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Jesse Eisenberg has de-friended his inner Mr. Nice Guy.

After years playing sweet, earnest and awkward in movies such as “Adventureland” and “Zombieland,” the actor has shown a more sinister side with his ruthless portrayal of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the critically acclaimed “The Social Network” from Columbia Pictures.

Critical hosannas for the role may lead to an Oscar nomination, and the high-profile part is helping the boyish 27-year-old transition from "Hey, it's that guy" to a household name. But some signature halting nervousness comes into Eisenberg's voice when he talks about reactions he has gotten after screenings of the film.

"We do these question-and-answer sessions, and some people say, 'Why ... wha ... I was so turned off by your character. He was such a jerk. Why — why would you want to play this character?' " he says, repeating the stammering indignation. "There are these almost aggressive condemnations."

"The real other extreme is, 'I just wanted to give him a hug through the whole movie. I just felt so bad for him' — this is my mother talking," Eisenberg jokes. "But other people, too. 'The kid was so desperate to connect and just doesn't know how to. He's so lonely.' "

Even the visuals in the film try to underline that. Director "David Fincher practically composed the movie that way, with him behind panes of glass, in corners of rooms, framing him in a way that makes him look more isolated," Eisenberg says.

One personal reaction the actor hasn't received is from Zuckerberg himself, who did not cooperate with the filmmakers or meet Eisenberg prior to the shooting.

The script, by “West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin, explores the fractured friendships and allegiances between Zuckerberg and a handful of fellow Harvard students who in 2004 helped create Facebook, now estimated to be worth $33 billion.

On “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Zuckerberg dismissed the film with a smile: "The last six years have been a lot of coding and focus and hard work, but you know, maybe it would be fun to remember it as partying and all this crazy drama." Zuckerberg was on the show to discuss a $100 million donation to Newark's troubled school system, which took place on the day of the movie's premiere — something widely regarded as an effort to burnish the back-stabbing image depicted in the film.

Eisenberg is inclined to go easier on Zuckerberg. "What he did was so incredibly generous," the actor says. "To attribute it to anything else seems mean-spirited and cynical."

It may be the only time he goes easy on Zuckerberg. Though Eisenberg didn't set out to attack, he plays the young CEO-to-be as brilliant but revoltingly condescending and lacking even a modicum of tact.

That's before the story even gets rolling.

Opening across the Philippines on Oct. 27, “The Social Network” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Visit http://www.columbiapictures.com.ph for trailers, exclusive content and free downloads and at www.Facebook.com/ColumbiaPicturesPH to join fan contests.

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