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Aaron Sorkin on The Social Network -

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Hollywood screenwriter Aaron Sorkin speaks with Kerry O'Brien about his most recent project - The
Social Network. The film is about the birth of the internet phenomenon Facebook, more particularly
Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Transcript

KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: There's a new film called 'The Social Network' that's going gangbusters
in America right now, which is no surprise because it's about the birth of Facebook, and Facebook
has 500 million users. More particularly, it's about Mark Zuckerberg, the computer genius who
co-founded Facebook as a 19-year-old student at Harvard University and within a few years was one
of the world's youngest billionaires. But for screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, the themes of this story
were older than Shakespeare - friendship, loyalty, betrayal, power, class and jealousy, much of it
straight from the players themselves via depositions under oath in two separate legal actions
against Zuckerberg, seeking a share of the phenomenal profits.

Aaron Sorkin had his own meteoric rise, writing at 28 a Broadway hit called 'A Few Good Men', that
he then adapted for the screen starring Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and Tom Cruise. He subsequently
created one of television's most successful series, 'The West Wing'.

Here's here to promote 'The Social Network' and I spoke with him in Sydney today.

Aaron Sorkin, who was the Mark Zuckerberg that you saw that you then profiled? How do you describe
the profile that you saw?

AARON SORKIN, SCREENWRITER: Well he's a very complicated guy. He is without a doubt a genius, and
not just not just on an IQ test; he's a creative genius as well. But Mark had just gotten his heart
broken by a girl, and the way we know this is because Mark went back to his dorm room and began
blogging about it. So, we have the first scene in a movie where he's getting his heart broken and
then everything for the next five, seven, eight minutes that happens after that is - are Mark's own
words entirely. He was very helpful in that regard. He began drinking, he began blogging. In the
first words of his blog - and he says, "Erica Albright's a bitch. Do you think that's because all
BU girls are bitches?," BU referring to Boston University, which is a - considered a lesser school,
across the river from Harvard. And he says, "I need something to get my mind off of this." And
first he comes up with an idea of he's gonna hack into the student directories of all the other
dormitories, get pictures of Harvard girls and compare them to farm animals. He decides, instead of
doing that, he'll compare them to each other. There'll be a ranking system, roughly the way we rank
chess masters, and he called it "FaceMash". This is all happening in one night - all happens in the
middle of a Tuesday night. FaceMash went viral between the hours of about 2am and 5am.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And the whole Harvard system crashes.

AARON SORKIN: Crash the Harvard system, got 22,000 hits in a matter of hours and humiliated the
female population of Harvard.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now, you've since acknowledged the irony for the key characters in the birth of
Facebook, that in starting the social phenomenon, their own social lives blew up.

(excerpt from 'The Social Network', 2010)

MALE ACTOR: Could I talk to you alone for a second?

FEMALE ACTOR: I think I'm good right here.

MALE ACTOR: I'd love to talk to you alone, if we could just go some place.

FEMALE ACTOR: Right here is fine.

MALE ACTOR: I don't know if you heard about this new website that I launched.

FEMALE ACTOR: No.

MALE ACTOR: The Facebook.

FEMALE ACTOR: You called me a bitch on the internet, Mark.

MALE ACTOR: That's why I wanted to talk to you.

FEMALE ACTOR: On the internet.

MALE ACTOR: That's why I came over.

FEMALE ACTOR: Comparing women to farm animals.

MALE ACTOR: I didn't end up doing that.

FEMALE ACTOR: It didn't stop you from writing it, as if every thought that tumbles through your
head was so clever it would be a crime for it not to be shared.

(End of excerpt).

KERRY O'BRIEN: But isn't it the success of Facebook built on a false premise: that there's no limit
to how many friends you can have, but are they really friends?

AARON SORKIN: This is an unsophisticated opinion you're getting. Something that was intended to
connect all of us and bring us closer together is very likely doing the exact opposite, it's
pushing us apart. It's taking - it lacks sincerity and it lacks intimacy.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You launched your career on the stage, Broadway in fact, with a play called 'A Few
Good Men' that became a celebrated film. You were all of 28. You wrote 'A Few Good Men' essentially
on a bar on a few pieces ...

AARON SORKIN: I wrote it on cocktail napkins while - as I said, one of my survival jobs was working
as a bartender at Broadway theatres, where you're have the - you're free during the first act of
the show. You serve drinks when people are coming in, you serve drinks at intermission, but you're
free during the first act of the show. So I was writing 'A Few Good Men' on cocktail napkins. I'd
come home with my pockets stuffed full of cocktail napkins and spill them out onto my desk and I
began writing the play on a Mac 128K computer, which is - it's slower than a typewriter. I'm not
sure why we had them. But it was then, as I began to get a couple of dollars in my pocket, I would
graduate from computer to computer.

KERRY O'BRIEN: And you came up with one of the enduring lines of film.

(Excerpt from A Few Good Men, 1992)

JACK NICHOLSON, ACTOR: You want answers?

TOM CRUISE, ACTOR: I think I'm entitled to them.

JACK NICHOLSON: You want answers?

TOM CRUISE: I want the truth!

JACK NICHOLSON: You can't handle the truth!

(End of excerpt).

AARON SORKIN: You can't handle the truth.

KERRY O'BRIEN: That's right.

AARON SORKIN: Yeah. Who woulda thought, you know? When I wrote that line, believe me, I had no idea
I was writing a line that would be used to sell Whoppers at Burger King and things like that.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Well it deserves better than that. I hope you're not sick of talking about 'West
Wing'. What was its appeal, do you think, that you'd created a political leader that everyone could
actually admire?

AARON SORKIN: Yeah, I think so. I think it was wish-fulfilment.

KERRY O'BRIEN: How much of that was your wish-fulfilment?

AARON SORKIN: It was wish-fulfilment - mine and my father's. My father is a man with, you know, one
foot two centuries ago and one foot where we are now, and the thing that most important to him is
civility, really. And we're going through a time now, again, at least in the US, where being smart
is something to be looked down on. People are militantly anti-academic. They're - to be civil and
to have a high-minded debate seems weak. And - so I did wanna have one of the themes in the show be
that compassion isn't weakness and violence isn't strength.

(Excerpt from The West Wing, 1999)

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Whatya got here, CJ?

FEMALE ACTOR: Well, we've got some hot tempers, Mr President.

MARTIN SHEEN: Mary.

MALE ACTOR: Mr President, I'm John Van Dyk.

MARTIN SHEEN: Yes. Reverend?

REVEREND: May I ask you a question, Sir?

MARTIN SHEEN: Of course.

REVEREND: If our children can buy pornography on any street corner for $5, isn't that too high a
price to pay for free speech?

MARTIN SHEEN: No.

REVEREND: Really?

MARTIN SHEEN: On the other hand, I do think that $5 is too high a price to pay for pornography.

(End of excerpt).

KERRY O'BRIEN: You've publicly acknowledged your bouts with drugs, particularly some manic writing
episodes earlier on with crack cocaine. What was its appeal?

AARON SORKIN: That's a two-stage thing. It's - this is actually not something I talk about publicly
anymore, but I'll just let you know the - once you have tried crack cocaine - which is why the
stupidest thing you can do is try it for the first time - its appeal after that is chemical. You're
addicted to it immediately and you have to have it. Its appeal the first time around was stupidity.
And it was somewhere in my mid-to-late 20s, during a particularly frustrating night of writing that
a near stranger said, "Here, smoke this and snort that." And, you know, the real problem with drugs
is that they work. They're great - right up until the moment they kill you, which happens almost
instantly.

KERRY O'BRIEN: You came - I think you convinced yourself that you actually needed and one for the
other, didn't you? That you were dependent on the drug for the writing?

AARON SORKIN: Yeah. I would only write with cocaine, I wouldn't dream of writing without it, and,
ah, that's a fairly common thing. When I decided to put myself into rehab in 1995, my big fear was,
"Am I gonna be able to write without this?" A lot of awfully good writers who had been through the
same problem were kind enough to get on the phone with me and say, "I know this is what you're
worried about, and I promise you you're gonna write better than ever." Looking back, even if that
weren't true, even if all I could write now was a greeting card, it's a no-brainer of a decision.
And I don't mind to keep doing a PS ad, but ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: No, no, but you sound ...

AARON SORKIN: There's no escaping it: I guarantee you it will wreck your life. You're not going to
be the one person in 1,000 who is able to do it and everything is fine. That's not possible.

KERRY O'BRIEN: After such a stellar career so far, and you've hopefully got a long way to go yet,
do you still just continue waiting for the next script idea? Do you have no temptation to break
your own mould?

AARON SORKIN: I have no temptation to break my own mould just for the sake of it. But I think - for
instance with 'The Social Network', I think 'The Social Network' is not very much like other things
that I've written. I think if you're paying attention, you could probably tell that it was written
by the same person who's written other things. But for instance at the centre of 'The Social
Network' is an anti-hero, which I've never written before. Mark Zuckerberg spends the first hour
and 55 minutes of the movie being an anti-hero and the final five minutes being a tragic hero,
which means that he has both paid a price and feels remorse. But ...

KERRY O'BRIEN: Now, are you convinced of that or is that your hope for him?

AARON SORKIN: That might be some wish-fulfilment. That's an awfully good point. The last scene -
listen, this is a non-fiction movie, it's thoroughly sourced, vetted to within an inch of its life
by a team of lawyers you would not be able to fit into the Sydney Opera House, OK? But the last
scene of the movie is an invention of mine, and it may well be wish-fulfilment.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Including the line from the young female lawyer, ...

AARON SORKIN: Yes.

KERRY O'BRIEN: ... who's obviously watched him closely through the process and she says ... ?

AARON SORKIN: She says, "You're not an asshole, Mark, you're just trying so hard to be."

KERRY O'BRIEN: Aaron Sorkin, thanks very much for talking with us.

AARON SORKIN: Thankyou very much. I appreciate it.

KERRY O'BRIEN: 'The Social Network' opens in Australia next week and you can find the long version
of that interview on our website tonight.