Quint chats with The Social Network's screenwriter Aaron Sorkin!
Published at: Oct. 6, 2010, 5:50 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. In my rush to post up all my Social Network, Hatchet II and Let Me In interviews last Friday and then my weekend spent on getting The Thing set piece done I let this great interview with Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network fall through the cracks a bit.
But it’s not all bad. Now you guys have had a chance to see the movie and I’ve found I like reading interviews more after I’ve seen the films they’re for. Hopefully you guys dig this chat. It’s a little late, but it’s still good fun.
I have to admit I was a tad nervous sitting down with Sorkin. He strikes me as an incredibly sharp guy and I got the feeling he wouldn’t tolerate stupid questions of any sort. We can all agree I’m not the brightest bulb in the box and I didn’t want to waste Mr. Sorkin’s time.
My fears were totally unfounded and Sorkin turned out to be very warm and gave an engaging interview.
Hope you guys enjoy it!
Quint: Congratulations on the movie. I was just talking with Jesse [Eisenberg] about the opening scene of the movie and we were heaping praise on to you.
Aaron Sorkin: That was nice. The praise goes to Jesse, Rooney (Mara), and David (Fincher). Listen, intuitively this is an odd couple marriage of writer and director because David is peerless as a visual director and I write people talking in rooms as evidenced by that first scene in the movie. (Laughs) David Fincher is going to start off with a nine page scene of two people talking at a table. Nobody is inching backwards. Nothing like that is happening!
First of all, David did bring a great visual style to it and secondly he was incredibly patient with the scene. You never felt like he was starting to get anxious that “Oh no, they are just sitting there and talking for nine pages,” but best of all he got these great performances from these young actors and one of the ways he did that was by doing a huge number of takes. On that first scene alone from 99 takes, we all begged him “Come on, do one more and make it an even 100,” but we did 99 takes. It wasn’t because the first 98 were no good, it was because he was trying to tire them out which knocks the acting out of them a little bit and they start to casualize all of this language.
Quint: That’s a Kubrick trick, isn’t it? Isn’t that something that Kubrick was very much known for?
Aaron Sorkin: Yeah, and I think that David is a lot like Kubrick in a lot of ways.
Quint: I see that as well. The performances he’s able to pull out of people. I look at something like THE SHINING and Shelley Duvall in that movie could have been the worst performance in the history of cinema, somehow he made it work.
Aaron Sorkin: Absolutely. By the way, most really good performances, if you study them, you start to realize how they were just a hair away from being a terrible performance, you know?
Quint: Absolutely, but going back to that first scene the reason why we were heaping praise on you is just because structurally in that first nine pages of the script you know exactly who Mark Zuckerberg is. You set the tone and the themes of the movie in that first seqence, but it doesn’t feel like you are delivering it to an audience.
Aaron Sorkin: That’s great to hear.
Quint: Any writer would be jealous of being able to pull that off.
Aaron Sorkin: That really is wonderful to hear. I think something really interesting happens right after that scene; on Mark’s walk from the bar, back to his dorm room at Kirkland. What I had written in the script was that as soon as Erica, Rooney Mara delivers her knockout blow “It will be because you are an asshole,” that a really hard driving piece of music comes in, something that’s expressing Mark’s energy, that a fuse has been lit, a switch has been pulled. In fact the song I called for specifically was Paul Young’s cover of “Love For The Common People” and it was going to take us on the walk back to Mark’s dorm.
David didn’t just do something different; he did something 180 degrees opposite. It gets incredibly quiet right then and then (Trent) Reznor and Atticus Ross’ low industrial sound comes in, we hear just very quiet notes of… we call “Mark’s Theme.” I don’t know what Trent calls it. [Hums the theme] Taking us back all the way back as semi MOS. We are hearing some footsteps. We hear the sound of a bike being walked. We hear the violin a little bit. I think it’s that moment. The way that’s shot, the way that’s scored, that tells the audience “This isn’t your father’s college movie.”
Quint: Speaking of the score, Trent Reznor knocked it out of the park.
Aaron Sorkin: You can say that two times.
Quint: I know Nine Inch Nails’ stuff a little, but it’s not like I’m a massive fan or anything. When they announced he was attached to do the score a lot of people went crazy. I was like “That’s cool. I trust Fincher,” but when I was watching the movie I was blown away by his score.
Aaron Sorkin: The first time I saw it with the score, because I had seen it a hundred times with temp score and even before that I had seen it dry and I had seen dailies to “Come watch this two minutes of cut footage,” really at every step of the game. The first time I saw it with Trent’s score… first of all I was knocked out again by what I just described as this eerily quiet way we get to Mark’s dorm, but then when he begins typing his blog… You know, he’s going to drink, blog, hack, create FaceSmash. FaceSmash is going to go viral, the Harvard computer system is going to crash and this is all going to happen while we keep cutting to this party that we all want to be at. It’s the party none of us ever get invited to. (laughs) And the party Mark so desperately wants to be at. David cut that and Trent scored it like it’s a bank robbery, like it’s an action sequence and it’s fantastic.
Quint: Let’s go back to Mark a little bit as a character because I have to imagine that that character particularly leaves you vulnerable as a writer. You have to put so much faith in the actor of hitting that performance. If you overwrite it you make him too likeable or too much of a dick, there’s no room for the actor to improve it, but at the same time you’re kind of at the mercy of whoever is in that role.
Aaron Sorkin: Yeah, well we cast the right guy. We saw a million people for each part, but the people who ended up playing the parts were the only ones we ever talked about. We saw everybody. You can think of the people that we saw. There was never a conversation about anyone, but Jesse. The same thing with Andrew (Garfield), Justin (Timberlake), Armie (Hammer), everybody.
Yes, writing an anti-hero is tricky. First of all writing non-fiction is tricky. You have a lot less elbow room. You can’t make stuff up and as much as you might want to because it would make your life easier right here, you can’t because it’s against the rules. You also can’t because it’s against the law. I don’t think I need to convince you that with a subject like this with people who have already demonstrated they don’t mind suing people and with the kind of recourses that Facebook has to just spend you to death when it comes to litigation, that there was a team of Sony lawyers just assigned to this movie vetting it within an inch of it’s life to make sure that I was not saying anything that was untrue and defamatory at the same time.
Quint: Even if it helped the story.
Aaron Sorkin: Nothing was added to this movie. Nothing was invented for this movie to sensationalize it, to Hollywood it up. At all. As with any piece of non-fiction, whether it’s THE QUEEN or ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, a writer has to do a writer’s job, not just because there are some facts that are unknown.
When Bill Goldman is writing ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, he doesn’t just not know who Deep Throat was. He has no idea what Deep Throat said to Bob Woodward. Bob Woodward was not allowed to say. He doesn’t know the scene took place in a garage. There is writing that you have to do, but not only do you have to do stuff because you don’t know, you weren’t there… You weren’t in Queen Elizabeth’s bedroom when she was talking to her husband about their daughter-in-law, but you do it because people in life don’t talk in scenes.
As soon as you see the words “The following is a true story,” you should look at it the way you would look at a painting and not a photograph, but that said nothing was invented to make it cooler at all. As I said, I had to invent dialog. I had to have words come out of their mouths that made it drama-worthy and there’s a set of known facts that are not in dispute which are kind of like these buoys and you have to draw the lines in between the buoys. The space between the buoys is character and the author’s interpretation of this event.
I think if you line up 100 screenwriters, you are going to get 100 different versions of this thing, but what attracted me to it in addition to the fact that it held these ancient themes was that all of these people went into the deposition room and came out with three completely different versions of the same story. So rather than pick one and decide that’s the truth or pick that one, because that’s the “sexiest.” I said, “I’m going to dramatize the fact that nobody can agree here.”
If I were Mark and Facebook, I would prefer that the film be just told from my point of view. If I were Mark and Facebook, or if I were anybody… Can you think of anybody who would want the things they did when they were 19 years old made into a movie? So I understand there were recalcitrance, but nothing was sensationalized.
Quint: To your credit, I think one of the biggest strengths of the movie is that four people can walk in and watch that movie and each person can go “Yeah, Mark totally stole Facebook” and then the other one goes “No, no, no!”
Aaron Sorkin: We are counting on it. There will not be a consensus on this movie of who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s good, who’s bad. We are counting on those arguments happening in the parking lot.
Quint: And I love that it’s a movie of gray. There are a lot of gray characters and the closest character to an innocent in the story is Eduardo.
Aaron Sorkin: Right.
Quint: But even Eduardo lets his anger control him towards the end. I don’t know. I love ambiguity in movies. It’s such a fine line, because you either can leave somebody out in the cold and make it feel like “Oh, well the writer just didn’t do his job and wanted to give us an idea of what’s going on” or you talk down to them. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Aaron Sorkin: I do. It sounds like you and I like the same things in movies.
Quint: I think you are very successful in this film and doing that, because it would have been so easy to make the Winklevosses brutish frat boys. It would have been so easy to make them entitled fools.
Aaron Sorkin: It would have been, but I thought that part of the fun was that they were stuck a little bit in check, because they understood that the perception was going to be… they make THE KARATE KID allusion... and they understood that nobody is going to believe that two wealthy, good looking, legacies at Harvard are being screwed by this little guy. “They are going to take his side. He’s got us.” And I loved that part of the movie too, even that they are not able to get anywhere with Larry Summers.
Quint: Yeah, that’s a great moment. It’s the first time in their lives where they pull their strings, they use their connections, and everything that’s supposed to work out doesn’t.
Aaron Sorkin: Mark got it right. He said “They are not suing me for intellectual property theft. They are suing me, because for the first time in their lives the world isn’t working the way it’s supposed to for them.”
Quint: I also really enjoyed the subtle differences in the twins, too… and sometimes the not so subtle differences. Armie was just talking about one’s kind of got an older school sense of chivalry to him and the other one...
Aaron Sorkin: That’s right. You really got to hand it to Armie because remember it’s not a good twin and an evil twin, there’s like 11 degrees of personality difference between these two guys and I…
Quint: He described it, as they still had to act as one nit, like many twins to where they can be their own individuals, but somehow they still. Even if it’s in the little things, they act as one unit.
Aaron Sorkin: That’s right. (looking over my shoulder) Sorry, they just gave me the face.
Quint: The wrap-up?
Aaron Sorkin: Yeah. (laughs) I’ve seen that face so much!
Quint: I didn’t get to see the face at all! This isn’t good GODFATHER rules. I’m not supposed to have my back to the door.
Aaron Sorkin: Now there’s a movie I can’t see enough you know, but I need to watch… Seriously I cannot watch THE GODFATHER without a giant bowl of spaghetti and meatballs. I just want pasta so much during that movie that if it’s on, I have to pause it or something, order it and have it come over!
Quint: Absolutely! Every time I watch THE GODFATHER, it makes me immediately start GODFATHER PART 2.
Aaron Sorkin: Surely PART 2 is at least as good as part one. There are some people who say it’s better. I don’t think there’s any need to have them compete in a horse race, they are both… When the movie is that brilliant…
Quint: “Horse race.” I see what you did there.
Aaron Sorkin: “Horse race.” (laughs) Yeah, sorry. “You both win the gold medal,” and the movies are both good enough to forgive PART 3!
Quint: Yes! Well cool, man, I guess that’s all of our time, but thank you so much for taking the time to talk.
Aaron Sorkin: I appreciate it. I really do love the site!
There you have it! The next interview you’ll see from me is my next addition to the AICN Legends series with one of the best character actors to ever grace the silver screen (and he’s been at it for almost 7 decades now!). See ya’ soon with that one!
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