Jesse Eisenberg on Woody Allen, anxiety and fatherhood: ‘Now I get to worry about something visible’

A little bit difficult, a little bit intense: the star of The Social Network has often seemed more comfortable with a film script than with messy human emotions – including his own. But that’s changed…

Jesse Eisenberg has a reputation for not suffering fools, for witheringly knocking down any stupid questions that are put to him. In the 12 years since his breakout role as a callow, Kafka-referencing teen in Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, he has made his name with characters who are – or at least believe they are – the smartest person in the room: the snarky theme-park attendant in Adventureland; the college kid bon-moting his way through the apocalypse in Zombieland; and, of course, his sociopathically still performance as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for which he received an Oscar nomination for best actor.

In person, speaking at the Toronto international film festival, the 34-year-old is disarmingly alert – quick to answer a question with a question – but never difficult or obtuse. There is a fine seam of comic self-doubt running through his patter and today he is mostly just buzzing with ideas. He is fascinated and appalled by the high-speed, high-frequency trading depicted in his upcoming film The Hummingbird Project – where computer algorithms buy and sell stocks in the blink of an eye – but can relate to people such as his character Vincent, “so caught up in the pursuit that they lose any sight of any kind of ethical considerations”.

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