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Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin on May 18, 2009
Born Aaron Benjamin Sorkin
June 9, 1961 (1961-06-09) (age 48)
New York City, New York,
United States
Occupation Screenwriter, producer, playwright
Years active 1984–present
Spouse(s) Julia Bingham (1996–2005)

Aaron Benjamin Sorkin (born June 9, 1961) is an American screenwriter, producer and playwright, whose works include A Few Good Men, The American President, The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip and The Farnsworth Invention.

After graduating from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre in 1983, Sorkin spent much of the 1980s in New York as a struggling, largely unemployed actor.[1] He found his passion in writing plays, and quickly established himself as a young promising playwright. His stageplay A Few Good Men caught the attention of Hollywood producer David Brown, who bought the film rights before the play even premiered.[2]

Castle Rock Entertainment hired Sorkin to adapt A Few Good Men for the big screen. The movie, directed by Rob Reiner, became a box office success. Sorkin spent the early 1990s writing two other screenplays at Castle Rock, Malice and The American President. In the mid-1990s he worked as a script doctor on films such as Schindler's List and Bulworth. In 1998 his television career began when he created the comedy series Sports Night for the ABC network. Sports Night's second season was its last and in 1999 overlapped with the debut of Sorkin's next TV series, the political drama The West Wing, this time for the NBC network. The West Wing won multiple Emmy Awards, and continued for three more seasons after he left the show at the end of its fourth season in 2003. He returned to television in 2006 with the dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, about the backstage drama at a late night sketch comedy show, once again for the NBC network. While Sorkin's return was met with high expectations and a lot of early online buzz before Studio 60's premiere, NBC did not renew it after its first season in which it suffered from low ratings and mixed reception in the press and on the Internet. His most recent feature film screenplay is Charlie Wilson's War.[3]

After more than a decade away from the theatre, Sorkin returned to adapt for the stage his screenplay The Farnsworth Invention, which started a workshop run at La Jolla Playhouse in February 2007 and which opened on Broadway in December 2007.[4]

He battled with a cocaine addiction for many years, but after a highly publicized arrest he received treatment in a drug diversion program and is reported to have recovered.[5] In television, Sorkin is known as a controlling writer, who rarely shares the job of penning teleplays with other writers. His writing staff are more likely to do research and come up with stories for him to tell. His trademark rapid-fire dialogue and extended monologues are complemented, in television, by frequent collaborator Thomas Schlamme's characteristic visual technique called the "Walk and Talk".

Contents

Early years

Sorkin was born in Manhattan to Jewish parents, and raised in the wealthy suburb of Scarsdale, New York.[6][7] His mother was a school teacher and his father a copyright lawyer; both his older sister and brother went on to become lawyers.[8][9] Sorkin took an early interest in acting. Before he reached his teenage years, his parents were taking him to the theatre to see shows such as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and That Championship Season.[5] At that age, Sorkin did not always comprehend the plot of the plays; nevertheless he recalls enjoying the sound of the dialogue.[10]

Sorkin attended Scarsdale High School where he became involved in his high school drama and theatre club. In eighth grade he played General Bullmoose in the musical Li'l Abner.[1]

In 1979 Sorkin attended Syracuse University. In his freshman year he failed a class that was a core requirement. It was a devastating setback because he wanted to be an actor, and the Drama department did not allow students to take the stage until they completed all the core freshman classes. He returned in his sophomore year determined to do better, and graduated in 1983 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre.[11]

Unemployed actor, promising playwright

"I don't want to analyze myself or anything, but I think, in fact I know this to be true, that I enter the world through what I write. I grew up believing, and continue to believe, that I am a screw-up, that growing up with my family and friends, I had nothing to offer in any conversation. But when I started writing, suddenly there was something that I brought to the party that was at a high-enough level."
—Aaron Sorkin, on becoming a writer.[9]

After graduation, Sorkin moved to New York City where he worked odd jobs ranging from delivering singing telegrams,[1] driving a limousine, touring Alabama with the children’s theatre company Traveling Playhouse,[9] handing out fliers promoting a hunting-and-fishing show,[1] to bartending on Broadway at theatres such as the Palace Theatre.[12] One weekend, while house sitting at a friend's place he found an IBM Selectric typewriter, started typing, and "felt a phenomenal confidence and a kind of joy that [he] had never experienced before in [his] life."[9]

He continued writing and eventually put together his first play Removing All Doubt which he sent to his old theatre teacher, Arthur Storch, who was impressed. In 1984, Removing All Doubt was staged for drama students at his alma mater, Syracuse University. After that, he wrote Hidden in this Picture which debuted off-off-Broadway at Steve Olsen's West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theatre Bar in New York City in 1988. The contents of his first two plays got him a theatrical agent.[13] Producer John A. McQuiggan saw the production of Hidden in this Picture and commissioned Sorkin to turn the one-act into a full-length play called Making Movies.[14] His reputation as a playwright was quickly gaining stature on the New York theatre scene.

A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men at London's Theatre Royal Haymarket on August 31, 2005.

Sorkin got the inspiration to write his next play, a courtroom drama called A Few Good Men, from a phone conversation with his sister Deborah, who had graduated from Boston University Law School and signed up for a 3-year stint with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps. She was going to Guantanamo Bay to defend a group of Marines who came close to killing a fellow Marine in a hazing ordered by a superior officer. Sorkin took that information and wrote much of his story on cocktail napkins while bartending at the Palace Theatre on Broadway.[15] He and his roommates had purchased a Macintosh 512K so when he returned home he would empty his pockets of the cocktail napkins and type them into the computer, forming a basis from which he wrote many drafts for A Few Good Men.[16]

In 1988 Sorkin sold the film rights for his play A Few Good Men to producer David Brown before it even premiered, for a deal possibly worth a sum well into six-figures.[17] Brown had read an article in The New York Times about Sorkin's one-act play Hidden in this Picture and found out Sorkin also had a play called A Few Good Men that was having off-Broadway readings.[2] Brown produced A Few Good Men on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre. It starred Tom Hulce and was directed by Don Scardino. After opening in late 1989, it ran for 497 performances.[18]

Sorkin continued writing Making Movies and in 1990 it debuted off-Broadway at the Promenade Theatre, produced by John A. McQuiggan and directed by Don Scardino.[14] Meanwhile, David Brown was producing a few projects at TriStar Pictures and tried to interest them in making A Few Good Men into a film but his proposal was declined due to the lack of star actor involvement. Brown later got a call from Alan Horn at Castle Rock Entertainment who was anxious to make the film. Rob Reiner, a producing partner at Castle Rock, opted to direct it.[2]

Screenwriting career

Working under contract for Castle Rock Entertainment

In the early 1990s, Sorkin worked under contract for Castle Rock Entertainment, Inc.[19] He wrote the scripts for A Few Good Men, Malice, and The American President: the three films grossed about $400 million worldwide.[6] While writing for Castle Rock he became friends with colleagues such as William Goldman and Rob Reiner and met his future wife, Julia Bingham, who was one of Castle Rock's business-affairs lawyers.[20]

Sorkin wrote several drafts of the script for A Few Good Men in his New York apartment,[19] learning the craft of screenwriting from a book about screenplay format.[13] He then spent several months at the Los Angeles offices of Castle Rock, working on the script with Rob Reiner.[19] William Goldman (who regularly worked under contract at Castle Rock) became his mentor and helped him to adapt his stageplay into a screenplay.[21] The movie was directed by Rob Reiner, starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon, and was produced by David Brown. A Few Good Men was released in 1992 and was a box office success.[22]

Goldman also approached Sorkin with a story premise, which Sorkin developed into the script for Malice. Goldman oversaw the project as creative consultant while Sorkin wrote the first two drafts of Malice. Sorkin had to leave the project to finish up the script for A Few Good Men, and screenwriter Scott Frank wrote two drafts of the Malice screenplay. When production on A Few Good Men wrapped up, Sorkin took over and continued working on the script for Malice through until the final shooting script. Harold Becker directed the film, a medical thriller released in 1993, which starred Nicole Kidman and Alec Baldwin. Malice had mixed reviews. Vincent Canby in The New York Times described the film as "deviously entertaining from its start through its finish". Roger Ebert panned it, and Peter Travers in a 2000 Rolling Stone review summarized it as having "suspense but no staying power".[23][24][25]

Sorkin's last produced screenplay for Castle Rock was The American President and once again he worked with William Goldman, who served as a creative consultant.[10] It took Sorkin a few years to write the screenplay for The American President, which started off as a massive 385-page screenplay; it was eventually whittled down to a standard shooting script of around 120 pages.[6] Rob Reiner directed. The film was critically acclaimed. Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times described the film as "genial and entertaining if not notably inspired", and believed its most interesting aspects were the "pipe dreams about the American political system and where it could theoretically be headed".[26]

Script doctor for hire

Sorkin did uncredited script work on several films in the 1990s. He did a polish of the script for Schindler's List at Steven Spielberg's invitation,[6][27] and wrote some quips for Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage in The Rock.[28] He worked on Excess Baggage, a comedy about a girl who stages her own kidnapping to get her father's attention, and rewrote some of Will Smith's scenes in Enemy of the State.[28]

Sorkin collaborated with Warren Beatty on a couple of scripts, one of which was Bulworth.[29] Beatty, known for occasionally personally financing his film projects through pre-production, also hired Sorkin to rewrite a script titled Ocean of Storms which never went into production. At one point Sorkin sued Beatty for proper compensation for his work on the Ocean of Storms script, however, he eventually continued working on the script once the matter was settled.[29][30][31][32]

Sports Night

Sorkin came up with the idea to write about the behind-the-scenes happenings on a sports show while he was living in a room in the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles writing the screenplay for The American President.[9][33] He would work late, with the TV tuned into ESPN, watching continuous replays of SportsCenter.[33][34] The show inspired him to try to write a feature film about a sports show but he was unable to structure the story for film, so instead he turned his idea into a TV comedy series.[35][36] Sports Night was produced by Disney and debuted on the Disney-owned ABC network in the fall of 1998.[37]

Sorkin fought with the ABC network during the first season over the use of a laugh track and a live studio audience. The laugh track was widely decried by critics as jarring, with Joyce Millman of Salon.com describing it as "the most unconvincing laugh track you've ever heard".[38][39] Sorkin commented that: "Once you do shoot in front of a live audience, you have no choice but to use the laugh track. Oftentimes [enhancing the laughs] is the right thing to do. Sometimes you do need a cymbal crash. Other times, it alienates me."[38] The laugh track was gradually dialed down and was gone by the end of the first season.[40] Sorkin was triumphant in the second season when ABC agreed to his demands, unburdening the crew of the difficulties of staging a scene for a live audience and leaving the cast with more time to rehearse.[37]

Although Sports Night was critically acclaimed, ABC canceled the show after two seasons due to its low ratings.[41][42] Sorkin entertained offers to continue the show on other television channels but declined all the offers as they were mainly contingent on his involvement which would have been a difficult prospect given that he was simultaneously writing The West Wing at that point.[33]

The West Wing

Sorkin conceived the political TV drama The West Wing in 1997 when he went unprepared to a lunch with producer John Wells and in a panic pitched to Wells a show centered on the senior staff of the White House,[6] using leftover ideas from his script for The American President.[43] He told Wells about his visits to the White House while doing research for The American President, and they found themselves discussing public service and the passion of the people who serve. Wells took the concept and pitched it to the NBC network, but was told to wait because the facts behind the Lewinsky scandal were breaking and there was concern that an audience would not be able to take a show about the White House seriously.[44] When a year later some other networks started showing interest in The West Wing, NBC decided to greenlight the series despite their previous reluctance.[43] The pilot debuted in the fall of 1999 and was produced by Warner Bros. TV.[43]

"Stockard had done an episode of the show as the First Lady ... She took me out to lunch and said she really liked doing the show and wanted to do more and started asking me questions like, 'Who do you think this character is?' And those aren’t questions I can answer. [As a writer] I can only answer, what do they want?"
—Aaron Sorkin, on creating characters.[45]

The West Wing was honored with 9 Emmy Awards for its debut season, making the show a record holder for most Emmys won by a series in a single season.[46] Following the awards ceremony, a fiasco ensued, centered on the Emmy for writing The West Wing episode "In Excelsis Deo" which was awarded to Sorkin and Rick Cleveland, when it was reported in a New York Times article that Cleveland had been ushered off the stage by Sorkin without being given a chance to say a few words.[47] The story behind The West Wing episode is based on Cleveland's father, a Korean war veteran who spent the last years of his life on the street, as Cleveland explains in his FreshYarn.com essay titled "I Was the Dumb Looking Guy with the Wire-Rimmed Glasses".[48] A back and forth took place between Sorkin and Cleveland in a public web forum at Mighty Big TV where Sorkin explained that he gives his writers "Story By" credit on a rotating basis "by way of a gratuity" and that he had thrown out Cleveland's script and started from scratch.[49] In the end, Sorkin apologized to Cleveland, admitting he had been "dead wrong".[50]

In 2001, after wrapping up the second season of The West Wing, Sorkin had a drug relapse, only two months after receiving a Phoenix Rising Award for drug recovery; this became public knowledge when he was arrested at Burbank Airport for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana, and crack cocaine. He was ordered by a judge to attend a drug diversion program.[51] His drug addiction was highly publicized, most notably when Saturday Night Live did a parody called "The West Wing",[52] though he did recover.[5]

In 2002, Sorkin assailed NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw's TV special about a day in the life of a president, "The Bush White House: Inside the Real West Wing," comparing it to the act of sending a valentine to President George W. Bush instead of real news reporting.[53] Sorkin's TV series The West Wing aired on the same network, and so at the request of NBC's Entertainment President Jeff Zucker he apologized, but would later say "there should be a difference between what NBC News does and what The West Wing TV series does."[54][55]

Sorkin wrote 87 teleplays in all, which amounts to nearly every episode during the show's first four Emmy-winning seasons.[56] Sorkin describes his role in the creative process as "not so much [that of] a showrunner or a producer. I'm really a writer."[33] He admits that this approach can have its drawbacks, saying "Out of 88 [West Wing] episodes that I did we were on time and on budget never, not once."[16] In 2003, at the end of the fourth season, Sorkin and fellow executive producer Thomas Schlamme left the show due to internal conflicts at Warner Bros. TV not involving the NBC network, thrusting producer John Wells into an expanded role as showrunner.[57][58] Sorkin would later return in the final episode in a cameo appearance as a member of President Bartlet's staff.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

In 2003 Sorkin divulged to the American television interviewer Charlie Rose on The Charlie Rose Show that he was developing a TV series based on a late night sketch comedy show like Saturday Night Live.[16][59] In early October 2005 a pilot script dubbed Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip for a new TV series, written by him and produced by Thomas Schlamme, started circulating around Hollywood and generating interest on the web. A week later, NBC bought from Warner Bros. TV the right to show the TV series on their network for a near record license fee in a bidding war with CBS.[60] The show's name was later changed to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Sorkin described the show as having "autobiographical elements" to it and "characters that are based on actual people" but said that it departs from those beginnings to look at the backstage maneuverings at a late night sketch comedy show.[61]

In September 2006, the pilot for Studio 60 aired on NBC, directed by Thomas Schlamme. The pilot was critically acclaimed and had high ratings, but Studio 60 experienced a significant drop in audience by mid-season. The seething anticipation that preceded the debut was followed up by a large amount of thoughtful and scrupulous criticism in the press, as well as largely negative and feverish analysis in the blogosphere.[62] In January 2007 Sorkin spoke out against the press for focusing too heavily on the ratings slide and for using blogs and unemployed comedy writers as sources.[63] After two months on hiatus, Studio 60 resumed to air the last episodes of season one which would be its only season.

Back to writing for film

Aaron Sorkin interviewed William Goldman in November 2008 at the Screenwriting Expo.

In 2003, Sorkin was writing a screenplay on spec about the story of Philo Farnsworth, a topic he had first become familiar with back in the early 1990s when producer Fred Zollo had approached him with the idea of adapting a memoir by Elma Farnsworth into a biopic.[5][64] The next year he completed the screenplay under the title "The Farnsworth Invention", and it was picked up by New Line Cinema with Thomas Schlamme signed on to direct. The story is about the patent battle between inventor Philo Farnsworth and RCA tycoon David Sarnoff for the technology that allowed the first television transmissions in the US.[65] However, Sorkin shortly reconsidered "The Farnsworth Invention" as a film and rewrote it as the play The Farnsworth Invention; the film did not go into production.[5]

Sorkin's next jaunt back into film occurred when he was commissioned by Universal Pictures to adapt "60 Minutes" producer George Crile's nonfiction book Charlie Wilson's War for Tom Hanks' production company Playtone.[66] Charlie Wilson's War is about the colorful Texas congressman Charlie Wilson who funded the CIA's secret war against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan.[67] Sorkin completed the screenplay and the film was released in 2007 starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, directed by Mike Nichols.[3]

On July 12, 2007, Variety reported that Sorkin had signed a deal with Dreamworks to write three scripts. The first script is titled The Trial of the Chicago 7, which Sorkin was already developing with Steven Spielberg and producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.[68] In August 2008, Sorkin announced that he had agreed to write a script about how Facebook was founded for Sony and producer Scott Rudin.[69] The film, The Social Network, is set to premiere in 2010.

Returning to the theatre

Aaron Sorkin discussing his play The Farnsworth Invention with an audience at the Music Box Theatre on November 8, 2007 (photo by photographer Eric Weiss).

After more than 15 years away from the theatre, Sorkin found himself easing his way back into playwrighting in 2005 when he took to revising his play A Few Good Men for a revival at the London West End theatre, the Haymarket. It had been a while since he had originally written the play and so he gave it a polish. The play opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the fall of the same year and was directed by David Esbjornson, with Rob Lowe of The West Wing in the lead role.[70]

Yet Sorkin had begun thinking about writing a fresh new play back in 2003 when he was contacted by Jocelyn Clarke, the commissions manager of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, requesting he write a play for them, a commission which he accepted.[71] In time Sorkin decided to tackle his commission by rewriting "The Farnsworth Invention" as a play.[5][71] He delivered a first draft of the play to the Abbey Theatre in early 2005, and a production was purportedly planned for 2007 with La Jolla Playhouse in California deciding to stage a workshop production of the play in collaboration with the Abbey Theatre. But in 2006 the Abbey Theatre's new management pulled out of all involvement with The Farnsworth Invention.[71] Despite the setback, La Jolla Playhouse pushed on, with Steven Spielberg lending his talents as producer.[72] The production opened under La Jolla's signature Page To Stage program which allowed Sorkin and director Des McAnuff to develop the play from show to show according to audience reactions and feedback; the play ran at La Jolla Playhouse from February 20, 2007 through March 25, 2007.[73][74] A production followed on Broadway, beginning in previews at the Music Box Theatre and scheduled to open on November 14, 2007; however, the play was delayed by the 2007 Broadway stagehand strike.[4][75] The Farnsworth Invention eventually opened at the Music Box Theatre on December 3, 2007 following the end of the strike; it closed on March 2, 2008.[76][77]

Sorkin has continued in his renewed capacity as a playwright, attaching himself to several projects. In March 2007, it was reported that Sorkin had signed on to write a musical adaptation of the hit 2002 record Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by psychedelic-rock band The Flaming Lips, collaborating with director Des McAnuff who has been developing the project.[78][79][80] In August 2008 Des McAnuff announced that Sorkin had been commissioned by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival [81] to write an adaptation of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard.[82]

Writing process and style

Sorkin has written for the theatre, film and television, and in each medium his level of collaboration with other creators has varied. He began in theatre which involved a largely solitary writing process, then moved into film where he collaborated with director Rob Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman, and eventually worked in television where he collaborated very closely with director Thomas Schlamme for nearly a decade on the shows Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; he now moves between all three media. He has a habit of chainsmoking while he spends countless hours cooped up in his office plotting out his next scripts.[7] He describes his writing process as physical because he will often stand up and speak the dialogue he is developing.[63]

"For me, the writing experience is very much like a date. It's not unusual that I'm really funny here and really smart here and maybe showing some anger over here so she sees maybe I have this dark side. I want it to have been worth it for everyone to sit through it for however long I ask them to."
—Aaron Sorkin, on his writing as characterized by mentor William Goldman.[6]

A New York Times article by Peter De Jonge explained that "The West Wing is never plotted out for more than a few weeks ahead and has no major story lines", which De Jonge believed was because "with characters who have no flaws, it is impossible to give them significant arcs".[9] Sorkin has stated: "I seldom plan ahead, not because I don’t think it’s good to plan ahead, there just isn’t time."[45] Sorkin has also said, "As a writer, I don't like to answer questions until the very moment that I have to." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's TV critic John Levesque has commented that Sorkin's writing process "can make for ill-advised plot developments".[6] Further complicating the matter, in television, Sorkin will have a hand in writing every episode, rarely letting other writers earn full credit on a script.[9] Peter De Jonge has reported that ex-writers of The West Wing have claimed that "even by the spotlight-hogging standards of Hollywood, Sorkin has been exceptionally ungenerous in his sharing of writing credit".[9] In a comment to GQ magazine in 2008, Sorkin said, "I’m helped by a staff of people who have great ideas, but the scripts aren’t written by committee."[83]

"You almost never see how anyone travels from point A to point C [in most TV shows]. I wanted the audience to witness every journey these people took. It all had a purpose, even seeing them order lunch. It just seemed to be the proper visual rhythm with which to marry Aaron's words. I got lucky that it worked."
Thomas Schlamme, on the "Walk and Talk" device.[56]

Sorkin's nearly decade-long collaboration in television with director Thomas Schlamme began in early 1998 when they found they shared common creative ground on the soon to be produced Sports Night.[33][84] Their successful partnership in television is one in which Sorkin focuses on writing the scripts while Schlamme executive produces and occasionally directs; they have worked together on Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Schlamme will create the look of the shows, work with the other directors, discuss the scripts with Sorkin as soon as they are turned in, make design and casting decisions, and attend the budget meetings; Sorkin tends to stick strictly to writing.[33]

One of Schlamme's trademarks is The West Wing's style of continuously tracking in front of characters as they walk side by side while talking at the same time, usually while on their way to a meeting or conference directly related to the substance of the discussion, a visual technique called the "Walk and Talk". Schlamme did not want to have scene cuts that relocated characters without any explanation of how they got there so he developed the "Walk and Talk" device to work with Sorkin's dialogue.[56]

"[T]he trick is to follow the rules of classic storytelling. Drama is basically about one thing: Somebody wants something, and something or someone is standing in the way of him getting it. What he wants—the money, the girl, the ticket to Philadelphia—doesn't really matter. But whatever it is, the audience has to want it for him."
—Aaron Sorkin[85]

Sorkin is known for writing memorable lines and fast-paced dialogue, such as the "You can't handle the truth!" piece from A Few Good Men and the partly Latin tirade against God in The West Wing episode "Two Cathedrals".[9] In television, Sorkin's stylemark is the repartee that his characters engage in as they small talk and banter about whimsical events taking place within an episode, and interject obscure popular culture references into conversation.[86]

Although his scripts are lauded for being literate,[1][9][87] Sorkin has been criticized for often turning in scripts that are overwrought.[88] His mentor William Goldman has commented that normally in visual media speeches are avoided, but that Sorkin has a talent for dialogue and gets away with breaking this rule.[10]

McFarland & Company has published a collection of essays of criticism of Sorkin's works by various writers titled Considering Aaron Sorkin: Essays on the Politics, Poetics and Sleight of Hand in the Films and Television Series and a book of criticism of The West Wing by Melissa Crawley titled Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television's the West Wing.[89][90] A collection of essays about The West Wing has been published by Syracuse University Press as a book titled The West Wing: The American Presidency as Television Drama.[91]

Personal life

Aaron Sorkin speaking at a Generation Obama event, following a screening of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, on 20 August 2008 (photo taken by Victoria Bernal).

From 1996–2005, he was married to Julia Bingham. They have one daughter, Roxy, born in 2000.[92] He has dated Kristin Chenoweth, the actress who played Annabeth Schott on The West Wing,[93] and has reportedly dated Maureen Dowd.[94]

A consistent supporter of the Democratic Party, Sorkin has made substantial political campaign contributions to Democratic candidates between 1999 and 2007, according to CampaignMoney.com.[95] During the 2004 US presidential election campaign, the liberal advocacy group MoveOn's political action committee enlisted Sorkin and Rob Reiner to create one of their anti-Bush campaign advertisements.[96] In August 2008, Sorkin was involved in a Generation Obama event at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills, California, participating in a panel discussion subsequent to a screening of Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.[97]

In 1987, Sorkin started experimenting with marijuana and cocaine. He has said that in freebase cocaine he found a drug that gave him relief from certain nervous tensions he deals with on a regular basis.[9] In 1995, he checked into rehab at the Hazelden Institute in Minnesota, on the advice of his then girlfriend and soon to be wife Julia Bingham, to try and beat his addiction to cocaine.[92] In 2001, Sorkin along with colleagues John Spencer and Martin Sheen received the Phoenix Rising Award for their personal victories over substance abuse.[98] However, two months later on April 15, 2001, Sorkin was arrested when guards at a security checkpoint at the Burbank Airport found hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana, and crack cocaine in his carry-on bag when a metal crack pipe set off the gate’s metal detector.[9][99] He was ordered to a drug diversion program.[51] Saturday Night Live parodied the highly publicized event in a comedy sketch called "The West Wing" where the U.S. President played by Darrell Hammond does a "Walk and Talk" through the corridors of the White House while tripping on mushrooms, accompanied by host Pierce Brosnan.[52]

Sorkin continued working on The West Wing, and his workaholic habits and drug-taking were both reported to have contributed to the break-down of his marriage, which ended in divorce.[100][101] There have been no public reports of any further drug use.[5]

Credits

Television series

  • Sports Night (1998–2000) creator, writer (40 episodes), executive producer (45 episodes)
  • The West Wing (1999–2006) creator, writer (1999–2003, 86 episodes), executive producer (1999–2003, 89 episodes)
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006–2007) creator, writer (22 episodes), executive producer (22 episodes)

Films

Plays

Uncredited work as script doctor

References

  1. ^ a b c d e "In the Spotlight: Script Sensation", Brad Herzog, Syracuse University Magazine, Summer 2001. Retrieved on May 9, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c Prigge, Steven (October 2004). Movie Moguls Speak: Interviews with Top Film Producers. McFarland & Company. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-0786419296.  
  3. ^ a b Martin A. Grove (2007-01-12). "Holiday weekends will drive 2007 boxoffice". Hollywood Reporter. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/search/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003531904. Retrieved 2007-01-23.   (subscription required)
  4. ^ a b ""Aaron Sorkin's Farnsworth Invention to Open on Broadway in November"". Playbill. 2007-06-21. http://www.playbill.com/news/article/109037.html. Retrieved 2007-06-22.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Bruce Weber (2007-11-04). "Prodigal Returns, Bearing Dialogue". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/04/theater/04webe.html. Retrieved 2008-09-31. "'I’ve been healthy for six and a half years,' he said. 'But like any addict I’m one phone call away from that not being true.'"  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g John Levesque (2000-03-07). "Aaron Sorkin is a man of many words". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/tv/sork07.shtml. Retrieved 2007-01-10.  
  7. ^ a b Oliver Jones (2001-05-28). "A Troubled Genius". US Weekly. http://b4a.healthyinterest.net/news/000083.html. Retrieved 2007-01-22.  
  8. ^ Josef Adalian, Michael Schneider (2000-07-26). "Sorkin to nest at WBTV: Big deal for ace scribe runs 4 years". Variety. http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117784231.html. Retrieved 2008-09-26. "Sorkin's association with Warner Bros. follows in the footsteps of his father Bernard, a New York–based copyright expert who started with the studio 40 years ago when it was Warner Bros.-7 Arts."  
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Peter De Jonge (2001-10-28). "Aaron Sorkin Works His Way Through the Crisis". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B01EFD81F3EF93BA15753C1A9679C8B63. Retrieved 2007-01-12.  
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Further information

External links


Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Aaron Benjamin Sorkin (born 9 June 1961) is a playwright and screenwriter, originally from Scarsdale, New York. He is known for his rhythmic dialogue and inventive television style.

Sourced

  • Writing anything, it sorta starts the way you'd build a castle at the beach. You're just taking your hands and you're mounting up sand.
    • The West Wing Season Two Commentary Track: Noel
  • "Is it (Sports Night) a comedy or a drama?" That's generally not a question I try and answer for myself before I'm going to write something. The example I would use is, if you're driving in your car and you're listening to a rock 'n' roll station on the radio and a song comes on, and in the song you hear elements of jazz and folk and you hear strings in there ... it's not necessary to answer the question, "Is this jazz, is this folk, or is this rock?" before you decide to listen to it and like it or not.
    • Interview for Comedy Central
  • People who don't know anything tend to make up fake rules, the real rules being considerably more difficult to learn.
    • The West Wing Script Book: Volume 1, Introduction
  • I love writing but I hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says. " You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, giftless. I'm not your agent and I'm not your mommy, I'm a white piece of paper, you wanna dance with me?" and I really, really don't. I don't want any trouble. I'll go peaceable-like.
    • The West Wing Script Book: Volume 1, Introduction

Quoted Works of Aaron Sorkin

External links

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:



Simple English

Aaron Benjamin Sorkin is an American screenwriter. He was born on June 9, 1961 in New York, New York. He is most famous for creating and writing The West Wing, a television show about the lives of people who work in the White House. He also wrote the movies The American President and A Few Good Men (which he took from a play he'd written with the same name), and created and wrote the television show Sports Night.









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