Playing the lead character in The Social Network may be the role of a lifetime for Jesse Eisenberg. He portrays Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the biggest website on the planet, Facebook. He created it in his dorm room at Harvard University back in 2003 and within 7 years it’s amassed a value of 25 billion dollars. But like the tag line for the film says, you don’t make 500 million friends without making a few enemies.
Even though Eisenberg never had the opportunity to speak to the real Zuckerberg about his experiences (he says the film is fiction and refused to cooperate) surrounding the site’s creation, he did his homework. He researched him and throughout the film’s production, he developed a deep affection for the man. At the New York press day for The Social Network, he revealed what he would say to Zuckerberg if given the opportunity, and he cleared up any rumors regarding David Fincher’s meticulous directing style (25, 45, 99 takes for scenes?!). Check out our interview…
If you could meet Mark Zukerberg what would you say and where would you go?
Jesse Eisenberg: I’d like to go to Johnny Rockets with Mark because I like their shakes. No,I spent 6 months thinking about his everyday. I developed a great affection for my character and of course, by extension, the man and I’d be very interested in meeting him. My first cousin Eric got a great job working at Facebook about a month before we finished shooting and I’m hoping that he’ll facilitate an introduction. I don’t know what I’d say. I can imagine what that would be like.
Zuckerberg isn’t an advocate of this film, so without his help how did you relate to the character?
JE: My impression is really formed more from the character. I don’t know the real Mark Zuckerberg, though I was like everybody else delighted to see this very generous donation he made yesterday. And as I said, I developed a great affection over the course of filming and even over the course of doing the publicity tour we’ve done and I’ve been asked that. The more I think about it the greater affection I develop. In the movie the character that Aaron created is a guy that is desperately trying to fit in and doesn’t have the social wherewithal to do so. I could certainly relate to that. And almost to cope creates this incredible tool to interact in a way that he feels comfortable. And because of his incredible insight, 500 million other people also feel comfortable using that tool. It’s just a fascinating character and complicated in all the right ways, so even though he maybe acts in a way that would be hurtful to other characters, like you indicated, it’s by the end of the movie totally understandable.
The opening scene of the film is dialogue heavy, how did it feel to recite Aaron Sorkin’s words?
JE: I saw the movie for the first time last night and had the same reaction to the first scene that I had when I first read Aaron’s script, even though I knew the scene so intimately, which is that after two or three minutes of the scene you realize that it’s not going to end. And it’s such a wonderful surprise because you just don’t see scenes not only of that nuance and complexity in movies, but of that length as well. And for an actor that’s kind of what you want, that’s what’s really thrilling about working with a script like Aaron’s.
How many takes did you do of that specific scene?
JE: We performed that scene 99 times. [Fincher] refused to do it an extra time to get an even 100, and it was just really exciting. It was shot on the third day of the shoot and it was exciting for me to kind of figure out who Mark is and have two nights–we shot it over the course of two nights–to kind of experiment with the character. How detached is he? How is he affected by what she’s saying, and by extension how is he affected in general by conflict? And it was wonderful to have the luxury of the two nights to film such an exciting scene.
How did you respond to David Fincher’s directing style?
JE: We’re asked about the great amount of takes almost as though the actors are in opposition to doing that, and every actor I know would stay there all day if there’s more film in the camera. The alternative is sitting in the trailer. So it was an absolute blessing to do it and we’re all thrilled for the amount of time we were able to spend actually acting and not sitting around waiting to act.
The Social Network opens on October 1st.