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Interview: Jesse Eisenberg (''The Social Network'')

The actor on Harvard, anachronistic technology, and raging at the patriarchy
By EUGENIA WILLIAMSON  |  October 4, 2010


Jesse Eisenberg's portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network glitters with exquisite rage. This performance is not without precedent — Eisenberg saved Adventureland from Kristen Stewart's diffidence, and few will forget his character's wounded arrogance in The Squid and the Whale. In his latest role, the 27-year-old confirms himself as one of his generation's finest actors — I'd like to see Michael Cera try his hand at Aaron Sorkin's dialogue.

READ:Complete Phoenix coverage of The Social Network
Eisenberg's performance suggests he's a genius, and a five-minute conversation does nothing to dispel that impression. I meet him in the hospitality suite of the W Hotel a few hours before The Social Network screens at Harvard. He's taller than I expect, but not dramatically so. His bearing is on the jumpy side, especially when he's trying to make a point.

Like any number of authors, he edits himself as he speaks. Unlike anyone I've ever interviewed, he speaks parenthetically, starting on one topic, switching to another, then returning, unprompted, to the first.

WasThe Social Networkfilmed predominantly at Harvard?
No, we only filmed there for two weeks. They have really strict filming restrictions. I had heard that maybe they came close to loosening those for our film, but – do you ride a bike?

Yes I do.
That's cool. Me too. Is it hard to get around Boston on a bike?

No. It's very easy.
That's good. OK, that's good. I live in New York City and that's the only way to do it there, because of traffic and other things. And then you have to wait for the subway and you get impatient.

Is it true you get a ticket if you ride on the sidewalk?
I got pulled over! I rode on the sidewalk once, but it was at two in the morning. It's not a sidewalk that people use – it's not a sidewalk that people walk on, it was like a median – and the cop took my name down and gave me a warning. You know, New York City has a policy of taking your name down even if they don't issue a ticket, even if there's no arrest. And they're starting to overturn the policy because it's terribly discriminatory, because they're pulling over way more people in the black community than in the white community. So they have, like, information on millions of people that haven't done anything wrong, have not been arrested. Anybody questioned by the police, their information is taken down.

So we filmed for like two weeks on the periphery of the campus because they wouldn't let us film inside the school. I wish we filmed inside because –

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Related: Interview: Aaron Sorkin (''The Social Network''), Review: Ninja Assassin, Review: Red Cliff, More more >
  Topics: Features , Entertainment, Internet, Technology,  More more >
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