*Much has been said about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million dollars donation to the Newark, New Jersey’s flunking school system.
It’s been said he wanted to sway some of the negative publicity that will be directed towards him once the film, “The Social Network,” is released.
He gained some friends who are concerned about educating students in a failing educational system, but he also whetted the appetite of moviegoers who might not have been interested in seeing the film.
As expected, Zuckerberg does come off as a callous cad in the film whose empire is based on theft and deception.
“The Social Network” is part of the 2010 New York Film Festival lineup and members of the cast took time out to talk about the film and their characters. When people who are still alive are the subjects of a film, special efforts must be made in order that authenticity be established.
QUESTION: DID YOU ALL RESEARCH YOUR CHARACTERS BEFORE GOING INTO PRODUCTION OR JUST RELIED ON THE SCRIPT?
JESSE EISENBERG: Well, I did a lot of research during the rehearsal process but if I didn’t and only had Aaron’s [Sorkin] script, that would’ve been perfectly sufficient. I auditioned for the movie prior to looking up Mark Zuckerberg online. I didn’t know what he looked like. I had never heard him speak and all I had was Aaron’s incredible characterization. I felt that was more than sufficient to make the audition tape. Then we had about a month and a half of rehearsal and in order to feel more prepared and understand who this guy was I found every interview and watched every video that was online and got every picture that I could find of him. But really as Aaron has said, it was not really a movie about Facebook as much as it is about these more substantive themes and in the same way it wasn’t a traditional biography picture where we’re trying to do a kind of imitation of the character of Mark Zuckerberg. So I really just focused on playing Aaron’s characterization.
ANDREW GARFIELD: Yeah. I think that Jesse put it very well. I don’t know how much I have to add to that outside of my own personal experience, which was that I had a photo to go from. Two photos.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE: What more do you need, actually. It says so much about a person.
GARFIELD: The drunk one helped because I’ve never been drunk before. So it was good to see someone drunk and how their face looks like. But that was great in it’s own way because I could just invent something from an inspiration. I immediately saw that he – maybe this is my projection – seemed very warm, but yet kind of reserved. I kind of had minimal to go from which was actually quite liberating. Even though I did try to find him in a very obtuse and uncommitted way, but it would’ve been really interesting because of course when you’re playing someone who exists and is living and breathing somewhere you kind of have a massive sense of responsibility to not ruin them onscreen because we’re all human. When you have empathy for other human beings then you don’t want to do that.
TIMBERLAKE: I feel like you’re looking at me and want me to add to what they just said as well. I mean, I also have empathy for human beings. Thank you. No. I think there was a kind of collective movement with Jesse and Andrew and myself that, like they said before, we all kind of felt that everything, that so much of the information that we needed was there on the paper and then moving into the wonderful mind of David [Fincher] to find out exactly where this film was going to go. But I think just for playing my character I actually stayed as far away from anything on the Internet that I could. I think for myself, you meet my character, you meet him when he meets Facebook pretty much. So I wanted to be excited by that. But like they said, the themes and the ideas were so much bigger than what the actual invention of Facebook in the film services.
QUESTION: YOU MENTIONED A MONTH AND A HALF IN REHEARSALS WHICH STRIKES ME AS UNUSUAL FOR FILM THESE DAYS. WHAT DID THAT MONTH AND A HALF CONSIST OF AND IS THAT SOMETHING YOU’VE DONE BEFORE?
EISENBERG: I just want to clarify. We had about three weeks of rehearsal. I had a month and a half before we started shooting. I was just talking about my own personal preparation.
QUESTION: FOR JUSTIN AND JESSE, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES IN TAKING ON CHARACTERS THAT MANY PEOPLE VIEW AS ASSHOLES? ALSO, JUSTIN, WHAT’S NEXT WITH YOUR MUSIC CAREER, WILL YOU BE SINGING WITH YOGI BEAR THIS FALL?
TIMBERLAKE: I was hoping that you were going to ask me about ‘Yogi Bear.’ I’m glad that we can just get that out of the way with this question. Sorry, Jesse. Go ahead.
EISENBERG: Well, it’s possible to play a role and look at it not only in the way that you described it but look at it objectively because I was in the position or my main responsibility was not only to understand where my character was coming from but to be able to defend all of his positions and his behavior and ultimately sympathize with him over the course of the movie. And really over the course of this kind of publicity experience I’ve developed an even greater affection for my character.
TIMBERLAKE: Just to add to what Jesse said, I think it’s fundamentally the same application for myself. It became clear to me after my first reading of the script that there was going to be the version of this person, my character in the film, that he was sort of the hero, in a sense. But no one sits behind, you never play anything sitting behind a laptop and twirling your mustache. I think that, like Jesse said, it doesn’t matter. That’s the beauty of this film to me, that you really get to pick sort of who you side with.
QUESTION: DO ANY OF YOU MAINTAIN PERSONAL FACEBOOK PAGES, AND IF SO, HOW ADDICTED TO THEM ARE YOU?
EISENBERG: I signed up for Facebook the first day of rehearsal so that I could understand what my character was talking about and when we started shooting and I had to learn all those lines I stopped using it.
GARFIELD: I was the usual, kind of general Facebook user, I’m sad to admit, and I’ve been three months clean. I’m proud of myself, too, like, ‘It’s okay. It’s no big deal.’
GARFIELD: But, no. I don’t use it because it was just negative for me like it is for most people.
TIMBERLAKE: I don’t have a personal Facebook page but it is nice to know that through the world of philanthropy, for instance, that you can send out a message and for instance raise free healthcare for kids. So it is fantastic. I don’t have a personal Facebook page though. It’s hard enough to do voice work in animated films at the same time. So I took the double duty out of it because I just didn’t have time to look at pictures of my friends.
QUESTION: A LOT OF PEOPLE IN THE TECH COMMUNITY DESCRIBE ZUCKERBERG’S PERSONALITY AS BEING SOMEWHAT LIKE ASPERGER’S, NOT TOUCHING, VERY EMOTIONALLY MUTED. DID YOU TAKE THAT INTO ACCOUNT IN YOUR APPROACH TO THE CHARACTER?
EISENBERG: I certainly don’t want to diagnose him, but yeah, in Aaron’s script and in watching all these interviews there’s a certain kind of disengagement that you see. It’s frankly not dissimilar that I probably express when I’m doing interviews because they can be incredibly uncomfortable. It’s kind of attributed to some extreme diagnosis that it doesn’t feel right to me, but there was a really interesting quality that I wanted to bring out that was this kind of difficulty connecting with others. Of course that makes his invention that much more ironic and fitting, that he would create something that connects everyone else. But it was, yeah, certainly something that we tried to bring out. It makes the character far more interesting to play, that he has trouble connecting with others and yet feels perfectly comfortable connecting everyone else and perfectly comfortable in the social environment of Facebook. It was also just something to make me feel the character was really a full person. So even though he appears enigmatically reserved or detached, there’s still something happening beneath that. At the end of the movie he’s a billionaire and he feels still alone. So even though he maybe appears mysterious, it’s always coming from a real place.