Jesse Eisenberg may play Facebook’s founder on screen, but in real life the actor is no technology wizard.
Eisenberg, who stars as Mark Zuckerberg in “The Social Network,” said on Monday he doesn’t even use Facebook and doesn’t understand coding. Instead of acing technology, he tried to explore the psychology of his character.
“I never use Facebook,” Eisenberg told The Associated Press in Rome, where “The Social Network” was shown out of competition at the Rome Film Festival. “I used it for about 2 weeks while we were rehearsing for this movie to understand what my character had built.”
“The Social Network,” directed by David Fincher, opened last month in the U.S. to strong reviews and has been a box-office hit so far. It traces Facebook’s evolution into a cultural touchstone from its creation in a Harvard University dorm, and looks at Zuckerberg’s relationship with his friends on his way to fame and fortune.
Eisenberg said he took computer classes with a consultant to prepare for the movie, but it was no use.
“The more he taught me, the less I thought I understood,” he said.
“I decided to just learn the coding phonetically,” Eisenberg added. “And I really focused on the emotional inner life of this character who is very unique.”
Eisenberg portrays an ambiguous — if not downright unlikable — protagonist. Zuckerberg is seen as an emotionally guarded genius who doesn’t look back as he builds his fortune and cuts out his closest friend in the process.
The actor was fascinated by what he said were Zuckenberg’s conflicting feelings — “alienation, ambition, great social insight and yet kind of a complete detachment from other people.”
“He has difficulty gauging the emotional life of others,” Eisenberg said in the interview. “This to me is far more interesting to explore than coding.”
Eisenberg’s performance was generally praised. The actor had won critical acclaim years ago for his portrayal of a boy going through the separation of his parents in “The Squid and the Whale.”
Just as well, since technology isn’t an option.
“I like technology but it doesn’t seem to feel the same way about me,” he quipped.
Eisenberg said he tried to create a website sometime back but failed, saying he wasn’t able to do what Zuckerberg had done — in his view, get people to want to use the website regardless of what’s on it.
“I have a great admiration for what he did and how he was able to manipulate that social environment,” he said.