Aaron Sorkin is a contemporary great, one of the most acclaimed screenwriters of our time with a broad array of excellent work to his name. Sorkin is known for his dense, witty and fast-paced dialogue, complex characters and intelligent storytelling. Having had an envious screenwriting career across film and television with 104 wins from 173 nominations, Sorkin is the holder of an Academy Award, a BAFTA, three Golden Globes and six Primetime Emmy Awards. Living the dream when it comes to screenwriting, it’s worth revisiting the origins of his illustrious writing career to find out where and how it all began.
Born in New York in 1961, Sorkin grew up in the suburb of Scarsdale. Having nurtured a love for theatre through high school drama and theatre club, he obtained a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theatre from Syracuse University. Theatre has become the proving ground for many acclaimed writers who ventured into the realm of screenplays. Sorkin’s career as a playwright began with Removing All Doubt, which was followed up with Hidden in this Picture.
Sorkin’s breakthrough came in the award-winning 1989 play A Few Good Men, which catapulted him into the Hollywood spotlight after it was adapted to film. The Tom Cruise-led courtroom drama, featuring Jack Nicholson, landed some career-defining moments for both actors with lines like “You can’t handle the truth!” quickly entering the pop culture fray and underscoring Sorkin’s rising star.
Having hit gold with his well-acted and powerful legal drama, Sorkin’s presence was felt and led to a number of critically-acclaimed political dramas in The American President (1995), The Social Network (2010), Moneyball (2011), Molly’s Game (2017) and The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020). During this time, Sorkin also found a foothold in television, the creator and writer behind the complex, sharp-witted and intelligent dramas: Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Newsroom.
Sorkin has a knack for writing about complex issues in a way that makes them engaging and entertaining. Whether politics, law or business, he’s managed to find a way to keep his dialogue compelling, lively and succinct without losing magnitude and meaning. Typically rapid-fire, Sorkin’s known for writing long screenplays that would ordinarily increase the running time of projects by 30%.
Having done this for the brilliant behind-the-scenes business drama, The Social Network, which would’ve checked in at 3 hours… David Fincher helped rope this monumental screenplay in by speeding up dialogue. It takes some getting used to in the opening gambit as Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara spar with words but makes The Social Network well worth revisiting, catching a nuance or missed joke here and there.
Testament to Eisenberg’s casting is Sorkin’s ability to create relatable and fascinating characters with dialogue that is both realistic and witty. These are trademark aspects to Eisenberg’s performance style, making for a quietly effective and organic representation of Mark Zuckerberg in his university days at the beginning of the Facebook phenomenon. These complex and well-rounded aspects to Sorkin’s writing is what make it stand out, recognisable and easily associated with the screenwriter when you consider commonalities from his broader body of work.
Having recently directed his own screenplay in The Trial of the Chicago 7, this film gives us a chance to see how the visionary screenwriter would interpret his own work as director. Trusting the power of the script, he attracted an array of fine actors to his courtroom drama, finding a good balance in translating this landmark trial to screen. A bastion of American culture, Aaron Sorkin’s films and television series have come to represent some major turning points across the spectrum. Running the risk of becoming boring in the hands of a lesser screenwriter or film-maker, it seems that Sorkin’s skill is in making complex drama more palatable and intelligble.