So Aaron Sorkin has met with HBO’s Sue Naegle and they’re trying to come up with a series. But the intriguing news from a brief GQ interview with him is what Sorkin had to say about his behind-the-scenes activity during the writers strike. And it closes out something that has stuck in my craw all these months. To refresh your memory, I’d reported January 2nd about a secret meeting of some top screenwriters and TV showrunners banding together to make a powerful coalition that would force the WGA leadership to accept whatever deal the DGA makes with the AMPTP. Their hush-hush activity was to weigh their options about how to best exert pressure for the strike to be settled. Well, I was excoriated for posting this info, with some Internet loudmouths even claiming this group didn’t exist. And on February 4th I elaborated further that the leaders of different dissident factions within the WGA (“some made up of very powerful TV showrunners and feature film writers”) had approached the guild toppers with an ultimatum that they would no longer be silent if a deal weren’t done within 48 hours. So now Sorkin confirms this to GQ:
What did you do during the Hollywood writers’ strike? Guilt-free vacation?
I had a play in previews on Broadway.
Right, The Farnsworth Invention.
For three and a half weeks I was in the unique position of being on strike and being struck against at the same time.
Yes, the Broadway stagehands went on strike.
This was about three weeks before Charlie Wilson’s War was opening. I thought, If the projectionists go on strike, that’ll fill out my bingo card. I’ll have to ask my parents for my allowance again. Anyway, I spent most of the time during the writers’ strike in New York with the play. Once that was over and I’d come back to L.A., I did participate in something that should have happened months earlier. Paul Attanasio—
The guy who produces House?
Yes—invited about seven or eight or nine of us over to his house for dinner. All screenwriters you would know. We all agreed that we had been irresponsible and that, in an effort not to seem elitist, we had remained quiet during this strike. We hadn’t voiced our objections. We hadn’t put pressure on Patric Verrone and the other heads of the union to end this thing. It wasn’t a strike we were passionate about. The fact of the matter is that people we all work with every day—and I’m talking about the 120 or so people on a movie set or a TV set, who are all the principal wage earners for their families—don’t have the kind of bank accounts that can weather a strike like this. We’d been wrong.
What was the dinner like?
The Directors Guild had reached an agreement the day before. We, that night, called the leadership of the Writers Guild. I know it sounds like a bunch of revolutionaries getting together to do the right thing, but you should know the dinner was catered. It’s not like the old days. This isn’t a Clifford Odets Waiting for Lefty thing, okay? Everybody showed up in a German car. And this is exactly why we didn’t want to voice our objections to the strike. We thought, We’re going to get killed. However, here’s what we told our leadership at the Guild: that we feel strongly that the DGA deal is fair, That we should accept from the studios and networks what they’ve given to the DGA. We named who we were in the room and said that if we didn’t see fast action over the next forty-eight hours, that we would have to make our feelings public.
I have no idea if it worked or not. I know that the strike ended. It could have been for entirely different reasons.