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Inventing Facebook


Eisenberg kept audio recordings of Zuckerberg’s public-speaking appearances on his iPod and would play them just before shooting, “not because I was trying to sound exactly like him, but because I was trying to get into the spirit of a very specific kind of confidence that he has that seems simultaneously comfortable and a little defensive.” But he also made his peace with the fact that a face-to-face encounter with the man he was playing wasn’t in the cards. “Your job is to justify the position of the character,” he says, “whether it’s Mark’s frustration that he’s trying to run this organization and keeps having to deal with people who feel like they deserve something because they’ve always gotten their way, or with his friend who wanted to take the company in a direction that he felt would hurt it. I felt that my character was in the right. There’s no other way to act.”

That, in fact, was one of Fincher’s specific instructions to his ensemble. “He’d be on set with Jesse, and I’d be on the other side of the room,” says Andrew Garfield, who plays Saverin, “and I’d overhear him saying to Jesse [about Saverin], ‘This guy had to go—he couldn’t keep up with you. He had to be cut off.’ Then he’d notice me listening, and he’d come over and say, ‘But you’re absolutely right too.’ He would justify both sides constantly. I just trusted him and the script implicitly.”

That’s essential when working for Fincher, who is famous for doing multiple takes—99 of them, he says without hesitation, for the movie’s first scene, in which Zuckerberg gets brutally dumped (and not without reason) by his Boston University girlfriend. “There’s a method to his madness,” says Hammer. “Yes, you do a lot of takes, but you feel extremely protected. He told me he knows that actors are inherently vain—we sit in front of a mirror and think to ourselves, Oh, in this moment, I’m gonna give him this look. And he didn’t want us to bring that to set.”

“So many Oscars are won in the tub,” says Fincher, laughing. “I want to take them past the point where they go, ‘But I had it all worked out!’ You have to be hypervigilant, especially with Sorkin’s writing, because sometimes actors will want to add another course to the meal that isn’t there. They’ll think that if you pause between sentences, it gives the lines meaning, and we had to disabuse everyone of that notion. And once they got that, they took to it like ducks.”

When Sorkin and Fincher disagreed, it was usually over a minor visual or textual detail—with Sorkin arguing for the dramatist’s prerogative to make some things up, and Fincher countering that whenever they knew the facts, they should stick to them, right down to the drink in Zuckerberg’s hand the night he hacked into Harvard’s student databases. In reality and in the movie, it was a Beck’s, although Sorkin forcefully argued it should be a screwdriver, making the case that it would telegraph Zuckerberg’s intention to get drunk on that fateful night more than cracking a beer would. Could this possibly matter? Actually, yes, sort of. “I was mostly picking a fight with David,” says Sorkin, “because I wanted to have it out with him on the question, what is the big deal about accuracy purely for accuracy’s sake, and can we not have the true be the enemy of the good?”

“Aaron is used to thinking fast and making bold decisions,” says Fincher. “He comes from TV, where you don’t have time to pick gnat-shit out of pepper. But in the movies, my whole thing is, everything we put on the screen, even a prop, is going to be debated and scrutinized, so we need to make sure it’s not saying something we don’t want it to say.”

The two men were in full accord on The Social Network’s portrayal of Zuckerberg as misunderstood genius, nerd, creep, ambitious young postadolescent, misfit, or all of the above. And it might surprise Facebook’s CEO to know that he is viewed with intense sympathy by just about everyone behind this movie—all of whom, not incidentally, have been at some point in their professional lives on the receiving end of the word asshole. “I know what it’s like to be 21 years old and trying to direct and sitting in a room full of grown-ups who think you’re just so cute but aren’t about to give you control of anything,” says Fincher. “I know the anger that comes from when you just want to be allowed to do the things that you know you can do. So I feel it would be irresponsible to say this is the story of a guy who betrayed his friends.”

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