Jesse Eisenberg On ‘The Social Network,’ Imagination And Playing Real People

Jesse Eisenberg has a long history of playing variations on real people. From “Roger Dodger” to “The Squid and the Whale” to “Adventureland,” the actor has been a go-to for a long line of writer/directors who see in his curly-haired gawkiness and anxiety-ridden demeanor an apt surrogate for their younger selves.

Two 2010 films will have Eisenberg once again taking on approximations of real people, though the two new roles will offer new takes on that recurring career theme. In the Sundance flick “Holy Rollers,” he plays a Hasidic youth pulled into a world of international ecstasy dealing, a story based on actual New Yorkers. Later in the year, he’ll appear on screen as Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” which follows the creation and early years of the now ubiquitous site.

As Eisenberg explained to MTV News at Sundance, he sees a connection between the two new film roles in terms of being faithful both to the truth and to the scripts. “You can never really do something exactly,” he said. “This ’Holy Rollers’ movie is almost similar because it’s inspired by true things and our characters are based on an amalgamation of a few things. To do this one, there was no resource we could go to. You just use your imagination in a different way.”

And you rely heavily on the script, as the 26-year-old explained in an earlier interview with MTV about “Social Network.” “It’s hard to look at interviews now with Zuckerberg, who has become the head of a big company and probably has people guiding him along the interview process, and then extrapolate what he might have been like in a dorm room at 19 with his buddies,” he said. “You’re always going to the script for guidance more than anything if you’re playing a real person.”