On Monday, Sept. 13, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and actors Jesse Eisenberg and Armie Hammer launched a college tour to promote the pending release of their newest film, The Social Network, with early screenings of the film for students at Duke University and UNC-Chapel Hill. Afterward, the three men sat for interviews with area media.
Sorkin is most famous for the television series The West Wing, but he has written screenplays for such political, zeitgeist-y films as A Few Good Men, Charlie Wilson's War and next year's adaptation of Michael Lewis' Moneyball. Following are excerpts from Sorkin's remarks.
On the drive behind Facebook and those who created it:
What we're talking about is a kind of new subset of tech geniuses who are extremely angry, but it's bigger than they're not getting any. It's [because] the cheerleader still wants to go out with the quarterback and not them, and why doesn't the cheerleader understand that they're the ones running the universe now?
I don't use Facebook, and social networking isn't something that interests me. It interests a lot of people—if Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country in the world. This great thing Mark invented was very much him wanting to sit at the cool kids' table. This was a way of him throwing a party that he was not only invited to but he was going to be the host of.
Although I don't know him, I feel confident in saying Mark doesn't care about money. Money was never a motivation in building Facebook. The book The Accidental Billionaires [from which the film is loosely adapted] has a lot of scenes on yachts and young people "making it rain." That wasn't the part that interested me, and that wasn't the part that interested Mark, either. Damn if he didn't find a way to create a virtual cool kids' table ... Mark decided if he couldn't get into Phoenix House, he was going to build his own Phoenix House.
Still, it's tough to call yourself an anarchist when you're the head of a company the size of General Motors or CBS.
On the allure and trappings of social media:
I absolutely understand the attraction to things like Twitter and making wall posts and status updates and things like that. I'm not comfortable socially. I'm much more comfortable writing alone in a room. I would like the world to think I'm as clever and quick and charming as the characters that I write. I'm very afraid they're going to be disappointed when they meet me and see I'm not as smart as Martin Sheen in The West Wing or as daring as Tom Hanks in Charlie Wilson's War or as good-looking as Tom Cruise in A Few Good Men. Except for the fact that I happen to be in love with my 9-year-old daughter, I could be happy slipping pages under a door and having people slip me a meal back on a tray. So I understand the desire to socialize by yourself in a dark room, to reinvent yourself, to be able to do a rewrite and a polish on who you are.
This thing, which we've been told is going to bring us closer, I don't believe has done that. I think it's moved us farther apart. We could point to fantastic things that have happened as a result of it, whether it's protesting the elections in Iran, Jena Six, and all kinds of movements that Twitter or Facebook have been able to mobilize. I honestly believe Barack Obama would not have been elected president were it not both for social networking and specifically Chris Hughes, one of the founders of Facebook, who left to run then-Senator Obama's entire Internet operation, hailed as the most sophisticated Internet operation in the history of campaigns. But I think it has also made us feel like we're part of large, anonymous mob, and it's given people the kind of permission that some people feel when they're at a ballgame and you'll hear someone shout the most horrible, personal things at a player, something they would never say an hour later in the parking lot to the player's face. I feel like the Internet is encouraging people to behave that way.
On why he decided to option The Politician, Andrew Young's book about the John Edwards sex scandal and cover-up:
My interest in it is roughly the same as my interest was in this Facebook story. It is a story of Shakespearean proportions, that there were motivations and decisions and consequences, the results of which were epic. I can tell you that I'll be directing the movie as well as adapting it, but there's not much more I can say [now] except that when you hear someone is making a story about the John Edwards-Elizabeth Edwards-Rielle Hunter-Andrew Young thing, there's a movie you're picturing in your head. You're picturing a kind of tawdry Lifetime movie. All I know is it can't be that, just like [The Social Network]. If you go back and look on the Internet when it was announced we were making this movie, you'll see it was met with a collective "Ugh, a movie about Facebook... how can that be good?" People were understandably saying "Ugh" to the movie that was in their heads, which was a bad movie. I would have said "Ugh" to the same thing, too. I promise you that The Politician will surprise you as much as [The Social Network] did.
Continue to Page 2 for additional excerpts from Sorkin as well as actors Eisenberg and Hammer.