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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Triple threat: 'The Social Network' stars talk to TMW

By Tatiana Craine

I recently had the incredible opportunity to speak with the stars of “The Social Network” about their experiences on and off set. New Yorker Jesse Eisenberg breathes life into Facebook’s elusive and enigmatic founder Mark Zuckerberg. Eisenberg, much like his onscreen personas, came off unassuming with an air of honesty and modesty.

Andrew Garfield, born in Los Angeles and raised in England, plays Zuckerberg’s best friend and partner Eduardo Saverin. His soft British lilt and witty banter made the conversation fly by.

Los Angeles native Armie Hammer had a unique part to play as Cameron Winklevoss in addition to the character’s twin Tyler Winklevoss-his head, that is. (Hammer’s head was digitally superimposed on Josh Pence’s body in the film.) His joviality and enthusiasm were infectious, his passion for the film quite evident.

On working with director David Finch, Eisenberg said, “I wish I had more of a technical savvy to understand what he was doing because he was a peerless visual director. But you know, acting in the movie is an honor nonetheless because he’s so meticulous. He’s aware of every person on set and the job they’re doing and he’s incredibly in tune with what his actors are doing. So much so, that in the first scene of the movie, it’s just two characters in a bar for ten minutes. We filmed it 99 times, and after each time, even after take 98, he had something valuable to offer. ‘Try playing the scene in this way. How would that inform the way you act in this scene? Try being emotionally detached, like what he’s saying doesn’t bother you.’ And I’d never had an experience like that on a movie set where you have the luxury of 99 times and the luxury of a director who’s guiding you through it.”

Garfield garnered similar sentiments towards Fincher when asked about the experience of working with such a renowned director, “Fantastic. Very intense. Very exacting. And very unforgiving. [Fincher] doesn’t give you any room to kind of weasel out of working hard. He does do a lot of takes and it actually makes the actors’ job more enjoyable because you surrender to him in that way. You can just sort of give him the version of the scene that you want to give and trust that he will use the best parts to tell the story in the best possible way. It was great. It was exhaustive. And I think all of us, all the young cast, felt very lucky to be working with someone we trusted very much. And we could go to sleep easy every night because not only were we very tired, but we could also know that he was going to tell the story in the best possible way.”

I asked Hammer if the rumors behind Fincher’s unorthodox directorial method to incur a sense of heightened animosity during the film’s numerous deposition scenes by separately egging on the actors at each side of the table were true. Hammer agreed, “Oh, definitely, definitely. And it wasn’t just the deposition scenes. He’s such a voraciously intelligent director that he’s able to process so many things at the same time. He can watch the different characters and know exactly what they need on each side to turn in the performance that he wants. And he did that through the entire process. One of the stories that we were told was that Fincher was talking to somebody off set and he was like, ‘Oh yeah, this actor here,’ I won’t say who it was, ‘seems really insecure and they don’t think they’re doing a good job, but it’s actually working really well. So none of us are going to tell him that he did a good job.’ And he gave instructions on set for no one to tell this person that they were doing a good job so that they would always be searching for approval or trying to do a better job. He’s able to play people against themselves to get what he wants. And it’s especially amazing to see such a visual director who’s such a visionary in terms of creating a frame and creating the perfect image-it’s great to see someone who’s known for that being able to communicate with actors so well. And being able to say what actors need to hear, as well as being able to put the camera exactly where it needs to be. He really is a master of all trades, jack of none.”

Both Hammer and Garfield felt that even though male leads dominate the film, there was a deep respect for the actresses that were featured in the film. Hammer said, “You know, it’s funny, because if you look at the screen time of the male to female ratio, it’s obviously a male-driven film, but the women that were in this and the women that did have parts in this were so memorable. I mean, especially like Rooney Mara in that first scene with Mark in the bar is IN-SANE. I mean, she did such a good job of it. You know, of course when she comes back and scorns him again, it’s so powerful. And Rashida is used by Sorkin as this sort of element of the universal truth in the story. Her last scene in the movie is her talking to Jesse and when she leaves, it’s a really powerful thing that happens between the audience’s relationship to Zuckerberg because she walks away and says that line-and at that one specific moment, when the entire audience goes from wanting to hate Mark Zuckerberg to just wanting to hug him and protect him. Because he just feels so broken.”

Garfield reiterated, “There was an element of [the boys’ club atmosphere] for sure, of course. And yes, it just so happens that the story revolves around this group of guys. But the female actresses in this film are all incredibly gifted as you know-Rooney Mara, Rashida Jones and Brenda Song. They’re all beautiful, talented, generous actresses you know. I think the femininity has been represented extremely well in what I saw of them on set.”

Hammer had some interesting insights about his incredibly unique role in “The Social Network.” On seeing his face superimposed on actor Josh Pence’s body (as Tyler Winklevoss in the film), Hammer said, “It was not fun. It’s like listening to yourself and you have to transcribe the tape after you’ve done an interview with somebody, and you’re like, “That’s what I sound like?” But it’s double, and you have to look at yourself twice, too. Not fun. In fact, the first time I saw the movie, I walked out of there and someone was like, “Well, what’d you think?” And I was like, “It was so good, like that first part it was so good.” And they’re like, “Well what’d you think of the twin stuff?” And was like, “I hated it, but the rest of the movie was awesome, awesome, awesome.” Just, it’s so hard to objectively watch yourself, especially when there’s two of you. It wasn’t fun for me to watch myself twice, but you know, at the end of the day I was really happy with how the whole project turned out.”

Later, Garfield spoke about his preparation for his part in the film, “You treat every character as if they were real, otherwise you’re not doing them service, you know. You’ve got to find the human dilemma in everything that you do. Otherwise you’re not doing your job. So I was disappointed I didn’t get to meet Eduardo. I would have loved to. Because it would have been great to steal every single mannerism of his, and his voice and just to see and spend time to capture their essence. But I had no option to do that. That resource wasn’t available to me. I had a couple of pictures, a couple of photographs that I had of him and that’s it. I didn’t know what his voice was like, and that was it. And that’s how I approach anything. And also what’s great was the script. Aaron wrote incredibly rich, multi-faceted, multi-layered, human chaotic gray area characters. So for any actor stepping into the work, it was already there. It was in the dialogue, in the action, in every single scene. So the journey was all plotted. It was just a matter of not getting in the way of that. Making it as authentic as possible, I guess.”

I followed up upon that, wondering if the other legendary actors with whom he has worked (including Robert Redford, Meryl Streep and Heath Ledger) have had any influence on his current film performances. He replied, “Yeah in every way. As you said, I’ve been very lu
cky to have worked with people I’ve admired, and that many people admire. I think what’s great about being in this profession is that there’s an exponential exploration. There’s no such thing as a perfect performance. It’s all like, I might think Daniel Day Lewis is incredible in “There Will Be Blood” and others will think he’s overacting. And that’s fascinating. So I’m really interested in experimenting within the form and you know, working with those people, those are the people that are like Heath, you know, they’re exciting to be around because they’re not settling for what they’ve seen previously. They’re trying to create a different approach. And I find, when I’m in the presence of someone I admire so much, I try to soak up as much as possible because it’s exciting.”

On whether or not he identified with the Zuckerberg character more before or after his rise to infamy, Eisenberg said, “That’s a great question because he starts out kind of alienated, so he hacks into computers and it’s kind of subversive. But what was so great about the character was that his core personality doesn’t change even after he becomes a billionaire running this incredibly huge organization. At the end of the movie, even after he has reached incredible success, he still feels alone. In the last scene of the movie he is alone. Throughout the whole movie, he’s alone. Even after celebrating the millionth member of Facebook, he’s alone. And so, that character from the beginning of the movie-he doesn’t change all that much, even though the world around him changes pretty significantly.”

He elaborated more on his similarities with Zuckerberg, “I always felt like I didn’t fit in in school, which is why I started acting, because I felt much more comfortable in that environment playing a character and thinking about story and being creative in that way. And Mark has the same experience. Mark feels like he doesn’t fit in, so he creates a world where he does fit in. It’s really similar to acting in that way, because he creates the Facebook where he can fit in and socialize in the way he wants to. Similarly, I felt like I didn’t fit in at school and had trouble interacting and so just became an actor to feel more comfortable socializing in that way even though it’s, you know, contrived and fake. You’re just playing a character. And in the same way, on Facebook, you’re just creating a persona as well. You know, when you’re on Facebook, it’s about who you are and who you want to be. I mean, you have to present to the world a little bit of both. “

Eisenberg also commented on his successful string of roles playing antiheros in his most recent Hollywood films, “I really like characters that don’t feel integrated or don’t feel comfortable integrating. I think that probably has a lot to do with my ability to relate to them. I had kind of a difficult time in school myself, so when I read characters like that, they resonate with me as real and I feel-and in an almost masochistic way, I enjoy playing those characters. And maybe in some way it’s therapeutic. And it also happens that I’ve had this great opportunity to play great characters. And it also happens that those characters are in great movies, which has less to do with my childhood, I’d say.”

However, his talents extend beyond the screen. Eisenberg has been featured in national literary magazines and recently started writing plays set for production off Broadway. I asked him about his future in writing and from where he garners inspiration. Eisenberg replied, “You know, as an actor, you’ll work for six months and then may not work for another six months. It’s a strange job where you can kind of feel lauded and successful and then not work for a year. So those kind of dry years are always very fertile for me as a writer because I’m usually miserable, and that’s where some kind of good stories can come from. I write plays, you know, like stage plays, and I kind of dread writing them, because it means I haven’t gotten an acting job, but it’s a nice way to kind of offset that downtime as well as, you know I like performing in plays as well as writing them so it’s kind of a fun thing to do. “

The trio of stars pointedly and understandably shy away from social networking sites themselves on account of their relative fame, but they still had insight about the effect things like Facebook have on the world. Garfield mentioned, “First and foremost, I can appreciate the genius of Mark Zuckerberg in creating and revolutionizing the way we communicate with each other globally. It’s astounding what he’s done. “

About whether or not “The Social Network” has changed his opinions about social networking, Hammer mused, “I don’t know really. No, really. I think Facebook is just a backdrop for the bigger human themes that are being played out between these characters-you know, the classic power themes: greed, power, money, betrayal, love, brotherhood, friendship, loyalty. All of these Shakespearean, Greek, Classic themes are what make up the story. I think the creation of Facebook is just the catalyst for these very, very human and universal situations that Aaron Sorkin characters go through. But no, it hasn’t changed my attitude towards it. I’m still kind of on the fence, you know.”

Eisenberg played it safe on the subject of Facebook, stating, “My father is a sociologist, and he warns me not to give my opinions on the sociological implications this movie may have, because I don’t know anything about that stuff. To me, the movie is really about the characters and the themes and story that are timeless. You know, it’s about ambition and friendship and betrayal and creativity, so it’s hard for me to kind of speculate on the cultural implications of the movie. Although you know I can’t see it having any negative impact on the sort of amazing phenomenon that Facebook is. “

I don’t foresee that either.

“The Social Network” hits theaters October 1.

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