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Home Interviews Brief Encounters Brief Encounters: The Social Network
Brief Encounters: The Social Network Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Monday, 11 October 2010 08:40

Given the sheer brilliance of The Social Network, it was imperative that we interviewed someone about the film, or at least the phenomenon that is Facebook. But with Mark Zuckerberg still ignoring my friend requests, we went for the next best thing: the guy pretending to be Mark Zuckerberg on screen. And his co-stars. And the guy who wrote the whole thing.

And so we sat down to witness the combined talent of Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and West Wing creator/Studio 60 legend Aaron Sorkin. Here's what they had to say about Facebook, Faust and summing up an entire generation of young people.


Aaron, is it surprising people don't need to know a lot about Facebook to enjoy the movie?

AS I don't know anything about social networking, so the audience not needing to either isn't that surprising. As for it being a Faustian drama, that's one of the many things it is. You can say "what profits man, if he gains the world and loses his soul", with Justin Timberlake as Mephistopheles...

I'd just like to clarify that I'm playing the role of Sean Parker, not Mephistopheles. (Laughter)

We're pleased with the reaction - we've screened it across America to students and professors and people are taking away a variety of themes. We encourage that. It's not about one thing, it's about several. We like that arguments are happening in the foyer and in the car park.


Justin, how did you get involved in playing the part of the Napster inventor?

JT Enough cannot be said about how dazzling the script was. There was a lot there to Sean's character - to all of them - and you just never come across such a well constructed character or story like this. It never happens. The 162 pages went by in 5 minutes, like watching the film. And then you feel you need to watch it all over again! I think all the characters are complex, brilliant people, and I didn't so much as throw my hat in the ring as kick the door down!


Andrew, do you agree that your character of Eduardo is arguably the moral hero of the piece?

AG I agree! He's the hero. The only righteous man! (Laughs) It's completely valid to come away with that viewpoint, it's heart-warming for me that you did, and I believe he behaved well and was correct. But if you asked Jesse or Justin, they'd say the same about their characters. It's a multi-perspective look at the inception of this incredible device. I feel like certain people may think Eduardo had a lack of imagination to keep up with the others. Some might think he's too trusting and naive. But we needed that multi-perspective and it's a real testament to the story. It's not often we get to be torn between characters; there are usually just good guys and bad guys. This asks us to use our brains, which can't be a bad thing.


How hard was it preparing to play Mark Zuckerberg, who we know so much and yet so little about?

JE Mark is both publicly enigmatic and arguably the most accessible person in the world, so he's a very interesting character. The more you find out about him, the more mysterious he may become. But Aaron Sorkin is fully credited with creating this character based on a real person - I found out what I could about the real person to help with my preparation and research, but I'm really just playing Aaron's version of Mark.


Do you use Facebook at all? Perhaps under an alias?

JT I don't use an alias to go on Facebook. If I did, I think I'd feel like I was missing out on something going on outside! I think it's irresponsible to answer the question, but I assume it affords you the opportunity to connect with as many people as possible. I just stated the obvious about Facebook! It might be comparable to constantly being on a first date. It affords the chance to always present the best version of yourself.

I used to use it, but I'm four months clean now! I'm starting a support group for people in the same situation! (Laughs) It's a wonderful thing, the last time I used it was at a charity event and we raised four times the amount thanks to it. But as Aaron said, your relationship to social media doesn't have any impairment on your enjoyment of the film. It's a story about talented, hungry, ambitious young men and it's about the bigger things they attempt to deal with. Power, greed, loyalty, betrayal. The is film is more about that.

Facebook truly is a phenomenon. I don't have a Facebook page, but I did set one up under an alias as Andrew Garfield for a week. And made no friends at all. Except for Andrew's alias, who wanted to be best friends with his own fan page... (Laughter)

All my education and experience is in playwriting, not sociology, and I know nothing about Facebook 2010. My knowledge is all from 2004. That said, it does a lot of wonderful things. It's been responsible for a lot of good social activism, like the protests against the Iranian elections. My worry is that a device that brings us all closer together may be doing the opposite. Replacing humanity with technology makes it seem to me a insincere form of communication. We have a way to not show our flaws, in the privacy and solitude of our rooms. I can identify with that because I would like people to think I'm as quick and clever as the people I write. In a way, I do professionally what people do for free on Facebook. 


How challenging were the legal issues when dealing with such a disputed subject?

AS When you're doing non-fiction about people who are still alive, young people, a Hollywood movie is like a loud cannon shot. For most, this will be their only impression of these events. So you have two things in your hands: history and someone's life. First there's a legal obligation and the script is vetted by countless lawyers. I'm simply not allowed to say something that is untrue and defamatory. Even greater is the moral obligation not to mess around with someone's life. Both David and I took the truth as seriously as can be. Rather than pick one of the three conflicting versions, I liked that we used all three versions - apologies to Kurosawa! There's a lot of available research out there, such as Mark's blog post which we hear at the beginning of the film. The girl's name was changed there, it's not Erica Albright, and are there are another two names changed.


So did the threat of legal action make the studio bosses sweat even more?

AS I can’t speak to how much they ordinarily sweat! But I can tell you that there was nothing left to chance. If there was the slightest doubt, I couldn’t say it. I had to supply the studio with an annotated script saying where I got any information. Every time a fact was in dispute, I had to make that clear to the audience. 


Have any of you encountered your real-life counterparts? What do they think of the film?

JE Well last Friday, Mark Zuckerberg rented a movie theatre for himself and all his employees to watch the movie. My cousin, who is actually an employee of facebook, was there. And he sent me a message saying that Mark really liked the parts of the movie that he thought we got right. Which was probably the nicest reaction that I could have hoped for.

Aaron wrote an incredibly detailed and meticulously researched script. So I went in with total confidence. From reading the first scene, I could see that this was authentic and genuine. For any actor to have that amount of detailed humanity as a starting point is a true gift, and a rare gift.


Can you explain how this movie has done so well?

AS We don't know! But we couldn't be more thrilled. I don't do the business bits - they break down figures into something a fifth grader can understand. It's actually broken even in every demographic. Sony have done well to make a film without any of the bells and whistles that we're used to seeing from Hollywood. The only bit of special effects, which you're not meant to notice, is the fact that Armie Hammer plays two people. There are a million ways to go wrong with this film. If you can spot half of them, you're a genius. But David Fincher didn't step in any of the holes. And he's the one who made it brilliant. He won the bull fight with cliché and he made a very special film. 


The Social Network is released on Friday 15th October. Check out the trailer over here. 


  • aaron sorkin
  • facebook
  • jesse eisenberg
  • justin timberlake
  • mark zuckerberg
  • press conference
  • spiderman
  • the social network

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