Aaron Sorkin, 'The Social Network'
Following his Golden Globe win for best motion picture screenplay, Aaron Sorkin is poised for his first Academy Award. A statuette for his whiz-bang take on Ben Mezrich’s 2009 book The Accidental Billionaires would join a shelf crowded with Emmys for his seven-year run as creator and writer of NBC’s The West Wing.
The Hollywood Reporter: Which parts of Mark Zuckerberg’s personality do you share?
I’m shy; I feel awkward in social situations. There are plenty of times in my life where I felt like an outsider, with my nose pressed up against the glass of something going on there where I don’t belong. That wasn’t hard for me to do. In terms of hurting Mark’s feelings, it’s not something I do on purpose, and it’s not something that I relish doing. I dramatize the court case here, and the witnesses who testify in the court case, including the plaintiffs, said things that he disagrees with that happened when he was 19 years old. I don’t think there are any of us who would want a movie made about the things we did when we were 19 — those things are going to be troubling to him. It’s not something that I took lightly, but it was a story I wanted to tell. If somebody came to me and said: “I got a deal for you. I want you to write a movie. I promise it is going to be the highest-grossing movie of all time, and you will win every award given for excellence in filmmaking. The only price that you have to pay is you are going to purposely say things about this guy that aren’t true.” I wouldn’t even have to think about it. It’s not something that I would do.
THR: What is your writing process? Do you write in longhand, then on a computer?
I used to write on cocktail napkins when I first came to New York after college and was supporting myself as a bartender. Now I use legal pads when there’s time. In series television, there’s never time — we shoot my first drafts — so everything’s on a computer. I have desktops at my office at Warner Bros. and at home and a laptop for writing in hotels.
THR: How much time do you typically spend researching and outlining a project?
That depends a lot on whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. There was a long research process on The Social Network that included a lot of first-person research, as well as understanding all the legal documents and the different testimony. I’ve never written an outline. I spend a lot of time climbing the walls, trying to think of how we’re going to open, and then, once I’m in the door, I start to fill up a corkboard with index cards as soon as I know there’s a scene I need to get to. Then, once I know how the movie’s going to end, it’s just a matter of getting there. I wish it were as easy as I just made it sound.
THR: How do you deal with notes from a director, the studio or actors?
I hear them, and I talk about them until they become something that’s writeable. I don’t substitute someone else’s taste for my own, but I got into a collaborative art form for a reason. I like team sports; I like bands more than solo acts. And, left on my own, I’m very capable of writing 150 pages of finger-painting. I rely heavily on the eyes and ears of my partners, so I choose them carefully.
Is there any other job that interests you, besides writing?
The only thing I ever have a memory of thinking about doing is what I do now. I am the luckiest guy in the world. Not just that I get to do what I love doing so much, but if I didn’t get to do that, I don’t know how I’d support myself.