NEW YORK - Director David Fincher and actor Jesse Eisenberg spoke at the Apple Store in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood Thursday (Sept. 23) to discuss their upcoming movie "The Social Network" and, of course, Facebook.
"I'm actually not on Facebook," said Jesse Eisenberg. "I’ve seen it over people’s shoulders and have seen its addictive quality, so I try to avoid it. I did sign up to see how it works because of the movie, but then stopped during filming. I prefer to use the telephone."
"The Social Network," which debuts next week, stars Eisenberg, who plays awkward Harvard genius Mark Zuckerbeg, the real-world founder of Facebook, and Justin Timberlake as Napster co-founder Sean Parker, whose party-boy lifestyle influences Zuck into trouble. Or so the controversial storyline goes.
Early screenings have pegged the film as one of director David Fincher's best, joining the ranks of previous projects such as "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Zodiac" and "Fight Club." Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin of the "West Wing" – ironically, Mark Zuckerberg’s favorite TV show – is also no stranger to creating award-winning work.
"Our biggest worry in the beginning was that bloggers thought the idea of a Facebook movie would be boring," Fincher said to a packed room. "We had to overcome that, and that's why the trailer was so important. It’s not actually about Facebook; it’s about the invention of anything that could go on to revolutionize the world."
"It's also about something that happened between one-time friends, 19-year-olds and how something that was talked about in a dorm room is now worth so much money," Fincher added. "Mark Zuckerberg is an endlessly fascinating character."
The film depicts how computer-programming prodigy Zuckerberg became the youngest billionaire in history. The anticipation of the movie has garnered significant media attention for not only capturing today’s social media zeitgeist, but for highlighting the controversy surrounding Zuckerberg during the early creation stages of Facebook, from both a personal and legal standpoint.
Marketers behind "The Social Network" are also banking on the controversy surrounding the film to get people to the box office, using its tagline on posters and billboards to create even bigger buzz: "You don't get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies."
"We didn't go out of our way to have the actors do impersonations of anyone involved, and we had a lot of empathy for the situation that underlined the movie," Fincher said. "Our intention was to be fair."
Fincher said that in the early stages of film development – before the script was finished – there was an attempt made to work and collaborate with Facebook to tell its side of the story.
"There was a list of requirements for cooperation that they gave us," Fincher said. "They didn’t want to call it Facebook and it couldn’t take place at Harvard. We obviously had no interest in shying away from that. I think they hoped that if they ignored [us], we would go away."
According to a recent Los Angeles Times report, Facebook investor and board member Peter Thiel said that the final product of the film is "at its most fictional in its portrayal of Mark."
"It's a pretty good portrayal of how business gets done in Hollywood, but not how business gets done in Silicon Valley," Thiel said.
Eisenberg, who has yet to see the film, said he developed an affection for Mark Zuckerberg after spending "six months in his shoes, defending his behavior."
"I never thought what I was doing [as an actor] was critical of a person. I genuinely felt – and still do feel – that everything I do as my character is explainable," Eisenberg said.
Although Facebook is at the pinnacle of its success – boasting more than 500 million active users – many question why Fincher proceeded with the film now, rather than waiting for a time in the future.
"We felt there was a time and place to make this movie," Fincher said. "If we made it a year from now, it might not be as relevant or current anymore. We didn’t want to tell the story in the future when Facebook could just be a distant memory."
Although Fincher stressed he won’t be joining the social networking site anytime soon, he does understand its popularity.
"I don’t look at things like IMs, text messages and other technology as a waste of time for youth today anymore than Gilligan’s Island was for me," he said.
The event attracted a range of attendees, including a group of students from Brooklyn College. Film undergrad Chris Warner, 19, said Fincher’s role as director is the biggest drive for him to see the film.
"I use and love Facebook just like everyone else, but I'm most excited to see how he approaches the topic," Warner said. "It's not going to be just a regular movie."
Warner's friend Francesca Gurriero, 22, a psychology major, is more interested in Zuckerberg's back story: "I can’t wait to learn more about him – is he actually a good guy or just a businessman?" she said.
Also in attendance was Greg Jolley, 41, a college administrator and Fincher fan from New York City. Jolley brought along his eight-year-old son Zachary, who worked on homework during the event.
"I think people are excited about the idea of a film taking a shot of Facebook," Jolley told TechNewsDaily. "Facebook essentially owns the social networking world right now, so some people would like to see it fall down a few notches. However, I don't think it will change how people use the technology or the site anytime soon."
The Social Network opens October 1.