EXCLUSIVE: Aaron Sorkin's Full Screenplay For 'The Social Network' – Plus Q&A

EXCLUSIVE: With Sony Pictures’ permission, Deadline Hollywood presents Aaron Sorkin’s full screenplay here for The Social Network. Also, my interview with this frontrunner for Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar follows:

Aaron Sorkin set out to be an actor, but those early career plans were trumped when he began writing for the stage. In 1989, at the age of 28, he was named Outstanding American Playwright by the Outer Critics Circle for A Few Good Men. Just three years later, he wrote the screenplay for the film version which was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. His subsequent success in film has included scripts for Malice (1993), The American President (1995), Charlie Wilson’s War (2007) and the upcoming Moneyball. As an Emmy-winning television writer and producer, he was behind critically acclaimed Sports Night, long-running The West Wing, and the short-lived Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip. But he has never been nominated for an Academy Award:

DEADLINE: This script about the behind-the-scenes of the founding of Facebook is technically an adaptation but not based on the actual book?
AARON SORKIN: Initially, I was given a 14-page book proposal that Ben Mezrich wrote for his publisher about these guys and the friction between them. The publisher wanted to get simultaneous film deals and took it to Hollywood and that’s how it ended up in my hands. And I said yes on page three. That’s the fastest I’ve ever said yes to anything. And it was because it’s set against this very modern backdrop of this very modern profession that I didn’t know very much about at all. It was a classic story of friendship, loyalty, betrayal, power, jealousy and class: things that Shakespeare and Chayefsky wrote about yet none of those guys was available so I have it.

DEADLINE: How did you write this without actually reading the book?
SORKIN: There was no book at the time, actually. There was just a book proposal, and I had assumed that the studio would actually want to wait until the book was finished. But they wanted me to start right away. So then I actually began, at the same time, but on separate tracks. As for my research, with people who are still alive there is obviously a tremendous responsibility. Everybody has an internal moral compass that says, ‘First, do no harm’ and if for some reason that compass is broken, there’s also vetting by a team of lawyers that could fill up a theatre. And they won’t allow you to say something that’s untrue or inflammatory. The research went very quickly. It fell into different categories. There were parts that I was helped with by two lawyers (an intellectual property lawyer and a courtroom lawyer) but finally and most importantly it was first person research — speaking directly to the people themselves.

DEADLINE: We know Mark Zuckerberg didn’t cooperate but did you ever meet Eduardo Saverin, the character played by Andrew Garfield?
SORKIN: Once Eduardo signed that non-disclosure agreement after his settlement, he disappeared off the face of the earth. We don’t know exactly how much he received, but it’s in the hundreds of millions. And it will probably go over a billion because he also does now own a lot of Facebook stock. But on October 1st, the movie opened and that’s the day I met Eduardo. I got a phone call from our producer Scott Rudin that a representative for Eduardo had contacted him late at night. He wanted to see the movie. So we set up a private screening for him in New York right before Lady Gaga’s private screening. It’s true. I went to meet him when the movie was over and you could have performed surgery on him without anesthesia at that point in time. I gotta say, he was a deer in the headlights which is an understatement. He did certainly expect to like the movie a lot, but you could tell in his face that he had just relived the thing. It’s an unreasonable experience that hardly anybody, including myself, knows what it’s like to have a chapter from your life suddenly written, directed, lit, shot, and performed by actors. That was the first and only time I met Eduardo.

DEADLINE: And what was Zuckerberg’s reaction?
SORKIN: He has seen it. Mark, I think, has been a great sport about this and I don’t mean to be glib. I don’t think that there’s anybody who would want a movie made about the things they did when they were 19 years old. And if you were going to have that movie made, you would want it told only from your point of view, and not from the points of view from the people suing you. And that is what happened. And Mark also saw the movie on October 1st. He shut down the Facebook offices, bought out an entire movie theatre, took the entire Facebook staff to the movie, and then took them out for Appletinis which was declared to be the official drink of Facebook. (What bar in Palo Alto has that much Appletini mix? But somebody did.) As it happens, Jesse Eisenberg’s first cousin works very closely with Mark Zuckerberg, which has got to be terribly uncomfortable. But over an Appletini, Jesse’s cousin texted Jesse saying Mark really liked the parts that he agreed with.

DEADLINE: The actors’ performances are more interpretative, right?
SORKIN: They are definitely not impersonations. David and I both made it clear that we weren’t looking for physical impersonations. Justin Timberlake was playing an anti-hero in the movie, and Jesse was playing an anti-hero in the movie. Because I wrote these guys as anti-heroes. Jesse’s character is an anti-hero for an hour and 55 minutes of the movie, and a tragic hero for the final five minutes of the movie. But when you are playing those parts, when you are writing those parts, you can’t judge the character. You have to respect the character, and so, as you do that, you have to find the parts of yourself that are like that character. I’m awkward. I’m shy like most people. I’ve felt like an outsider.

DEADLINE: These interesting complex characters are made for you as a writer.
SORKIN: Absolutely, even better once there are actual actors doing it. This was a great experience from the beginning until right this minute. But first there’s a year or so that’s spent by yourself and you’re so grateful for anyone else to be involved. But then we got David Fincher.

DEADLINE: Few would have thought the combination of Aaron Sorkin, master of dialogue, and David Fincher, master visual stylist, would ever have worked?
SORKIN: It wasn’t an intuitive marriage in terms of director and material. Because as you say, David is peerless as a visual director, and I like people talking in rooms. But now that we’ve done it, I can’t imagine anyone else having directed it or directing it as well. He first did a great job of telling a story being told with language and he did bring a very distinctive visual style to it. He got extraordinary performances out of extraordinary, but young, actors and then, once it got into post production, was able to make scenes of typing. And sometimes just talking about typing look like bank robbers. So I can’t tell you enough good things about David.

DEADLINE: Can you talk about the structure of the film going back and forth between the deposition and the flashbacks?
SORKIN: The structure occurred to me, not instantly by any means. It was a long period after research was done. I just paced around climbing the walls on how the content was going to look and what story I was telling. But the defendants, the plaintiffs, the witnesses, they all walked into the deposition rooms and they all swore to tell the truth and they ended up with three very different versions of the story. So rather than just picking one side as the truth and the story that I tell, what I really like was that there were three different versions of the story, and I wanted to tell them all. I really like courtroom dramas that begin with you being convinced of somebody’s guilt or innocence, and you change your mind several times along the way. So I thought: I’ll use these two depositions as the pillars to tell the story. I wish I would have arrived at those ideas quicker. It took me a long time to get there. Other writers, better writers, understand immediately that that’s how you’re supposed to do that. So it just takes me a while to get there.

DEADLINE: How much did you play with the facts gleaned from the transcripts?
SORKIN: I’m not going to mess with somebody for the sake of making a flashier movie somehow. But, and I know that this will sound like I don’t have a conscience and I’m contradicting myself, but there is a difference between a non-fiction movie and a documentary. There’s a difference between a non-fiction movie and journalism. And I would tell anyone that if you are seeing a movie that begins with ‘The following is a true story…’, you need to look at that movie the way you would a painting and not a photograph. This is my take on what happened. You can put a bowl of fruit on a table and have 10 people take a picture of it and those 10 photographs would look pretty much like each other. If you ask 10 painters to paint it, you’re going to get a lot of different versions of the thing. And so I was telling a true story, but very quickly the people became characters to me and not historical figures. And people, and properties of people, and properties of characters, actually have very little to do with each other. I know people don’t speak in dialogue, and life doesn’t play itself out in a series of connected scenes that form a narrative. But that’s what a writer does.

DEADLINE: How did you shape your dialogue to make it work dramatically?
SORKIN: There are other writers who are great at writing incredibly realistic and very gritty dialogue. There are writers like Sam Shepard or David Mamet who are absolute virtuosos at writing dialogue where people have a lot of difficulty communicating with each other. Scenes where nobody is ever talking is not something that I can do. But what I do while I’m writing is, I’m playing all parts while it’s happening.

DEADLINE: Which comes first, the writing or the dialogue?
SORKIN: I became a writer because at a very early age my parents took me to plays all the time. A lot of the time I was too young to even understand the play. They took me to see Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf when I was nine years old. There was no way I knew what was going on, but I loved the sound of dialogue. It sounded like music to me. And I just wanted to imitate that sound and so to me, what the words sound like is just as important as what they mean.

  1. Um, thank you for publishing what can only be considered a wonderful learning tool for aspiring writers (or just fans of cinema).

    This is simply fantastic.

    Please do this more often!

  2. I love this movie, but a little sick of Sorkin patting himself on the back with how they researched, found, and used the actual clothes the main players wore, but made Divya Narendra played by an a non-Asian actor who’s attachment meant nothing to the box office (or actual performance.)

    What’s the harm?

    When the only portrayals of South Asians and East Asians in popular culture are laughable caricatures and stereotypes, all it does is reinforce the poor treatment. It’s okay for Hilary Clinton to describe Gandhi as, “You know, that guy running a gas station in St. Louis,” but if you dare say anything about Latinos or African-Amerians, it’s political suicide.

    It’s okay to create Super Bowl commercials and Chad and Ranjit tech and talk commercials, big media doesn’t mind throwing those groups under the bus every time it can, so the flyover states they so despise can laugh at us.

    Forget about the fact that this isn’t the story of FB, it’s the story of Aaron, with his nose pressed up to the glass. Yes, we create to increase our chances with partners, but create for the joy of creating. Mark didn’t make FB so he can blown in the bathroom, he did it because he’s a creator. If we made a movie about Aaron Sorkin’s life, it would 90 minutes in the airport in Hawaii. And that’s not to fair, either.

    1. Look, we’re all sorry you didn’t get the part, but that’s no reason to go whining about the film. And calling Max Minghella “non-Asian” is not really correct, look him up on Wikipedia. So he’s not ethnically Indian. So what? It’s a minor role that hardly makes or breaks the film anyway.

      1. I wasn’t up for the part.

        Maybe I would have gotten it, maybe it wouldn’t.

        And that’s just the point — this complain isn’t just some disgruntled minority. I wasn’t complaining when 21 was white-washed of the MIT Asian kids, because I get that no one is paying to see a movie with 21 Asian kids. But maybe you see someone Indian or Asian or Jewish in a movie, it says, Hey, these people, these faces that man our Emergency Rooms and hotels and convenience stores, they actually contribute to what makes our country great.

        Max Minghella would have zero career if his dad weren’t famous. Nepotism is a part of the business, but let’s not pretend that his partial Asian-ness had anything to do with it. Hell, the real life Indian dude is better looking even.

        I think the movie is a stunning achievement in writing and directing. I’m not one of the people complaining about how all of Sorkin’s actors, through his entire body of work, all talk exactly alike. I don’t care, it’s better than something like THe Kids are All Right, which is absolutely bland, non-eventful screenplay that may win an Oscar.

        I just wish it was, you know, accurate in any way, beyond getting lead and bit character’s wardrobe’s correct.

        1. Well, if we’re getting into an argument about accuracy, it was an airport in Burbank, not Hawaii. If we’re getting into an argument about doing the right thing, it probably wouldn’t involve your bringing up Aaron Sorkin’s personal life in a conversation about the casting of his film. One is not relevant to the other. If you’ve got a problem with Max Minghella’s casting, the person you should probably address concerns to is David Fincher, but if he was so particular as to have Mark drink a particular brand of beer while taking revenge on Erica, had the character’s race been important, he’d have matched it exactly. He picked the best actor for the part. I appreciate your frustration, especially because there are wonderful Indian actors in the industry, but it’s not a reason to criticize Max’s career or Aaron’s past.

          1. My point in bring up Sorkin’s personal life is that the guy made about someone’s LIFE. How do you think it made Zuckerberg’s girlfriend feel to make it seem like he screwed Asian groupies in the bathroom, presented it as an Asian fetish? Maybe he has one, maybe she has a white/Jewish fetish. How do you think it made Mark feel to have his motivation for creating FB the fact that he couldn’t get into social clubs? It’s annoying. Yes, the movie was terrific. It did make him look great, in many/most ways, but that’s like saying breaking the law is okay if it achieves good ends. Well, what if the movie wasn’t good, or what if it was great, but it doesn’t change the fact that Mark and others aren’t happy with the fact that this will now come to pass as their history.

            My only point was that, Sorkin himself has said the line in every single interview, face pressed against the glass. Just because he keeps saying, I wouldn’t want to be judged by my actions at 19, doesn’t make it okay to then invent false motivations, etc. Beyodn that, my point was that if we made a movie about Sorkin, it would stand in history as the definitive truth, and if I said, Well, Sorkin does this bad thing or that bad thing because his parents were awful to him, or he was full of self-hate, well that’s completely unfair. Maybe he just likes to have a good time, to get out of his head and feel the synapses firing.

            Remember, Breakfast at Tiffany’s made Asians look like clowns, and we were then treated that way. I like the character of Harold in Harold and Kumar, but you better believe that every Asian kid in America who gets messed with gets called “Harold” as an insult. It’d be nice if people can say, wow, one of the Harvard guys involved in this huge piece of American history was a dark-skinned Indian guy. It humanizes them in the minds of people who don’t have contact with Indians or Asians. That’s all I’m saying.

          2. This is actually a reply to Asian SAG Member as the option to reply to his/her last post is not available. I too was pretty disturbed by the Asian fetish and portrayal of Asian women in Sorkin’s film. Asian groupies at a Jewish event? And then two Asian girls give the Facebook guys blow jobs in a bathroom? Then more Asian girls at the club purely as eye candy? They just docilely watch the men talk, and have but a few lines? Then Eduardo Saverin’s Asian arm candy goes batshit crazy and lights his bed afire? Way to perpetuate the dragon lady stereotype, Sorkin.

  3. Nice interview Pete.

    Aaron Sorkin just might as well dust off his Oscar speech because between the smart structure/choices of his Social Network screenplay and his whip-smart dialogue (sure, I’m aware of the criticism he gets that his characters all sound alike — but their speech just snaps and crackles off the page!) he should be a shoo-in for Best Adapted Screenwriting.

    (Didn’t Sorkin claim in previous interviews that his screenplay was original and that he really hadn’t drawn on Metzger’s lame book? So why the switch to Adapted?)

    In either case, Sorkin’s a master. And this interview rocks.

  4. Fine movie, but Aaron Sorkin is far more corrupted by his own ego than the characters he wrote about in SN. I’m a big fan of West Wing, but having lived through the creation of Facebook at Harvard, and knowing Mark and the rest of those involved, Aaron couldn’t have missed the mark more in his storytelling (and he must know, because he certainly did not “speak directly to the people themselves” as he said, since I know all those involved and none of them ever spoke to Sorkin). The fact that he is getting as much applause as he is for this movie is laughable, considering that he actually believes that the story he told is even a shred of the truth, not to mention that the praise he is getting is at the expense of good people who are far more talented, creative, and ego-less than Sorkin. To listen to him and Rudin talk about this movie to the awards press really just makes me smile – two guys who are seriously obsessed with image, and wildly driven by their own egos, feeding off their misguided understandings of entrepreneurship, creativity, the Internet, and the truth. But history is often written by good story tellers, and I can’t discredit Sorkin there. Just wish that a writer of his caliber had a better moral compass, and a better understanding of his own ego. All said, Fincher made a slick film.

    1. it was his interpretation of the situation. the movie wasn’t a history lesson either. you’re kind of splitting hairs on a bald head bud

      1. Except for the fact that it was marketed and sold as fact, dude. if it was “his interpretation” then he (and the studio) would have sold it as such. Instead, they allowed audiences to believe they were getting a history lesson, using real people’s name. don’t see your argument. agree with the above.

        1. Actually he did a composite to get Christy, and changed the real-life Erica’s name. The words “it’s not a documentary” is a cliche, but it’s things were done to make it more dramatic without losing the essence of the truth–well, the versions of the truth available to Sorkin.

          Do you really think your pals are gonna go “yeah I talked to Aaron Sorkin”? They don’t want word to get back to Mark (or Mark’s lawyers), I’m sure. You can’t be sure you know about every confidentiality agreement out there. They talked on condition of anonymity to Sorkin, so they probably kept their mouth shut about it outside of those conversations. They might even lie to your face if you asked them whether they’d talked, and it doesn’t make anyone less of a friend for doing that. They’re covering their asses, and I don’t blame them.

      1. @ Bobby the Saint…

        You had me cracking up, Bobby. I was thinking the EXACT same thing. That Zuckerberg (or one of his PR flaks) posted that critique. Sure as heck sounds that way!

    2. So did he miss the mark in his storytelling, or was he a great storyteller? You sound like Mark Zuckerberg’s mom after four martinis.

    3. Hey, I wasn’t there. But anyone who has even seen an interview with Zuckerberg can tell that the movie has caricatured his personality beyond recognition; dude’s geeky but not nearly as Aspergerish as the movie portrayal. That said, the movie was great and I loved it; Sorkin did a great job with the writing – it’s just unfortunate that the excellent writing had to use real names in service of heavily fictionalized versions of events. Art is art; but the movie is a little bit of a con.

    4. I like how he mentions that Zuckerberg bought everybody appletinis, but doesn’t mention that Zuckerberg did it as a joke because he’d never had one before.

    5. Whether this poster is Zuckerberg or not, I couldn’t agree more. Have you ever seen Sorkin on talk show? The guy has ego shooting out of his pores. Clearly, they had a little fun with the subject matter, but Sorkin would never express that fact in such humble terms.

    6. Anyone who believes ANY Hollywood film that is “based on a true story” is actually true, is stupid. Narrative films are FICTION and are ALWAYS altered to maximize drama and marketability within a 120- minute time frame.

      So I’m sure you’re right that The Social Network isn’t accurate. No one cares. The question is: was it a good film?

  5. Sorkin is known to post (under his real name) on countless blogs. I kind of admire it. I wonder how many of the defenses that will appear will come from him. I think he’s awesome.

  6. Thanks for posting the script Pete. This is awesome and I’m sure will be required reading for many aspiring screenwriters.

  7. I agree. Sorkin even said it’s more akin to a painting than it is to a picture. Look, he took these real people and made them into characters, and took a true story and re-wrote in a dramatic, compelling narrative. I’m sure Henry V wasn’t as well-spoken as Shakespeare imagined him. And the truth is, Sorkin’s creations were expertly crafted, and the movie does seek to help us understand our own generation and something that is very much a part of it. Insofar as it accomplishes that, I think he did a brilliant job. But I’ve never seen him brag about how historically accurate he made it. Calm down, bro. 21, from my understanding, was a much greater exercise in throwing the truth under the bus and making a slick story that one alleges is “true.” Granted, a lot of the same people involved so….

  8. This is NOT the shooting script, by the way. THAT would have been interesting to see.

    This is an after-the-fact transcript or post-filming updated version. There are several lines or instances that were changed AFTER filming (as confirmed by Sorkin, Fincher, and others on the DVD/Blu-Ray commentaries) that are reflected here in this posted script. Still interesting to read, but a script is far more interesting to read when you can see things that were cut or changed when comparing to the final product. I wish we could read the true shooting script instead of this post-filming cleaned-up version.

  9. Good interview. Thanks for the script. The real life stories “making of” even when glammed up are loved and appreciated by the students of this biz.

  10. As someone who pulls out A Few Good Men more times than I’d like to admit, just to marvel at the writing, it slays me that Sorkin has never been nominated for an Oscar, and that that was his first foray into screenwriting. As noted, it was nominated for Best Picture, but that year (1992) Howard’s End won Best Adapted Screenplay over The Player, A River Runs Through It, Scent of a Woman and Enchanted April.

  11. In a business where so many writers have fantastic careers yet are essentially talentless I really enjoy Aaron Sorkin’s work. It is true that all his characters sound alike and that is a significant flaw, but he does write beautifully and between The Social Network and The West Wing is arguably the most accomplished writer writing today. I have never met him, but from all accounts he’s a jerk. But so what. I mean, it would be nice if he were a mensch, but that’s a criticism of him as a person not as a writer. Matthew Weiner is another huge talent with an ego to match. Yes, Tina Fey seems lovely, but she is much more the exception that the rule. Picasso was probably the biggest asshole and biggest artistic talent of the 20th century. It diminishes him as a person, but the work speaks for itself.

  12. It’s great that you’re publishing the script for all to see. A Brilliant move!! Hopefully, will be the first of many. A real service to the writing community and others.

  13. Aaron Sorkin is a genius. Plain and simple. Does he have an ego? Sure – wouldn’t you if you were as smart and sharp as he is? He also clearly loves words and films. He also has stated unequivocally that his script is, to his mind, very much a work of ‘fiction’ – it is “based” on actual events and people and the book as it captured them ergo the awards category. All I know is his dialog is brilliant, funny, poignant, complicated and snarky. I could watch the introduction scene between Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks on a loop. As I gather he is no longer dating Beth Swofford – I’d love someone to let him know I’m available :)

  14. ps. as much as I enjoyed watching the movie… I now can’t wait to read it. Thank you for sharing it.

  15. This IS cool, but the rather obvious “Oscar Campaigning” -ness of it leaves kind of a bad taste in my mouth…

  16. Hey,Aaron is definitely great. Is it possible to download full version of screenplay for above mentioned film?

  17. Sorkin seems to be the king of dialogue with his two people in a booth scene. I learned a lot from the interview, Pete, and thanks for sharing, Sorkin.


  18. I appreciate the posting of the screenplay – great study tool. My big objection is I can’t print it to read and mark up in class. Big disappointment!

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