Back in the pick-your-slacker heyday, when Eisenberg and Cera were competing for the affection of the mass audience, Cera started with an advantage. But that took a turn around 2011, when he suffered from a series of box-office duds (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Youth in Revolt, Paper Heart) while Eisenberg wowed critics with The Social Network — a performance that would land him an Oscar nomination. In interviews, Eisenberg seemed self-deprecating and hard-working (except when mentioning how much he dislikes being mistaken for Cera); meanwhile, we kept hearing that Cera was the lone hold out for an Arrested Development reunion, since he wanted to focus on films and not return to the George Michael persona that had come to define him. This information, more than anything, started the Cera backlash.
Funny story about that, from The Playlist :
“We had started to do this sort of Andy Kaufman-esque thing that Michael Cera wasn’t willing to come back and do the show or do the movie,” Hurwitz explained referencing interviews circa 2008 where various members of the “Arrested Development” family would state in interviews that they weren’t sure of Cera’s participation. “It was like, who’s the most absurd person who would tell us to go to hell?” Back in the day, Cera was known as sole “hold out,” but the joke spiraled out of hand. “Then very quickly that got around a little too fast and it was like a wildfire,” Hurwitz said. “It got out there. And I started seeing, ‘Go to hell Michael Cera, we hate Michael Cera!’ and [we thought], ‘Alright, let’s dial this one back.’ “
Cera took his lumps. He went off the grid for a while, disappearing to Chile and making two movies with Sebastian Silva. His latest film role is a self-skewering (literally) turn in This Is the End, playing himself as a coked-out scumbag. He’s writing and directing short films. And when Arrested Development came back, not only was he not a “hold out” — he was actively involved in the show’s production, working in the writers’ room and credited as a consulting producer. And his character (always one of the show’s best) was the focus of two of the new season’s best episodes. Best of all, they centered on the development (and, in one hilarious episode stinger, legal battle) of FakeBlock, a clever Social Network parody that seemed to riff on the actors’ long-running interchangeability.
Meanwhile, Eisenberg followed up The Social Network with a comedy tastelessly based on a murder/kidnapping, a few flaccid and underseen indies, and one of Woody Allen’s weaker recent efforts. And now his work in the surprisingly profitable Now You See Me is being overshadowed by his own snippiness at an otherwise forgettable junket interview — creating a narrative that perhaps Eisenberg is so good at playing dickish nerds because it’s not much of a stretch. So the question emerges: did Michael Cera “win” this battle after all?