Best of What's Next 2009: Jesse Eisenberg [Actor]

Movies Features Jesse Eisenberg
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Hometown: New York
Films: Adventureland, Zombieland
For Fans Of: Michael Cera, John Krasinski, Emily Blunt

Though he’s appeared on television and in films for the past decade, Jesse Eisenberg still hasn’t realized that he’s an actor. “I’m so shocked that they put me in movies,” the 25-year-old says. “Every time I get a part in something, I can’t believe it, and then afterwards I feel like I ruined the thing.”

Eisenberg shouldn’t be so modest—it’s clear why he’s in demand: What he lacks in leading-man looks and physical-comedy skills, he makes up for with naturalistic performances that combine craft with a less-studied naivete. His turns as a young, overeducated urbanite everyman have been the highlight of indie flicks like The Squid and the Whale and Adventureland. Most Hollywood actors embody what audiences wish they could be, but Eisenberg is who they already are.

His next movie, Zombieland, comes out in October, and he has several other films in post-production. But for now he’s mostly focused on the present. “I hesitate to plan for anything,” he says, sounding every bit an icon of his aimless generation, “because I feel like I’ve been so fortunate without necessarily trying to have a specific path.”

What’s Next? “I ultimately want to write plays and not even act in them,” Eisenberg says. “I’ve written plays and a musical that’s starting to get off the ground right now. I would prefer to do that, but it’s so hard, and even when you’re successful as a playwright you don’t make any money—it’s such a hard part of the industry. I love [movie] acting, but the theater seems to produce more consistently creative works.”

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