My Secret Life: Jesse Eisenberg, actor, 27

My parents were... My father is a college professor and my mother teaches cultural sensitivity in hospitals – how young doctors should be sensitive to a diverse group of patients. It's a very new thing.

The house/flat I grew up in... was in Queens, an urban area outside New York City, and then in New Jersey, and I finished high school in New York City proper.

When I was a child I wanted to... I either wanted to be an astronaut or a banana. Now I'm an actor so I can probably be both of those things at some point. I was also just eager to become an adult – I felt powerless as a child.

If I could change one thing about myself... I would change my socks.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at... It's the reverse: I've been seen in very public places [being very good at] doing things that I have no idea how to do. I finished a movie last night, playing a prodigy pianist, and I don't play the piano. Last year I created a website, and I don't know how to type with my left hand.

You wouldn't know it but I'm no good at... I'm no good at really anything that involves motor skills.

At night I dream of... mostly falling off things. I think it's because the bed is too high off the ground, I should adjust it.

I wish I'd never worn... I used to wear, on a daily basis, entirely purple sweat pants and top, in order to eschew gender norms.

What I see when I look in the mirror... Usually the murderer standing behind me.

My favourite item of clothing... I steal clothes from movie sets – whatever the last thing I had to wear, I carry on wearing. It's a strange thing to put on the same clothes every day for several months, you inevitably get really comfortable in that.

I drive/ride... a bicycle, every day, all over.

It's not fashionable but I like... All of my pleasures are guilty, but that's just the way I'm wired...

My house is... run by cats – when you have cats, you can't own anything nice.

A book that changed me... Maybe Huck Finn, I really loved that one.

The last album I bought/downloaded... I don't really do that, though for this movie I was playing a pianist, so I downloaded all this Chopin and Steve Reich.

Movie heaven... I don't watch movies.

My secret crush is... in the spirit of the question, I guess we'll keep it secret.

My real-life villains... I ride a bicycle so maybe some kind of erratic driver with no rear-view mirror.

The person who really makes me laugh... Ricky Gervais, your home-town hero. That was the greatest character ever [David Brent], in The Office.

The last time I cried... Yesterday. I cry daily any time I see my body naked in its entirety – usually when I'm in a shower.

My five-year plan... I have to finish college. I had a goal of doing a play I wrote, and I'm doing that this year. I got nominated for an Academy Award and lost, and people who lose get to go to space, so I want to go to space. And I've got some benevolent dictatorship work I've got to do.

What's the point? I don't know. Mother Teresa was asked what was the meaning of life, and she said to help other people, and I thought, 'What a strange thing to say' – but maybe it's the right thing to say.

My life in six words... I usually describe it in seven.

A life in brief

Jesse Eisenberg was born in 1983. He declined a place at New York University in order to pursue an acting career, and got his first film role in Roger Dodger in 2002. He went on to appear in movies such as The Squid and the Whale and Zombieland. Last year, Eisenberg starred as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, for which he received an Oscar nomination. His latest film, Holy Rollers, is in cinemas now. He studies at Manhattan's New School and lives in New York

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