Actor: Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson
Aaron Sorkin interview: ‘Social Network’ screenwriter talks writing plays on cocktail napkins
BY JOE NEUMAIER
DAILY NEWS MOVIE CRITIC
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Aaron Sorkin’s script for “The ðSocial Network” is an ingenious, smooth-scrolling, click-within-click dissection of how one idea, several people and a million users turned Facebook into the 21st century’s first great brainstorm.
However, Sorkin, 49 – a Scarsdale native whose Best Adapted Screenplay nomination makes him a front-runner in the Oscar category (the awards air Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC) – fondly recalls another time, other inventions and less immediate technology.
Specifically, cocktail napkins.
“In 1985, after graduating from Syracuse University, I bartended in Broadway theaters,” Sorkin says. “And when you do that, you’re serving people from 7:30 to 8 p.m., a half-hour before the curtain goes up and then you don’t serve them again until intermission. So you have the whole first act to yourself. And I wrote ‘A Few Good Men’ on cocktail napkins during first acts, mostly of ‘La Cage Aux Folles’ at the Palace Theatre.”
That play, a hit in 1989, made Sorkin’s career. It became an Oscar-nominated Jack Nicholson/Tom Cruise blockbuster in 1992.
Sorkin continued with screenplays for “The American President” and “Charlie Wilson’s War,” created “The West Wing” for television and wrote “The Farnsworth Invention” for Broadway, before diving into “The Social Network” for director David Fincher.
Yet his days as a struggling playwright in New York are never far from him.
“I shared an apartment at 49th St. between 10th and 11th Aves. with two other guys from college and I’d come home with my pockets stuffed with cocktail napkins. The three of us had gone in together on a computer, which was just called ‘a Macintosh’ and was roughly the size of our whole apartment.”
He transferred “A Few Good Men” from napkins to computer disk, “and when we could afford it, we bought a printer – the kind that went “zzzt-zzzt-zzzt” and took a half-hour to print a line. But still, we couldn’t believe our eyes at this technology!”
Sorkin’s work around Broadway, before his work was on Broadway, taught him invaluable lessons.
“I worked for a concession company that had a contract for all the Nederlander theaters, so for several years I got to see a ton of plays, which was a great education. Especially because I was mostly hearing the plays while working out front and hearing them over and over again. I got to learn what worked and what didn’t.”