On its way to being the highest grossing box office hit of the year, The Social Network, a movie about the drama and controversy behind the world’s largest social networking site, Facebook, has been remarkably free of any problems.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his team have largely been quiet on the subject of the movie that deals with the meteoric rise of the world’s youngest billionaire, Zuckerberg, and that discloses how the tech genius may have betrayed his friends on the way up.
But in his first and only interview in India, the movie’s screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, the man behind the scriots of Hollywood blockbusters like A Few Good Men and Charlie Wilson’s War, says the reason Facebook didn’t sue the makers is because "we haven’t lied." "Facebook can say the movie’s fiction all they want, but if it were fiction, Facebook would own Sony right now," Sorkin jokes.
"It works like this," he explains. "You can write a movie about, say, General Motors, and call the company General Motors in the movie, but you can’t say anything that’s untrue or defamatory. Similarly, Facebook knows we haven’t lied."
The Social Network, which releases in India on November 12, premiered here at the MAMI film festival on October 21, and was such a craze, that on its second screening, it caused a commotion among spectators who were left without tickets. Sorkin heard about this back in the USA, and says he was “thrilled” to know of it.
“I heard that people couldn’t get in, so the people inside showed their solidarity and got them in somehow,” he says. “I haven’t been to India but I’d really love to come now.”
‘Mark took his entire staff to watch the movie’
Aaron Sorkin on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s response to the movie based on his life.
You’ve said that you didn’t know much about Mark Zuckerberg before you took on the movie. So what attracted you to the story?
What attracted me to the story really didn’t have anything to do with Facebook; I’m not someone who gets very excited about
technology. What excited me were the story’s classical elements — the themes of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, jealousy and power — set against a modern backdrop. It was irresistible to me.
An element of the story seems to be that the idea of Facebook came to Zuckerberg because of a girl. Is that something that interested you?
(Chuckles) Absolutely, it did. Mark Zuckerberg joins a long line of great men in history, who started great events because of a girl. Erica is the Helen of Troy of Facebook. The precursor to Facebook, Facemash, was a revenge stunt directed first at this girl, who had broken his heart.
Since there was such detailed research involved, was this the longest it took you to write a script?
It’s actually the shortest it took me to write the script! It took me a year, which, for me, is very short, because I do not have a reputation in Hollywood of being a speedster (chuckles). It’s not the writing that takes a long time for me, it’s the thinking of what to write.
When I’m writing, I don’t need a scene-by-scene outline. But I do need to know the first scene, and what it leads to. So once I’ve thought of that, I want to write with speed and energy, because I believe that energy makes its way on to the page.
The movie’s director, David Fincher, is known for his visual style of directing. Since this is such a dialogue-based movie, how did you guys go about collaborating?
Yes, on the face of it, it’s not an intuitive marriage of director and material. David is most known for being peerless as a visual director, while I like writing people in rooms. But I think it worked beautifully. David embraced that this would be a story told through language but he did bring in his distinctive visual style to it. He got extraordinary performances out of a young cast of actors. And then, in the editing room, he took scenes of coding and hacking, and made them look like bank robberies! David brought an ungodly artfulness to the set up.
I’ve read how Mark Zuckerberg first un-favourited your show, The West Wing, from his Facebook profile, and later, put it back up. Have you read about this?
Yes, and I appreciate it. I think, Mark, who I don’t know at all, has shown an awful lot of class. On the day the movie opened in the US, October 1, Mark shut his Facebook offices, bought out a movie theatre, and took his entire staff to see the movie, and then took them out for drinks.
I don’t think anybody would want a movie made out of the things they did when they were 19 years old. And it would be even more uncomfortable for a 26-year-old guy, who already has the weight of the world on his shoulders. Mark gets my credit for this.
So what do you think made him accept the movie?
Jesse Eisenberg’s first cousin works very closely with Mark. And he texted Jesse, saying that Mark really liked the parts he agreed with. And that, I think, was a very generous response.
You’ve said in interviews that you identify with Mark.
When I say I can identify with him, I don’t mean that I consider myself antisocial. I’m shy, I’m socially awkward and I get nervous in social situations, thinking that I may say something wrong, do something wrong, or that I don’t quite fit in. I think these are feelings many, many men can identify with.