Jesse Adam Eisenberg (born October 5, 1983) is an American actor, producer, playwright, and writer. He made his television debut with the short-lived comedy-drama series Get Real (1999–2000). Following his first leading role in the comedy-drama film Roger Dodger (2002), he appeared in the drama film The Emperor’s Club (2002), the psychological thriller film The Village (2004), the comedy-drama film The Squid and the Whale (2005), and the drama film The Education of Charlie Banks (2007). He is also known for playing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in David Fincher’s film The Social Network (2010), which earned him nominations for the BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Academy Award for Best Actor.
In 2009, Eisenberg had his breakthrough with starring roles in the comedy-drama film Adventureland and the horror comedy Zombieland. His other films include the Woody Allen films To Rome with Love (2012) and Café Society (2016), and the heist film Now You See Me (2013) and its sequel Now You See Me 2 (2016). He also provided the voice of Blu in the animated films Rio (2011) and Rio 2 (2014). In 2016, he portrayed Lex Luthor in the superhero film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Eisenberg has contributed pieces to The New Yorker and McSweeney’s websites. He has written and starred in three plays for the New York stage: Asuncion, The Revisionist, and The Spoils. His first book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups: and Other Stories, a short story collection, was released in September 2015.
“… It taught me … about the discipline about performance … Every morning she had a duck party, she would wake up very early and tune her guitar and warm up her voice, and it taught me that you could take performance seriously. I think a lot of actors have trouble taking things seriously, … but it’s really like anything else in the world … So it gave me the confidence to take it seriously and not make me feel silly for indulging in a role.”
— Eisenberg, on the influence his mother’s previous job as a children’s clown had on his acting
Eisenberg was born in the Queens borough of New York City on October 5, 1983, and grew up in East Brunswick, New Jersey. His mother, Amy (née Fishman), who now teaches cross cultural sensitivity in hospitals, previously worked as a clown at children’s parties and as a choreographer for a Catholic high school for 20 years. His father, Barry Eisenberg, drove a taxicab, then worked at a hospital, and later became a college professor, teaching sociology. He has two sisters: Hallie Eisenberg, a former child actress who was once famous as the “Pepsi girl” in a series of commercials; and Kerri Eisenberg, now Kerry Lea, who also worked as an actress, ran a vegetarianism- and animal rights-based children’s theatre troupe, and is now an independent artist in New York.
Eisenberg was raised in a secular Jewish household, with his ancestry tracing back to Poland and Ukraine. He attended the East Brunswick Public Schools at Frost School, Hammarskjold Middle School, Churchill Junior High School, and spent his sophomore year at East Brunswick High School. He then transferred to the Professional Performing Arts School in New York. When he was a senior, he received his breakthrough role in the independent comedy-drama film Roger Dodger. His work in the film prevented him from enrolling at New York University. Instead, he studied anthropology and contemporary architecture at The New School in Greenwich Village, where he majored in liberal arts, with a focus on democracy and cultural pluralism.
Eisenberg struggled to fit in at school due to an anxiety disorder, and began acting in plays at an early age. When he was seven he starred as Oliver Twist in a children’s theater production of the musical Oliver!, and by 12 he was an understudy in the 1996 Broadway revival of Tennessee Williams’ Summer and Smoke. At 13, he understudied the role of Young Scrooge in a musical version of A Christmas Carol starring Tony Randall. He had his first professional role in Arje Shaw’s off-Broadway play The Gathering at age 16. He said, “When playing a role, I would feel more comfortable, as you’re given a prescribed way of behaving.”
Eisenberg started writing screenplays at 16, some of which were optioned by major studios, but he claimed that he was dissatisfied with the lack of control he had over his creations once they were sold. He once got into trouble with Woody Allen’s lawyers when, as a teenager, he penned a play about how Allen came to change his name and managed to get the script to Allen’s “people”. Instead of a seal of approval, he received two cease and desist letters. Eisenberg later starred in two films directed by Allen, To Rome with Love and Café Society.
1999–2008: Early work
Eisenberg made his television debut in the series Get Real, from 1999 to 2000. In 2001, he appeared in a UK Dr Pepper commercial as “Butt Naked Boy.” After appearing in the made-for-television film Lightning: Fire from the Sky at 18, he starred in the independent film Roger Dodger (for which he won an award at the San Diego Film Festival for Most Promising New Actor), and in The Emperor’s Club, both of which were released in 2002 to generally positive reviews. Eisenberg was sick for the majority of the nightclub scene and can be seen sweating in different shots.
In 2005, Eisenberg appeared in Cursed, a horror film directed by Wes Craven, and The Squid and the Whale, a well-reviewed independent drama starring Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels. In 2007, he starred opposite Richard Gere and Terrence Howard in The Hunting Party, a comic thriller in which he plays an American journalist reporting from Bosnia. In 2009, Eisenberg played the lead role in Adventureland, a comedy directed by Greg Mottola and filmed in Kennywood Park, near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Filming wrapped in October 2007, and the film had its premier at the Sundance Film Festival in 2009. In November 2007, Eisenberg was cast in the indie comic-drama Holy Rollers alongside his sister, Hallie Eisenberg, who played his fictional sister in the film. He played a young Hasidic Jew who becomes involved in the ecstasy smuggling trade, using his religion as a disguise to deal without suspicion. Filming took place in New York in 2008. During the late 2000s, he also had roles in the independent films Solitary Man, playing college student Daniel, and Camp Hell, a horror film directed by George Van Buskirk.
2009–2011: Breakthrough and critical success
Eisenberg’s first major box office success was a lead role in the horror-comedy Zombieland (2009). He starred opposite Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin as a group of survivors on a road trip through a post-zombie apocalypse America, and was a sleeper hit. In 2010, he portrayed Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg in the film The Social Network, for which he earned the Best Actor Award from the National Board of Review of Motion Pictures, and nominations for Best Actor at the BAFTA Awards, Golden Globes, and Academy Awards. According to the film’s director, David Fincher, both he and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin knew Eisenberg was the one for the role as soon as they watched his audition tape, despite Eisenberg’s own anxieties about his audition. On November 22, 2010, Eisenberg was honored, along with Whoopi Goldberg, Joycelyn Engle, and Harvey Krueger, at the Children at Heart Celebrity Dinner Gala and Fantasy Auction, to benefit the children of the Chernobyl disaster. Steven Spielberg serves as Chair of the event each year.
On January 29, 2011, Eisenberg hosted Saturday Night Live on NBC, with musical guest Nicki Minaj. During his opening monologue, Zuckerberg himself appeared. Eisenberg said that meeting the man he portrayed on-screen was “an overwhelming experience,” and was happy that “we were both able to have fun at the situation.” Zuckerberg, who has complained frequently about the artistic licenses taken by The Social Network, would later say that he thought Eisenberg “was a little afraid to meet me after his portrayal, but I tried to be nice.”
In 2011, he starred in the box-office animated hit Rio, as the main character Blu, a metropolitan, domesticated male Spix’s macaw who learns how to fly. He starred alongside Anne Hathaway, his former co-star (and onscreen sibling) from Get Real, as well as George Lopez, Tracy Morgan, will.i.am, and Jamie Foxx. He featured in one song, “Real in Rio”, in the film’s soundtrack, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. He also starred alongside Aziz Ansari, Danny McBride, and Nick Swardson in 30 Minutes or Less, a film noir heist-comedy about a pizza delivery man, played by Eisenberg, who is forced to rob a bank, which was released in August 2011. In October 2011, Eisenberg made his playwriting debut in Rattlestick Playwrights Theater’s Off-Broadway production of Asuncion, staged at Cherry Lane Theatre. Eisenberg also acted in the play, which was directed by Kip Fagan. The play highlights two overeducated, liberal-minded friends, played by Eisenberg and Justin Bartha, whose assumptions are challenged by their new Filipina roommate, played by Camille Mana.
In 2012, he starred alongside Melissa Leo in Why Stop Now, a drama about a drug addict mother (Leo) and her piano prodigy son (Eisenberg), and in the magical realist romantic comedy To Rome with Love, directed by Woody Allen. That same year, he filed a $3 million lawsuit against the producers of the 2010 direct-to-DVD film Camp Hell, claiming exploitation. According to the lawsuit, Eisenberg agreed to appear in the film as a favor to his friends. He was on set for one day of filming in 2007, earned about $3,000, and logged only a few minutes of total screen time. Because of his minimal involvement in the production, he was surprised to see that his face was prominently featured on the cover of the DVD, implying that he starred in the film. His lawsuit asserts various California law causes of action, including claims for unfair business practices and publicity rights.
In 2013, Eisenberg reunited with Woody Harrelson for the magician heist thriller Now You See Me, playing a world-famous close-up magician and street performer recruited into a secret group of elite magicians to pull off bank heists with magic tricks, redistributing the money from a wealthy businessman (Michael Caine) to victims of his corrupt capitalist schemes. That year he announced his plan to continue writing, for both stage and screen, as well as continuing to act. He debuted his second play, The Revisionist, and starred in Richard Ayoade’s drama, The Double (2013), which was shot in 2012. In the following years, Eisenberg reprised his role as Blu in Rio 2 (2014), and starred alongside Kristen Stewart in the action comedy American Ultra (2015), playing a rogue sleeper agent being chased by the C.I.A.
In 2015, Eisenberg portrayed Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky in the biographical drama film The End of the Tour, appearing opposite Jason Segel, who portrayed the late author David Foster Wallace. Eisenberg’s third play, The Spoils, premiered off-Broadway in The New Group Perishing Square Signature Center Alice Griffin Box Theatre. The play featuring Eisenberg as Ben, also starring Kunal Nayyar, Michael Zegen, Erin Darke, and Annapurna Sriram, was the winner of The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Theatre Visions Fund Award. On September 8, 2015, Eisenberg released his first book, Bream Gives Me Hiccups, a collection of short humor pieces.
Eisenberg serves on the Board of Advisors for Playing On Air, a public radio show/podcast that works with contemporary playwrights to produce plays for “today’s digital audience.” He has written one short play for Playing On Air, called A Little Part of All of Us (2015), which he starred in with Justin Bartha. He has voiced for two other plays, The Final Interrogation of Ceaucescu’s Dog (2015), written by Warren Leight, and The Blizzard (2016), written by David Ives and directed by John Rando. Eisenberg played the supervillain Lex Luthor in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, which was released in March 2016, to generally negative reviews. His performance in particular was criticized by comic book fans and film reviewers, later earning him the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor. He defended himself by saying he attempted to “make these people real and relatable and interesting and engaging, not just, you know, a surface bad person.”
Eisenberg then reunited with Woody Allen and Kristen Stewart in Café Society. The film held its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on May 11, 2016. Eisenberg next reprised his role as street magician J. Daniel “Danny” Atlas in Now You See Me 2, which was released on June 10, 2016, previewed June 9, to mixed reviews. The film was shot primarily in London and Macau. It grossed over $267 million worldwide, and Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer announced that they had “already begun early planning for Now You See Me 3.
On June 2, 2016, Eisenberg’s play The Spoils began a run at London’s Trafalgar Studios in the West End, with Scott Elliott returning to direct. Eisenberg again played the lead role, along with Nayyar and Sriram, while Zegen and Darke’s characters were replaced by Alfie Allen and Katie Brayben respectively. In May 2016, Eisenberg teased that he would reprise his role of Lex Luthor in the Justice League film (2017). An official press kit, released by Warner Bros. on December 22, 2016, confirmed the return. He appeared as Luthor in the post-credits scene alongside Joe Manganiello, who played Slade Wilson/Deathstroke.
Eisenberg is a producer on Jeremy Workman’s 2018 documentary The World Before Your Feet, which follows a 37-year-old man named Matt Green who has walked over 9,000 miles on the streets of New York City. In an interview with Variety, Eisenberg talked about the film, stating, “it’s this fantastic tour of New York City. But more than that, its central character has this unusual relationship to his environment. He’s simultaneously a tourist and a philosopher.” The documentary premiered to critical acclaim at the 2018 South by Southwest Film Festival where it was acquired by distributor Greenwich Entertainment. It was released theatrically in November 2018 and has an approval rating of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. The same month he appeared in the Serbian TV series Žigosani u reketu as the owner of an NBA club.
In 2019, Eisenberg starred in the sequel Zombieland: Double Tap, directed by Ruben Fleischer. Writers of the first Zombieland, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, penned the script with David Callaham.
Eisenberg is writing and directing a comedy adaptation of Bream Gives Me Hiccups with Jax Media, starring Parker Posey, Victor Rasuk, and Elliott Smith. A pilot was filmed in June 2016. Eisenberg will play the famous mime Marcel Marceau in Resistance, directed and written by Jonathan Jakubowicz. It will focus on Marceau’s part in the French resistance during World War II. He will also join Pierce Brosnan and Vanessa Redgrave in a film based on the book The Wreck of Medusa about the painting The Raft of the Medusa as artist Théodore Géricault. Alongside Alexander Skarsgard, Eisenberg will star as a high-frequency trader in Kim Nguyen’s tech drama The Hummingbird Project. Eisenberg joined Riley Stearns’s dark comedy The Art of Self-Defense alongside Imogen Poots and Alessandro Nivola. Principal photography began in Louisville, Kentucky, on September 11, 2017.
He is set to write, direct, and star in Bad Robot’s comedy The Market about a “recently widowed Harold Katzman who moves to Pittsburgh to live with his adult son, Stan (Eisenberg). Both men simultaneously lose their jobs due to the changing American economy and are thrust into an unforgiving job market.” He will executive produce with J.J. Abrams and Ben Stephenson.
Eisenberg’s new play Happy Talk had its world premiere in 2019, with production by The New Group, marking his second collaboration with the company. The production is about “a suburban woman’s efforts to take care of her family while starring in a community-theater production of South Pacific”. Originally titled Yea, Sister, the show was directed by Scott Elliott.
He will next star in the sci-fi thriller Dual alongside Karen Gillan and Aaron Paul, which is filmed entirely in Tampere, Finland.
Eisenberg dated Anna Strout from 2002 to 2012 after they met on the set of The Emperor’s Club, where she worked as an assistant to Lisa Bruce. He then dated Mia Wasikowska, his co-star in The Double, from 2013 to 2015. He later resumed his relationship with Strout, and they married in 2017. Their son, Banner, was born in April 2017. Eisenberg lived in New York City with his younger sister Hallie and her boyfriend, singer-songwriter Owen Danoff, until June 2016, when Hallie and Danoff moved to Nashville, Tennessee.
Eisenberg had enjoyed playing the drums since he was eight years old. He is a fan of the Indiana Pacers basketball team. For an article he wrote for InStyle magazine, he played a game of one-on-one with an Indiana University MVP point guard. He is also a long-time fan of the Indy Thunder beep baseball team and its founder Darnell Booker.
In 2007, Eisenberg started an online wordplay website with his cousin, a social design evangelist at Facebook, called OneUpMe. They re-launched the site in 2010, instead exclusively formatted for Facebook users. Despite portraying Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in one of his most prominent film roles, Eisenberg does not use social media and said in 2016, “I’m terrified of that stuff. I live inside a bubble on purpose.” When asked if he used Facebook to prepare for his role as Zuckerberg, he said that he “signed on for, like, 20 seconds one time”.
Eisenberg is an alumnus of the Bloomington Playwrights Project.
Charity work and other interests
Eisenberg collaborated with Child Mind Institute in their #MyYoungerSelf project, where “each day in May a prominent individual will speak to his or her younger self about growing up with a mental health or learning disorder.” In a video published on May 2, he spoke about his OCD and anxiety growing up. Eisenberg is fond of cats and has been involved in fostering animals. He has been associated with Farm Sanctuary and has presented at several of their galas. In 2015 he stated, “I’m like 95% vegetarian.”
In September 2015, Eisenberg announced that from November, he would match donations made to Middle Way House, a domestic violence shelter in Bloomington, Indiana, up to $100,000 until April 3, 2016. All contributions made went towards the organization’s mortgage payment fund that was matched by a committee, led by Eisenberg. “It’s an incredible collective,” Eisenberg told a reporter. “It’s the kind of place where the residents go through their wonderful program and end up working there. It’s saved so many lives.” In an interview with Variety in March 2018, Eisenberg stated that he has raised almost $1 million for the shelter.
Eisenberg is a cast member with Theater of War, a performing arts non-profit that presents readings of Sophocles’s Ajax and Philoctetes to military and civilian communities across the United States and Europe. “As an actor, sometimes you feel limited by the role you’re in; stories without much meaning. [Theatre of War] allows you do something that has more substance and benefits people … It’s a greater purpose than just entertainment,” Eisenberg said of the organization.
Eisenberg also works in performing for Voices of a People’s History of the United States, which is an organization that works to “encourage civic engagement and to further history education by bringing the rich history of the United States to life through public readings of primary source materials.” He read Howard Zinn’s “The Problem is Civil Obedience” (1970) for Voices of a People’s History as part of “NYU Portraits” 2011 event. Eisenberg is involved with Keep America Beautiful, which “[engages] individuals to take greater responsibility for improving their community environments,” as well as Shoe Revolt, a “hybrid start-up company that auctions celeb shoes to raise funds to deploy a social franchising model which aims to educate, engage, and empower youth to take the lead in the fight against domestic sex trafficking through peer-to-peer involvement, training, activism and social enterprise development.”
On September 12, 2016, Eisenberg, Cate Blanchett, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Peter Capaldi, Douglas Booth, Neil Gaiman, Keira Knightley, Juliet Stevenson, Kit Harington, and Stanley Tucci were featured in a video from the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR to help raise awareness about the global refugee crisis. The video, titled “What They Took With Them”, has the actors reading a poem, written by Jenifer Toksvig and inspired by primary accounts of refugees, and is part of UNHCR’s #WithRefugees campaign, which also includes a petition to governments to expand asylum to provide further shelter, integrating job opportunities, and education.
Eisenberg participated in the inaugural “The 24 Hour Musicals: Los Angeles” on July 17, 2017, at the United Artists Theater, Ace Hotel. He composed the music and co-wrote, alongside his writing partner, Elizabeth Meriweather, Shoshana and Her Lovers, a musical about four lesbian sisters. The event proceeds went to the Dramatists Legal Defense Fund, a “nonprofit arm of the Dramatists Guild of America which advocates for the freedom of expression and advocates on behalf of all who are confronting censorship on stages across America.” He previously acted in 24 Hour Plays: On Broadway 2011 and 2015, both times for New York’s Urban Arts Partnership. He was a special guest at the 2011 Urban Arts Partnership Prom, and was an Honorary Chair on the organisation’s 25th Anniversary Gala Benefit Committee. On March 29, Urban Arts Partnership announced Eisenberg as a special guest for its 2018 gala AmplifiED, dedicated to New Yorkers fighting inequality in public education.
Eisenberg was among a small group of actors and musicians who performed at The People’s Summit 2017 in June, “a three-day conference of 4,000 left-wing activists and progressive political groups”, as part of an adaptation of Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States”. The production, titled “The People Speak”, was performed after Senator Bernie Sanders’s keynote address. Eisenberg was cast by brother-in-law Anthony Arnove, who along with Zinn edited Voices of a People’s History of the United States.
Eisenberg spoke at a rally in support of Democratic Illinois gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss on March 10, 2018, as well as at a meet and greet hosted by Reclaim Chicago and University of Chicago Student Action the day before, alongside State Representative Will Guzzardi. He filmed two videos for the campaign, one for Biss’s Facebook account and one for the Biss For Illinois YouTube platform.
|The Emperor’s Club||Louis Masoudi|
|2005||The Squid and the Whale||Walt Berkman|
|2007||The Education of Charlie Banks||Charlie Banks|
|The Living Wake||Mills Joaquin|
|One Day Like Rain||Mark|
|The Hunting Party||Benjamin Strauss|
|2009||Some Boys Don’t Leave||Boy||Short film|
|Beyond All Boundaries||Lt. Fiske Hanley / Sgt. Benjamin McKinney (voice)||Short film|
|Solitary Man||Daniel Cheston|
|2010||Holy Rollers||Sam Gold|
|Camp Hell||Daniel Jacobs|
|The Social Network||Mark Zuckerberg||Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor|
|30 Minutes or Less||Nick Davis|
|2012||Why Stop Now||Eli Bloom|
|To Rome with Love||Jack|
|2013||He’s Way More Famous Than You||Himself||Cameo|
|Now You See Me||J. Daniel Atlas|
|Night Moves||Josh Stamos|
|The Double||Simon James / James Simon|
|2014||Rio 2||Blu (voice)|
|2015||The End of the Tour||David Lipsky|
|Louder Than Bombs||Jonah|
|American Ultra||Mike Howell|
|2016||Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice||Lex Luthor|
|Café Society||Bobby Dorfman|
|Now You See Me 2||J. Daniel Atlas|
|2017||Justice League||Lex Luthor||Cameo|
|2018||The World Before Your Feet||N/A||Executive producer|
|The Hummingbird Project||Vincent Zaleski|
|2019||The Art of Self-Defense||Casey Davies|
|Vivarium||Tom||Also executive producer|
|Zombieland: Double Tap||Columbus|
|2021||Wild Indian||Jerry||Also executive producer|
|TBA||When You Finish Saving the World||N/A||Director and writer; post-production|
|TBA||The Medusa||Theodore Gericault|
|1999–2000||Get Real||Kenny Green||22 episodes|
|2001||Lightning: Fire from the Sky||Eric Dobbs||Television film|
|2011||Saturday Night Live||Himself (host)||Episode: “Jesse Eisenberg/Nicki Minaj”|
|2012||The Newsroom||Eric Neal (voice)||Uncredited
Episode: “We Just Decided To”
|2014||Modern Family||Asher||Episode: “Under Pressure”|
|2018||Žigosani u reketu||Owner of an NBA club||1 episode|
|2019||Live in Front of a Studio Audience||David Brewster||Episode: “The Draft Dodger”|
|TBA||The Market||Stan Katzman||Director, writer, executive producer|
|1996||Summer and Smoke||Young John (Understudy)||Criterion Center Stage Right|
|1999||The Gathering||Michael||Playhouse 91||Credited as Jesse Adam Eisenberg|
|2005||Orphans||Phillip||Greenway Court Theatre, Los Angeles||Workshop production|
|2007||Scarcity||Billy||Linda Gross Theater|
|2011||Asuncion||Edgar||Cherry Lane Theatre||Also playwright|
|2013||The Revisionist||David||Cherry Lane Theatre||Also playwright|
|2015||The Final Interrogation of Ceausescu’s Dog||Man||Playing On Air||Podcast|
|The Spoils||Ben||Pershing Square Signature Center
The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
|Also playwright, Off-Broadway run|
|A Little Part of All of Us||Joey||Playing On Air||Also writer, podcast|
|2016||The Blizzard||Neil||Playing On Air||Podcast|
|The Spoils||Ben||Trafalgar Studios, West End||Also playwright, West End run|
|Oh, Hello||Himself (guest)||Lyceum Theatre (Broadway)||#2much2na segment|
|2017||“The People Speak”||Cast member||Arie Crown Theater||The People’s Summit 2017|
|Shoshana and Her Lovers||Composer, writer||United Artists Theater, Ace Hotel||“The 24 Hour Musicals: Los Angeles”|
|2019||Happy Talk||Playwright||Pershing Square Signature Center
The Alice Griffin Jewel Box Theatre
|2004||The Gospel According to Larry||Narrator|
|Vote For Larry|
|2005||Be More Chill|
|2010||White Cat: The Curse Workers, Book One|
|2011||Red Glove: The Curse Workers, Book Two|
|2012||Black Heart: The Curse Workers, Book Third|
|2015||Bream Gives Me Hiccups: And Other Stories||Also writer|
|2018||The Paris Review (episode 9, “God”)||Frat Boy||Podcast|
|2020||When You Finish Saving the World||Nathan Katz||An Audible Original, also writer|