If Mark Zuckerberg Sued Over 'Social Network,' Aaron Sorkin's Deposition Might Go Like This
We're still amazed by all the conversation in legal circles over The Social Network. The hottest meta topic in entertainment law media these past few months has been whether Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg could or should sue filmmakers for defamation and stealing his likeness. Never mind Zuckerberg's anti-litigation PR posture. People still want to debate whether Zuckerberg might win or lose such a lawsuit.
Time to take meta to another degree.
On CBS' drama The Good Wife this week, the fictional attorneys represent a computer programmer turned billionaire looking to sue the makers of a film based on his life. Pretty much the entire back story is ripped from the intrigue that surrounded the making of Social Network, with the episode posing the interesting question of whether the Zuckerberg character might have a better chance suing over a violation of his right of publicity rather than defamation.
But most amusing is this scene where a witty and somewhat condescending screenwriter (Aaron Sorkin?) is deposed by the billionaire's lawyer (ironically played by Josh Charles, one of Sorkin's leading actors from his Sports Night series). No need to tell us the 99 reasons why Sorkin won't sue over this...
Screenwriter: You know what I find funny? That you're suing me, Mr. Edelstein. Why not the director? Oh yes, that's when you know a film by credit is a lie when there is a lawsuit.
Attorney: Do you want that in the record?
Screenwriter: Sure, let's get everything in the record. I'm Rand Blaylock. I'm the writer. I had chicken salad for lunch.
Attorney: And what research materials did you use for the scene of my client breaking up with his girlfriend?
Screenwriter: What research materials. These. [Points to head.]
Attorney: Your imagination?
Screenwriter: Yes, if that's not a dirty word here.
Attorney: Far from it. So you made it up?
Screenwriter: Yes. I did what writers have done since Aristophanes. I made up a scene where Mr. Edelstein breaks up with his girlfriend because I felt that it conveyed the truth of a character.
Attorney: Truth of a character -- what do you mean by that?
Screenwriter's attorney: I think he was speaking artistic.
Screenwriter: I know, they are trying to use my artistic words against me. Don't worry. I will be circumspect. Truth of the character means more than just factual truth. It means who is this person? How do they fit into a narrative?
Attorney: What do you mean a narrative?
Screenwriter: I mean, that I am trying to tell a story and I need a character to help me tell the story.
Attorney: And what story were you trying to tell here?
Screenwriter: The story of the Internet and this age we're in where people criticize each other anonymously. We're all these tiny little loners in our tiny little rooms and we order out for pizza and we just flame each other, all the time.
Attorney: Like the same loners who blog about your drug use?
Screenwriter: [Uncomfortable] Yes, I'm guilty, lawyer man. You found it. Malice. This whole movie was my attempt at getting back at the Internet. Take that, Internet.
Attorney: You wanted Mr. Edelstein's character in the movie to show that the Internet was alienating people?
Screenwriter: Not just that. But, yes that.
Attorney: So it didn't really matter what Mr. Edelstein's real character was?
Screenwriter's attorney: He didn't say that.
Screenwriter: Nor do I...I think I have a legal obligation, counselor. But yes, there is nothing wrong with having a character express a theme. The First Amendment protects me from having to answer your dumb ass questions.
Screenwriter's attorney: Think it's time to take a break.
Screenwriter: I know what he wants me to say: I don't give a rat's ass about facts. (silence) I give more than a rat's ass, every breath I breathe, about truth. Shakespeare's truth. Tolstoy's truth. Not this legal mumbo jumbo. It's just graffiti on a Roman temple. Forgotten in a year.
Screenwriter's attorney: But there was no malice, right?...
Here's the video of the episode.