Showrunner and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin is a straight shooter, so much so that his worlds can ricochet and cause major headlines.
In the October issue of WIRED, the screenwriter sat down for a Q&A discussing his new film “Steve Jobs,” how it was affected by the Sony hack, and why he is always so nervous.
Excerpts courtesy of WIRED:
ON HOW THE PROJECT BEGAN:
AS: “I had just done The Social Network and Moneyball for Sony, with Scott Rudin producing. Amy Pascal, who at the time was the co-chairperson at Sony, called and said, “We want you to adapt Walter Isaacson’s book.” I sort of immediately began shaking. Scott is very good at talking me into things when I’m nervous about doing them, and I said yes. “
ON WHY HE WAS SO NERVOUS:
AS: “I’m nervous before I do anything. It’s just standing at the bottom of a mountain and looking up with no clear path of how you’re going to get to the top. But in this case, it was particularly daunting for me as I didn’t know that much about Steve Jobs, and the idea of doing a biopic was daunting.”
ON THE START OF THE CREATIVE PROCESS:
AS: “I work very slowly, and the first couple of months are spent just pacing around, climbing the walls, and saying, “I have no idea what I’m going to do. I don’t know how to do this.” It was in that period that I decided not to write a biopic.
When you’re doing a biopic, it’s very hard to shake the cradle-to-grave structure that audiences are so familiar with. People are going to come into the theater knowing that first we’re going to see a little boy with his father, and he’s looking into the window of the electronics store, and then we’re going to hit these famous signposts along the way in Steve Jobs’ life.
ON NOT BEING A SCREENWRITER:
AS: “Also, I’m not really a screenwriter; I’m a playwright who pretends to be a screenwriter. I’m most comfortable writing in claustrophobic pieces of geography and periods of time.”
PITCHING SCOTT RUDIN THE FILM’S THREE-SCENE STRUCTURE:
AS: “In reading about the trouble they were having getting the Mac to say “Hello” at the 1984 launch, I got this idea, and I wrote an email to Scott saying, “If I had no one to answer to, I would write this entire movie in three real-time scenes, and each one would take place backstage before a particular product launch. I would identify five or six conflicts in Steve’s life and have those conflicts play themselves out in these scenes backstage—in places where they didn’t take place. Two or three minutes later, I got an email from Amy Pascal—Scott had forwarded my email to her—and she said “I think this is a great idea.” I couldn’t believe it. They were going to let me do it.”
ON THE SIMILARITY WITH “THE SOCIAL NETWORK”:
AS: “Only the irony gave me pause—the irony being that I’m technologically illiterate. I’m not sure why I’m the go-to guy for the binary system, but I wasn’t worried about repeating myself. I know that it would be a different animal.”
ON WHAT SURPRISED HIM ABOUT JOBS:
AS: There were two things that I wanted to try to get my arms around. One had to do with Lisa. I’m the father of a daughter too, and it was hard for me at first to get past Steve’s treatment of his daughter – the denial of paternity and so forth. But what started out as this huge obstacle became a great engine for writing the movie.
The other thing is what we hear Seth Rogen say in the trailer: “What do you do?” Where is the evidence of genius from Steve Jobs? There’s the success, I get that, but I’m not getting what it is that Steve did. It was in talking to Lee Blow and Woz and Andy Hertzfeld and all these people that I began to get an idea of it.”
ON THE FIRST CHOICE ACTORS FOR THE FILM:
AS: “The truth of the matter is that Steve Jobs, comparatively speaking, went off without a hitch. I know it doesn’t seem that way, primarily because of the Sony hack and then news leaking that we were talking to Leonardo Dicaprio and we were talking to Christian Bale”
ON THE SONY HACK:
AS: “Listen, if you were to tell me that Kim Jong-un was going to have a direct effect on my life, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it happened.”
ON ANALOG SECRECY FOLLOWING THE HACK:
AS: “The script itself was very heavily guarded. Once it was done, you had to go to Amy Pascal’s or Scott Rudin’s office to read it, and I’m talking about the heads of agencies – Ari Emanuel and Richard Lovett. An employee would be sitting in the room while they read it. There was a lot of secrecy.”
ON THE AUDIENCE RESPONSE:
AS: “There are going to be people who say we were rough on him, and there are going to be people who say we weren’t rough enough on him. But I think we made a good movie, and I think that if you asked 10 writers to write 10 movies about Steve Jobs, you’d get 10 different movies that wouldn’t resemble one another.”