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Why Michael Cera and Jesse Eisenberg Are Two Totally Different Actors

Remember the Michael Cera/Jesse Eisenberg conundrum of circa 2009? The two actors who played similar neurotically adorable roles (Cera in 2007's Juno and Eisenberg in 2009’s Adventureland and Zombieland) had audiences seeing double.

While they have since taken divergent career paths, Eisenberg is still mistaken for Cera and vice versa.

“People recognize me as him all the time,” Eisenberg said of Cera in a 2011 interview with The Independent.

The 29-year-old actor seemed rather unhappy with the case of mistaken identity.

“It’s annoying,” he said. “I don’t like getting recognized as other people.”

Cera runs into the same problem, telling the New York Times this week, “People will tell me they loved me in The Social Network, and I will tell them I’m not Jesse.”

The two actors both rose to fame by playing sweetly awkward nerds. They’re also both writers — Eisenberg is a playwright, while Cera wrote on the fourth season of Arrested Development after the television show with a cult following was resurrected by Netflix. But their similarities end there.

Entertainment stories have often pitted the two actors against each other. Cera seems to have maintained a positive media image, while with a reputation for being difficult, Eisenberg is dangerously close to earning hatred from the press.

In his recent New York Times interview, Cera comes off as humble, endearing and dedicated to his career.

“Similar to his coming-of-age characters, he is funny in a low-key way, but he’s quietly confident, something that doesn’t come through on screen,” writer David Carr describes.

The Canadian actor even laughed off being a victim of a mugging while he was filming Crystal Fairy in Chile.

“It was a fortunate mugging,” he quipped to US Weekly, speaking of the recent incident where thieves took his 10-year-old phone and left him unharmed.

On the other hand, Eisenberg received criticism for his treatment of Univision/ABC reporter Romina Puga last month. In the now infamous interview, Eisenberg sounds eerily similar to his character in The Social Network — self-absorbed and obnoxiously quick on the draw.

With rapid speech patterns that are similar to those in the characters he plays, Eisenberg criticizes Puga on her interviewing skills, calling her journalism’s equivalent to the comedian Carrot Top. The interview went viral, partly because of Puga’s own Tumblr entry about it, in which she said she was “just humiliated by Jesse Eisenberg.”

In the actor’s defense, he may have been simply giving as good as he got — Puga mocks Eisenberg’s “fat” thumbs in one of the interview’s (many) awkward moments.

“My thumb’s fine, thank you,” Eisenberg fires back.

But while Cera has remained likable, it’s Eisenberg who has become the more bankable star. It’s been a few years since he wowed critics with his dark, calculated portrayal of Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, but the subsequent Best Actor nomination vaulted him to the next level.

Eisenberg moved up in the ranks to work with the likes of Woody Allen for 2012’s To Rome with Love and a star-studded cast, including Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, and Mark Ruffalo, in the recently released Now You See Me. While neither film was warmly received by critics, both still managed to cement Eisenberg’s standing as an A-list actor.

Cera’s films haven’t reached Academy Award status since he starred in Juno, which was nominated for Best Picture and three other Oscars. After follow-up Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Cera starred in several box office duds, including Year One, Youth in Revolt and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

Besides Juno, his most well-known project is still Arrested Development. The quirky show about a dysfunctional family won five Emmy awards, including one for Outstanding Comedy Series, in 2004. Arrested Development was also recognized with a slew of Emmy nominations in 2005 and 2006.

After seven years off the air, the comedy was renewed for a fourth season as a Netflix original series. The finale was released last month, and the season overall garnered mixed but mostly positive reviews.

Cera’s recent turn in Seth Rogen’s star-studded apocalypse comedy This is the End has earned him new respect, although not the Oscar variety. Playing an alternate universe version of himself, Cera is a cocaine addict who is the first to die in the movie.

“We had to kill Cera first,” Rogen told the New York Times. “It just felt right.”

While the media has often pitted Eisenberg vs. Cera, audiences don’t have to pick a side. Each actor left an adorably awkward (onscreen) adolescence to find his own path.

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