Normally when someone gets a call from Scott Rudin, that person is prepared to say yes to whatever the Oscar winning producer asks of them. But Jesse Eisenberg needs to take a moment to think about what his Social Network collaborator is offering: essentially, the chance to play another young computer geek who gets in way over his head. This time around, the geek is Evan Kohlmann, who helped convict 23 defendants in federal courts and Guantánamo Bay tribunals with his expert witness testimony. An FBI agent who worked with him dubbed him “the Doogie Howser of terrorism” when he was just 23, so it’s safe to say that he was at the top of his game.
Now 31, his story was chronicled by New York magazine’s Wesley Yang (in an article titled “The Terrorist Search Engine”), who apparently always felt the tale was big-screen material, telling Vulture, “as I was reporting it it, I felt like it was a very cinematic story.” The journalist is happy to have a Hollywood heavyweight like Rudin circling his work, but the real question is whether or not Eisenberg will be as enthusiastic about the project. The source says that the young Oscar-nominee is waiting for a script before making a decision about playing Kohlmann; a wise idea for a number of reasons.
First off, terrorism doesn’t exactly sell these days at the movies. It’s dark subject matter that most moviegoers would rather avoid; those that do want to know about those kind of activities are generally more interested in BBC and CNN. But beyond the commercial prospects, Eisenberg needs to do what’s best for his long-term career, and it sounds like the arc of Kohlmann’s story could closely resemble that of Mark Zuckerberg’s, who he played in last year’s lauded drama. I’m sure that the character is far removed from the code-creating entrepreneur, but Eisenberg is already on the verge of being typecast. I don’t think playing another genius is the best tactic, at least not this soon after The Social Network, even though the project does sound intriguing.