Hot Nerd: Jesse Eisenberg

The go-to indie film star

May 28, 2009 12:52 AM ET

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"I don't get the scripts Will Smith gets," says Jesse Eisenberg. This may be true, but it certainly doesn't mean that he's not in demand: this 25-year-old actor's got an impressive number of films in production — including playing young Allen Ginsberg in 2010's Kill Your Darlings — but you won't be hearing it from him. But therein likes the charm of Jesse Eisenberg, who's carved out a place for himself in the Hollywood landscape by perfecting the brainy-boy-who-nervously-talks-too-fast act in smartypants indies like Roger Dodger, The Squid and the Whale and this past spring's sleeper hit Adventureland. In person Eisenberg (who does indeed speak rather rapidly and tends to apologize needlessly) is self-effacing and modest, both anxious and charming kind of like a young Woody Allen.

Born in Queens, New York, and raised in New Jersey, Eisenberg grew up with a professor father while his mom performed as a clown at local birthday parties. "But she was the anti-scary clown," says Eisenberg. "She was always trying to analyze just why kids are so scared of clowns." Well? "It's the red nose," he says. "And the big shoes."

The actor has been attending the New School in New York City studying Anthropology since 2003 — "it's been six years and I'm only a junior... I think" — and figures he still has a ways to go since he's continually stopping to work. He's got multiple films in production, and this year we'll see him in Zombieland, which he describes as a "zombie comedy" co-starring Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin. He'll also hit the big screen in Holy Rollers, in which he'll play an Orthodox Jewish Ecstasy dealer — all this and the aspiring playwright is hoping to perform in a play he penned this fall.

Eisenberg lives in New York with his girlfriend, travels by bicycle — "Does it sound obnoxious to say I ride a bicycle everywhere?" — and says he's rarely recognized. "I have one female fan," he says. "But she lives with me. I'm not aware of any others." He pauses. "I'm sorry. Am I saying the right things?"

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