LOS ANGELES -- Even if he made movies under an alias, Breck Eisner would have a tough time concealing his Hollywood lineage.
Trim his hair and scruffy beard and slap him in a business suit, and Eisner could walk the halls of the
Trading on his name and face is the last thing Breck Eisner wants, though. While grateful for a Hollywood upbringing that stoked his interest in filmmaking, Eisner wants to prove he's a director to be taken on his own merits, not just the son of Michael Eisner, modern show business' most famous studio boss.
After eight years directing commercials, episodes of television series, and a TV movie, Eisner makes his big-screen debut Friday with ''Sahara," starring Matthew McConaughey, Penelope Cruz, and Steve Zahn in an adaptation of Clive Cussler's adventure yarn.
He concedes his pedigree makes him more of a story than other first-time filmmakers, yet Eisner is quick to point out that Hollywood does not invest a fortune in someone just because he's the scion of a town patriarch.
''Nobody's going to give me a movie because of my name. I know that. I wouldn't want it, and I'm not stupid enough to believe it," said the 34-year-old Eisner. ''Who would give me a hundred million dollars to make a movie because of my name?"
His heavyweight heritage might even be a bit of an obstacle, Eisner said. ''I had an agent that worked with a producer, and what I got back was the producer said, 'I don't want to work with Michael Eisner's son because I don't want to have to fire Michael Eisner's son.' And it was a joke, but I understood what he meant," Eisner said. ''So pretty much, the name's not an asset when you finally get down to getting the job."
The oldest of three sons, Eisner grew up in a Hollywood household but recounts a childhood like many others, saying his strongest memories include going to summer camp in Vermont and playing in a youth soccer league.
There were perks to visiting his father on the Paramount lot. ''I remember meeting Robin Williams as Mork from Ork on the set and doing the handshake like this, 'Nanu, nanu,' " Eisner said. ''So I feel lucky that I got to grow up around that world, but it was not that exotic or exciting a thing."
Like many teenagers, Eisner went to the movies obsessively, though the notion of becoming a filmmaker did not hit him until his senior year of college. Eisner studied English and theater at Georgetown, directing a stage production of ''Antony and Cleopatra" his final year.
As Eisner pondered his future during Christmas break, his father suggested film school. Eisner decided to give it a try and enrolled in the University of Southern California's graduate film program.
After graduation, his first big job was directing a Budweiser spot for the Super Bowl. Eisner continued with commercials and TV projects, including an episode of Steven Spielberg's sci-fi miniseries ''Taken" and the sci-fi pilot for a series that never got picked up, ''Thoughtcrimes." While shooting ''Thoughtcrimes," Eisner got a call from Howard Baldwin, one of the producers on ''Sahara." Eisner had first met Baldwin years earlier, sitting in on meetings and helping to develop ''Sahara."