” 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
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
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
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
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
“I think like six feet,” Amy
“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
“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.
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,
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 .