“My intention was to be an actor, and I came to New York to pursue that,” said the celebrated screenwriter Aaron Sorkin as we sat down last week at the SCAD Savannah Film Festival for a public Q&A following a packed screening of the new dramatic thriller Molly’s Game, which Sorkin wrote and on which he makes his directorial debut. The 56-year-old, who received the fest’s Outstanding Achievement in Directing Award later that evening, went on to explain how his life trajectory changed: one weekend, while broke and living at his ex-girlfriend’s apartment, a friend asked him to safeguard an old semiautomatic typewriter, and Sorkin, with nothing better to do, began using it. “And I feel like that night never ended,” he said.
Over the course of a half-hour conversation, which you can see for yourself in the video atop this post, Sorkin reflected on writing what would become his first produced play, A Few Good Men, on cocktail napkins during the first act of Broadway shows at which he was working as a bartender; how one of the first films he wrote, 1995’s The American President, inadvertently led to his game-changing TV series The West Wing (“I hadn’t thought about doing television”); why he has a natural inclination towards dialogue and romantic idealism; and why, despite that natural inclination, he has more recently told stories about anti-heroes, such as Mark Zuckerberg in the 2010 film The Social Network (for which Sorkin won the best adapted screenplay Oscar).
We also talked about Molly’s Game, which stars Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, an impressive young woman who ran a high-stakes underground gambling operation in Hollywood until the authorities caught up to her, and who subsequently wrote a memoir which Sorkin adapted into the film. He discussed the film’s action-packed opening sequence (and why opening sequences, in general, are so important); what it was like for him to direct a film for the first time (he had been offered the chance to direct The Social Network but happily stepped aside when David Fincher expressed interest); and the film’s enthusiastic reception by critics, audiences — and Molly Bloom.