'I'd play Mark Zuckerberg again': Jesse Eisenberg reveals the roles he'd love to return to

'I probably have a greater affection [for him] than most people, especially recently,' says the actor of the Facebook founder

2AW45XE USA. Jesse Eisenberg in a scene from ©Saban Films new film:  Vivarium (2020). 
Plot: A young couple looking for the perfect home find themselves trapped in a mysterious labyrinth-like neighborhood of identical houses. 
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About a week ago, Jesse Eisenberg didn't know what was going on. As he speaks to The National, he's parked in front of a grocery store in Los Angeles, on his way home to take care of his wife, feeling a bit confused –and bit panicked – about the state of things, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow and reverberate.

“Everybody is walking past me with, like, six bags of groceries. We couldn’t find any canned food yesterday. That was shocking, that made it, strange to say, more real,” Eisenberg says.

The actor, 36, is supposed to have two movies hitting cinemas in the coming weeks—Resistance, about the early life of famed mime Marcel Marceau, and Vivarium, a sci-fi satire of suburban life. With many cinemas worldwide now indefinitely shuttered, it's not clear whether they will see theatrical release at all, or are instead coming exclusively to video-on-demand services in the near future.

Like the rest of us, Eisenberg is more concerned with his personal life than his professional one, prioritising his family. He’s weighing up whether to drive across the country to reunite with them in Indiana or to fly. Neither option seems like it makes enough sense.

“No one knows anything, and everything feels wrong. Every decision we make feels like, ‘oh that’s probably the bad one’. I don’t know what else to do,” says Eisenberg.

Professionally speaking, Hollywood is currently in a standstill. Potential blockbusters such as Avatar 2 and Fantastic Beasts 3 have suspended production, with small projects, too, taking an indefinite hiatus. Eisenberg reveals that he's written an episode of the The New York Times and Amazon original series Modern Love, which he's also set to direct, once production continues – if it hopefully does.

“Everything seems to be on hold. I was supposed to be on a location scout to Bosnia on Thursday, and everything is postponed. Which may be a euphemism, or maybe not. [I set it] in Sarajevo, so we were supposed to go for a location scout that got delayed or cancelled, I don’t know,” says Eisenberg.

The New York-born actor is no stranger to a state of anxiety, but he's become better at managing it. Early in his career, in movies such as The Squid and the Whale and Zombieland, he was a lot less in control of his mental health, he admits.

“I was so nervous on movie sets that it would come through. In some ways was quite effective because anxiety can be dramatic, you know? But as I get older, I’ve learnt through experience to have control over my feelings in a way, that I cannot take it with me in the same way. I used to not sleep for two weeks at a time when I was in my twenties and I was acting because I would be so overtaken with the stresses of the role. It comes with experience, knowing when to turn it on and turn it off,” he says.

Eisenberg's early career peak came with David Fincher's The Social Network. Eisenberg was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, and his performance has, in many ways, shaped the world's perception of the public figure in the years since the film's release in 2010. A decade on, writer Aaron Sorkin is apparently considering penning a sequel for the film that garnered him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. If a follow-up does happen, Eisenberg would be happy to return to the role.

I probably have more sympathy for him than the average person, only by virtue of acting in a movie version of him

“Aaron is such a great writer, obviously, and so if he wrote something it would be great. My background is in theatre, and the last show that I did, I did over 200 times. There’s no amount of times you could play a role that would get old because if you’re a responsible actor, you’re instinctively finding different things in a character,” he says.

Eisenberg has never really been able to shake the film that made him an international star, especially as Facebook, and its enigmatic founder, continues to make headlines. Everywhere he goes, people talk to him about what’s going on with Zuckerberg and the company. Eisenberg finds this ironic, as he doesn’t even have a Facebook profile. Still, he does feel a connection with Zuckerberg himself.

“I probably have more sympathy for him than the average person, only by virtue of acting in a movie version of him and therefore forcing myself to sympathise with his plight. When I see him in the news, I probably have a greater affection than most people, especially recently,” says Eisenberg.

For those looking for an unseen gem during their social distancing or self-quarantine, Eisenberg recommends another recent film of his –The Art of Self Defense, which hit streaming platforms last October.

“[It’s the] most interesting movie that I’ve gotten to do in my life. It’s just a brilliant movie, and more than being brilliant and very funny is that the tone of it is incredibly unusual," he says.

"It takes place in this universe that’s 45 degrees away from our own. The characters speak in this very strange style and my character’s behaviour is very odd. I would love to find a move that’s surreal, but it just hard for these kinds of movies to be made and be made well because they’re so strange that it’s so hard to get right."

Eisenberg has other roles he'd love to jump back into as well – such as Superman's arch enemy Lex Luthor, a character he first took on in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opposite Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill and reprised in 2017's Justice League. Eisenberg doesn't know if Justice League 2 is still happening, and he hasn't received an update in years, he reveals. Regardless, whether in that film or another, Eisenberg is eager to return to the role.

I would love to play that role [Lex Luthor] forever

“Oh yeah, are you kidding? I would love it. That’s the coolest role to play. I don’t even know if they know what they’re doing with the movies, but for me it was exhilarating. I would love to play that role forever. I have no knowledge about what they’re doing with it,” he says.

“You can do anything [with the character] and it’s right. You can be as funny, as dramatic, as crazed, as sensitive [as you want]. The character is open to any interpretation. It’s not a prescribed, acceptable role that the audience feels they have to like or see themselves in, so that’s the kind of freeing role that actors like. Will they let me do it again? I have no idea. But that’s the kind of thing I love.”