Backstage Interview: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network
by Daniel Haim
Variety reported that Sorkin had signed a deal with DreamWorks to write three scripts. The first script is titled The Trial of the Chicago 7, which Sorkin was already developing with Steven Spielberg and producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. In August 2008, Sorkin announced that he had agreed to write a script about how Facebook was founded for Sony and producer Scott Rudin. The film, The Social Network, based on Ben Mezrich’s novel The Accidental Billionaires, was released on October 1, 2010. Sorkin won the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay for The Social Network as well as the BAFTA for ‘Best adapted screenplay.’. The Social Network also garnered Sorkin the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Aaron’s Oscar speech
Thank you. It’s impossible to describe what it feels like to be handed the same award that was given to Paddy Chayefsky 35 years ago for another movie with “network” in the title. His was an original screenplay, this is an adaptation of a book by Ben Mezrich, so I’m accepting this on his behalf as well. There are a lot of people who’ve worked hard in my corner for a long time, it seems like the right moment to thank them.
My assistant Lauren Lohman, my researcher, Ian Reichbach, my long suffering press rep, Joy Fehily, and all the women of Prime, Rich Heller, Bill Tanner, Andy Forshay, my agents Ari Emanuel and Jason Spitz who never blow my cover and reveal that I would happily do this for free and my Mom and Dad, who made a life for me where I get to be a part of nights like this.
I wrote this movie, but David Fincher made this movie and he did it with an ungodly artfulness. Someone this talented has no business being the nicest guy in the world, but he is and he made the movie of any screenwriter’s dreams he had help from Amy Pascal, Michael Lynton, and everyone at Sony whose only mandate was to make it good.
From Dana Brunetti, Ceán Chaffin, Mike De Luca, and America’s best living film producer, Scott Rudin and from Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake, Armie Hammer, Armie Hammer again, Rashida Jones, Rooney Mara, and a cast and crew that followed their leaders example that good enough was never good enough. This movie is going to be a source of pride for me every day for the rest of my life that is an un-repayable gift all I can say is thank you. Roxy Sorkin, your father just won the Academy Award, I’m going to have to insist on some respect from your guinea pig. Thank you very much.
Here’s the backstage interview with Aaron Sorkin during the 2011 Oscars
Q. You got to be so proud of all this, all the journey?
A. You can’t imagine.
Q. You create the words and then comes that magical mystery. The actors come in, little by little, you see it forming. Tell us about when you began to realize, “Hey, they got the right people to play this, they’re handling my words, it’s going…”
A. I’ll try to sum it up this way: Like a lot of people, I grew up worshipping the movie THE GRADUATE and I always wondered what it must have felt like for Buck Henry to see Dustin Hoffman just do it for the first time, do Benjamin Braddock for the first time in rehearsal. And I don’t wonder anymore. I know exactly how he felt because I’ve seen Jesse do it and I’ve seen Andrew do it, Justin, Armie and his cast do it. I know under the guidance of David Fincher who just did a mind blowing job with an incredibly talented but very, very young cast. And that was the fear that, you know, this material isn’t for beginners, but these were the youngest characters I’d ever written. So we were going to have to find exceptional actors. We found them all. David got the greatest performances out of them. It wasn’t just the performances. It was I don’t know if you know, but Trent Reznor just won best score for the movie. It was everything. It was a triumph of teamwork.
Q. And now you stand up here with an Oscar in your hand. The experience has been nothing but incredible I’m sure, but can you tell me how this experience has maybe changed your perspective on how you’re going to approach your next film with Hollywood?
A. Well, I’ll be very candid with you. Lately, and really since the movie came out and it got the kind of critical reaction that it’s got and cultural reaction that it’s gotten, I feel like I’ve been hyper aware that whatever I write next is going to be the thing I wrote after THE SOCIAL NETWORK. I’m going to spend tonight enjoying this and tomorrow starting something new. I think that’s what I have to do. I just have to keep writing, keep doing what I’ve always been doing which is writing, trying to write something that I like, something that I think my friends will like, something that I think my father would like and then keep my fingers crossed that enough other people will like it that I can earn a living.
Q. Can you take us back to your beginnings; what’s the first award you ever won it could even be an attendance award?
A. I’m not even sure I got that. When I graduated from Syracuse University Drama Department, I got something called the Sawyer Falk Award for Outstanding Achievement. Sawyer Falk had been an alumnus. That award came with $200, the most money I’d ever seen in my life. So I put that $200 with me, put it in my pocket and went to New York to start being a writer. That award meant a lot to me. I had no reason to believe that there would be another award that could come after that. And I certainly had no reason that I’d be standing here holding this.
Q. Do you have any words for Mark Zuckerberg or about Mark Zuckerberg and maybe want to mention the Middle East too or maybe not?
A. Okay. Yeah, you have to talk with somebody a lot smarter than I am about the Middle East. As for Mark, I think he’s I don’t mean to diminish anything, I think he’s been an awfully good sport about this. You know, I don’t think there’s anybody here who would want a movie made about things they did when they were 19 years old. And if that movie absolutely positively had to be made, you would want it made only from your point of view, and you wouldn’t want to include also the points of view of people who have sued you for hundreds of millions of dollars and, you know, had a visceral emotional reaction to you. But that is the movie that we made.
And you know, with things like Mark’s appearance on SNL, the fact that he took his whole staff to see the movie the day that it came out in the US on October 1st and, however it might be related, his hundred million dollar gift to the Newark Public School District which was met with some cynicism in the press because it was felt that it was a move to deflect criticism, I’m sure that the kids in Newark and their parents and their teachers don’t care how the money got there. So, my hat’s off to Mark.
Q. I understand that you’ve developed a friendship with David Seidler over the course of the awards season. Can you talk about sort of the emails that you’ve been exchanging and that friendship?
A. I’m proud to say I’ve got a romance going with David. I think that his screenplay for THE KING’S SPEECH is remarkable. I think the whole movie is remarkable. I couldn’t be a bigger fan of the movie or of David. And I think it started when I asked around and I got his email address after I saw the movie because I had to write and tell him how much I loved him. I’d never met him before I had any interaction with him. He emailed back and we began emailing each other every few days. You know, once Thanksgiving hits, if you have a movie that’s in the conversation, you’re kind of going to some kind of award show every Saturday or Sunday night. So we would see each other either here or London. And I’ve grown to love him very much.
Q. After writing a very important political TV show for America and then seeing what’s happened in Egypt and going on in Libya, what were your first thoughts when all of this took off after this movie had come out?
A. Do you mean that the revolution in Cairo, that Facebook was an important tool for that?
A. Yeah, I thought it was an incredible thing and listen, I’m somebody who has written a lot and talked a little bit about, I’ve been cranky about the Internet. Somewhere along the way I’ve turned into my grandfather and I’ve been cranky about the Internet and I’ve got some good reasons to, but when you see what happened in Cairo and there have been other examples of that, Jena Six Jena Six, not five, right Jena Six, and there have been other examples of social networking tools mobilizing people for great causes like that. Again, you really want to thank the Mark Zuckerbergs that are out there for doing it. Thank you all very, very much. Have a good night.