Pepsi Girl Hallie Kate Eisenberg, As Driven As Mrs. Luce’s Women

” Honey !

You were absolutely precious !”

It was a late Saturday afternoon, and the 9-year-old actress Hallie Kate Eisenberg was trying to escape through a swarm

of adoring matinee goers at the

American Airlines Theater in Times Square, where she

currently co-stars as Little Mary in Claire Booth Luce’s The Women.

“Oh sweetie, you were adorable !”

a gray-haired woman cried upon spying Ms. Eisenberg. She looked as if she

wanted to pinch one of the four-foot-tall actress’ dimpled cheeks and give it a

grandmotherly twist.

Ms. Eisenberg, who was wearing a flouncy

giraffe-print jacket and a matching hat upon her flowing auburn curls, thanked

the woman and pushed onward. Reaching a back door, she stepped outside and

skipped down 43rd Street to

a Ben & Jerry’s, where she ordered her usual: mint chocolate cookie in a

cone, with rainbow sprinkles.

That’s when it happened.

“Is that the Pepsi girl ?”

the wide-eyed cashier asked as Ms. Eisenberg walked away. “I thought I was

hallucinating.”

Indeed, Hallie Kate Eisenberg could one

day win a Tony, cure the common cold or colonize Mars, but it’s unlikely that

people will forget her as the ebullient and absurdly ubiquitous spokesperson

for Pepsi-Cola. For the past several years, humans everywhere have been bombarded

by the sight of Ms. Eisenberg bouncing around and channeling the voices of

celebrities like Aretha Franklin and Marlon Brando, urging them to buy the red, white and blue–bottled

soft drink. And though the campaign has made Ms. Eisenberg famous and far

richer than most people born in 1992, it’s overshadowed everything else’s she’s

done.

For instance, her screenplay. Ms.

Eisenberg has also been working on a screenplay for two years now.

“It’s called Three

Generations ,” she said, digging into her mint-chocolate-cookie cone. “It’s

about three generations of women.”

She explained some more. Three

Generations opens with a shot of a couple getting married, she said, but

the marriage soon unravels. After a few months, the wife discovers she’s

pregnant, and learns at the same time that her husband is cheating on her. So

she files for divorce, and her daughter grows up never knowing anything about

her father. Eventually, when the girl is in her late teens, she goes looking

for her father, forcing the mother to tell her the truth.

“And then the girl, you know, gets married and has a baby, and

that’s the third generation,” said Ms. Eisenberg. “It starts and ends with the

same scene.”

Ms. Eisenberg thinks her writing is getting better. “When I was

7, the script was pretty good,” she said. “But, you know, it was like a little kid writing, and over the years it has gotten more,

like, you know, more mature .”

Last year, the London

Sunday Times reported script agents saying that young Ms. Eisenberg could

make as much as $50,000 for the sale of Three

Generations. The paper also reported that Jamie Lee Curtis was interested

in a part.

Ms. Eisenberg is still unsure if Ms. Curtis was actually

intrigued. “I mean, I heard that people want to do it and everything, but I’m

like, ‘Does Jamie Lee Curtis really want to do it, or

did they just dream that up?'” she said.

When the Sunday Times

piece came out, it stirred up a bit of trouble inside Ms. Eisenberg’s camp.

People started calling her agent, Bonnie Shumofsky,

demanding to see the script.

“Somebody comes into her

office from another part of [Ms. Shumofsky’s] agency

and slaps the article down and says, ‘Why are you showing Hallie’s

scripts without coming to us first?'” said Ms. Eisenberg. “And my agent is

like, ‘What the heck is going on here?'”

Ms. Eisenberg looked up,

amused. She had a rim of Oreo cookie around her mouth.

Born in 1992 in New Brunswick, N.J.,

Ms. Eisenberg was named after Thora Birch’s character

Hallie O’Fallon in the 1991

movie All I Want for Christmas. “It was my

brother and sister’s favorite movie while I was being developed,” she said.

She was discovered as a

performer when she was 4. She’d tagged along with her mother and older brother

Jesse, also an actor, to a meeting with Jesse’s agent, and while waiting for

him to finish signing paper work, Ms. Eisenberg started entertaining the staff

with songs from Annie . They signed

her immediately. Her first paid job was a commercial for Blue’s Clues .

Since then, Ms. Eisenberg has

starred in such films as Paulie , in which a talking parrot taught her

stuttering character how to talk properly; The

Insider , in which she played a daughter of Dr. Jeffrey Wigand,

the tobacco-company executive played by Russell Crowe; and Bicentennial Man , in which her family adopted a robotic Robin

Williams. She has also starred in TV movies like Disney’s The Miracle Worker and Nicholas’

Gift -with Jamie Lee Curtis.

And then there are the Pepsi ads. It’s safe to say that while a

lot of people find Ms. Eisenberg’s soda commercials charming and cute, others

find them, well, inescapably irritating. When Regal Cinemas pulled a long

Pepsi-plugging “policy trailer” featuring Ms. Eisenberg telling moviegoers not

to use cell phones, fight or smoke, a newspaper in Florida

wrote a happy farewell. And on the celebrity Web site AmIannoyingornot.com, Ms.

Eisenberg has garnered a hearty “annoying” rating of 70 percent.

Ms. Eisenberg, however, seems mostly unaware of this flip side,

which is probably a good thing. And besides ….

“They sent me a pink iMac computer,” she said. “And they also gave me a giant

bear that’s, like, how many feet tall?” she said, turning to her mother, Amy

Eisenberg.

“I think like six feet,” Amy

Eisenberg said.

“No, it’s more,” Hallie said.

“No, it is not more.”

“Yeah, it is .”

As for whether the commercials have gotten in the way of her

legit acting career, Ms. Eisenberg didn’t sound concerned. But she admitted

there was at least one time she was turned down for a part because of her Pepsi

notoriety.

“Somebody said that I had

gotten the part for some movie-I think it was for Bless the Child -and then I went out to do all these auditions and

everything, and then the guy came up to us and said I was too recognizable,” Ms.

Eisenberg said.

But Amy Eisenberg, a small woman who worked as a clown for 15

years before becoming Hallie’s escort, said that

there were several reasons that Hallie didn’t do that

movie. She said she didn’t think the Pepsi commercials had hurt her daughter’s

career at all.

“I think it has been a wonderful experience, and they have been

great to her,” Amy Eisenberg said. “And actually, she got the part in The Miracle Worker because the producer

was watching the Oscars and saw her commercials and was like, ‘Oh my God, I

can’t believe I haven’t thought of it.

That’s our Helen Keller!’

“We do think about

overexposure,” Mrs. Eisenberg continued. “But I don’t think the Pepsi

commercials have been a problem.”

And Pepsi didn’t get in the

way of The Women , it seems. Scott

Elliott, the director of the play, said he was largely oblivious to Ms.

Eisenberg’s commercial fame before he cast her as the precocious daughter of

Mary Haines, played by Cynthia Nixon.

“I didn’t realize how recognizable she was,” Mr. Elliot said. “I

knew she was in those Pepsi commercials, but I had never seen them. She really

won the role on her own talent.”

MUGGLES MISS OUT

Attention, all acclaimed actors of the British Isles

who didn’t score a part in Harry Potter

and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets or Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the

Ring, The Return of the King and The Two Towers :

What the bloody hell is wrong with you? You’re missing the

U.K.-actor gravy train to end all gravy trains!

Just how many casting calls do

you typically get for dignified Anglo wizards, Hobbits and school-marm witches in an average year? Five

films’ worth? Getting one of these gigs should have been easier than getting snogged

by Helena Bonham Carter.

What happened? Do you have any idea how much dough these things

are going to make? This was finally your chance at honest-to-God,

kids-shrieking-outside-your-hotel-window, American-style

stardom, you ninnies.

Not to mention your very own action figure! Do you think Olivier

ever got an action figure? He didn’t! And look what happened to him !

Oh, you’re too good for

the kids’ stuff?

Well, Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Ian Holm,

Dame Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, John Hurt, John Rhys-Davies,

Kenneth Branagh and Julie Walters weren’t-and now

they’re going to be loaded! Can you even begin to imagine the back end for one

of these flicks? 

So listen up, Sirs Derek Jacobi,

Sean Connery, Peter Ustinov

and Nigel Hawthorne. You, too, Diana Rigg,

Helen Mirren, Judi Dench

and all living Redgraves: fire your pansy-ass

“agents” and start praying that they haven’t decided on a Mad-Eye Moody yet for

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire . And especially you, Richard E. Grant. For goodness’ sake-you

did Hudson Hawk and Spice World , man! You can’t get work

with Chris Columbus?

People, Ismail Merchant and James Ivory

can only make so many films per decade. Sir Alec (Obi-Wan) Guinness would be

ashamed of you. Fools .

-Rebecca Traister