply can’t stand to watch his own performances until time has passed and he has enough emotional distance from what he was attempting to accomplish in a role.
“I don’t like to watch the movies I’ve been in when they first come out because to me it’s only disappointing, even if the movies are great,” he admitted. “I’ve gotten to be in some great movies, but I feel personally disappointed with myself, so I like to wait until the initial attention dies down and it’s a little more comfortable to watch them.”
“Social Network” arrives October 1, so it will be a while until Eisenberg sits down to watch what has become one of the most-anticipated films of the year. Based on Ben Mezrich’s bestseller “The Accidental Billionaires,” the movie brings together some of Hollywood’s leading talent: Fincher, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, Andrew Garfield, who’s just been named the new Spider-Man, and Rooney Mara, who nabbed the starring role in “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Its pitch-perfect trailers have only served to increase the buzz, and, according to The New York Times even Facebook itself is said to be worried that the film — which presents the founding of the company in a less-than-flattering light — will have a long-term negative impact on its core business.
At the center of it all is Eisenberg, an actor who certainly fits the portrait of Zuckerberg constructed in “Accidental Billionaires”: nebbish, introverted, quietly confident. To capture all of these traits, Fincher would often film hundreds of takes of each scene, leading to a two-and-a-half-month production.
“Why actors love working with him and why I loved working with him is because you try a scene in 200 different ways, you know he is able to edit together several different performances for each role,” Eisenberg said of Fincher. “One of the interesting aspects of my character was disengagement, so the character is kind of a little aloof and emotionally, really quite reserved. For my collaboration with the director on that movie, we would be often doing half the scene 60 times one way, then 60 times a little more engaged.
“It’s kind of a wonderful experience for an actor,” he added, “because you get to experiment within the scenes in a way that, on any other movie set, may be seen as indulgent and asking for too much.”
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