Thursday afternoon, I met Jesse Eisenberg at a New York City dive bar — coincidentally named “Social” — for a pretty sprawling interview that will publish here next week. As he was en route, he heard the news that he had won the National Board of Review’s Best Actor award for his performance in The Social Network (which also claimed the group’s Best Picture and Best Director prizes). I asked Eisenberg about winning that award and what the awards season — and his real first go around with it — means to him.
“The first movie I was in was called Roger Dodger,” Eisenberg said. “And the main actor in that [Campbell Scott], he won this award, the National Board of Review award. And it was the first time I ever considered… Because I had acted since I was young — 8 years old — doing children’s theater, and I was doing plays in New York. When he won that award, I remember that day where I was because I had never heard of that award nor did I pay attention to any awards. And then I was kind of exposed, very briefly, because the movie was a $1 million movie. After he won that award, the movie people and the distribution company got a little bit confident about what that could be, at least for him.
“And I was immediately kind of turned off to the seemingly very kind of complicated process. And lengthy process. I just loved working with those people that I was working with, so I was happy to get to see them a these dinners and stuff. And luckily I didn’t have to deal with any of the pressure because the pressure was not on me personally. This is a bit more intense because the movie is big, the expectations are higher. And so it’s a lot of pressure, and it’s something you can’t do anything about. Like I can’t go and react if you don’t get acknowledged for something.
“And the other part of it, which is possibly more frustrating, is that I just did a play reading all day. And I felt like I was so much more effective in this reading that I just did all day — there were 10 people in the audience — than I was in The Social Network or other films. So it’s a bit frustrating that you feel it’s not really… The acknowledgments don’t necessarily coincide with how you feel about things.”
Interesting. Check back for more like this next week in a special series focusing on Eisenberg, from his upstart days on the New York stage to his beloved Zombieland to his complicated relationship with The Social Network.