Aaron Sorkin: The Walking, Talking TV Maestro

I thought you storytellers would find the following bio of the screenwriter Aaron Sorkin inspiring.

aaron-sorkin

Aaron Sorkin is a screenwriter, producer, and playwright who has won Academy and Emmy awards. He is famous for his scripts that are heavy with dialog and often involve people talking as they walk through transition scenes. Needed exposition is typically presented in this form as are small snippets to help scenes move along.

Sorkin has been dubbed the master of this “walk and talk” method and is considered to be a very controlling person to work with. While many writers work on his projects, little credit is given to outside writers for the screenplays themselves. Writers are often forced to pitch small pieces and or find relevant stories that Sorkin will rework himself.

Sorkin is perhaps best known for the following works:

  • A Few Good Men
  • Charlie Wilson’s War
  • Sports Night
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
  • The American President
  • The Newsroom
  • The Social Network
  • The West Wing

Growing Up

Sorkin was born in New York City in 1961 and is the son of a teacher and a playwright. He attended Syracuse University but almost did not make it through the school’s acting program because of some failed classes.

He initially tried to act but wasn’t very good at it. He slowly moved into writing and began working on plays. His first was “Removing All Doubt,” which was initially performed by Syracuse students and staff. His next play, “Hidden in This Picture,” was an off-Broadway success.

His big break came with a written play called “A Few Good Men.” In 1988, Sorkin sold production rights for the play to David Brown. Brown produced the play on Broadway and it had a run of nearly 500 performances.

Movie Starts

After the 80s ended, Sorkin began working for Castle Rock Entertainment as a screenwriter. His scripts included the movie version of “A Few Good Men” as well as his famous film “The American President.”

Sorkin’s first three films made roughly $400 million. During this time he met the woman he would marry: studio lawyer Julia Bingham.

“The American President” was the last screenplay he wrote for Castle Rock and started his path of idealizing a potential political future where the American system could be one of progress and fights over what is best instead of who is wrong.

In the 1990s, Sorkin wrote for a variety of films even though he was not credited on them. These include some one-liners for actors in “The Rock,” scenes for Will Smith in “Enemy of the State,” and Warren Beatty’s “Bullworth.”

TV Debut

Sorkin made his first true venture into TV with the “Sports Night” show. It was inspired by ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and became a comedy series that took a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to run a sports news program.

The show was picked up by Disney’s ABC network and premiered in the fall of 1998.

Sorkin and ABC were constantly clashing, initially over the use of an audience and laugh track. The laugh track starts heavy in the first few episodes but is mostly gone by the end of the first season.

Despite winning accolades, the show was cancelled after two seasons because of abysmal ratings.

Sorkin moved on the political TV drama “The West Wing,” centered on a Democrat president and his administration. In 1999, the pilot debuted on NBC. The show ended up winning nine Emmy Awards in its first season, setting a record.

The episode “In Excelsis Deo” won a writing Emmy, which was awarded to Sorkin and Rick Cleveland, but Sorkin forced Cleveland off stage before he could say anything. The episode is based on the life of Cleveland’s father but Sorkin initially claimed credit for the idea and said that Cleveland was given byline credit as a courtesy. Sorkin apologized years later.

The show ran for seven seasons but Sorkin left after the fourth because of conflicts with the show’s producers.

Sorkin’s current project, “The Newsroom,” is a combination of his two previous wins by focusing on behind-the-scenes activities of a political news show. It stars Jeff Daniels and has been picked up for a third season, set to start in 2014 on HBO.

Personal Issues

In 2001, Sorkin was arrested for possession of many drugs at the Burbank Airport. He entered a rehab program but struggled with addiction for more time to come. This is said to have played a large role in his 2005 divorce, after nine years of marriage to Bingham.
In a Syracuse commencement speech in 2012, Sorkin claimed to have been free from cocaine for eleven years.

How has the recession changed you?

natural-beauty

After losing my job, I was forced to lead a more frugal life. I reduced my numerous beauty products to soap, vinegar, olive oil, and a boar bristle brush. I’ve never looked or smelled better in my life.

Words and image by Anonymous

What is the best/worst advice you’ve ever given?

loveatfirstsightWords and image by Jessica Rodrigue

What door do you wish you never opened?

At 17, my boyfriend and I opened his bedroom door, hoping for some after-school fun, to find–centered neatly on his bed–a used condom in a jar. I think it was safe to say his mom found out we had sex.

Words by Beth Navarro

What is your (or a friend’s) deepest secret?

When we were in our twenties, my very best friend since the 4th grade confessed to me that her biological father had molested her, beginning around that time in elementary school, and that she had always felt so guilty and ashamed because she had grown to enjoy it.

Words by Misha Rongett

What is the worst betrayal you’ve experienced?

mentalillness

“Mrs. Jones? My daughter’s a whore. Don’t let her play with your daughter,” Mom hissed into the phone. She hung up and dialed again. Her sadistic glee scared and confused me. In sixth grade, who knew what whore meant? Mental illness. I know now. Back then, all was pain and shame.

Words and image by Loretta Kemsley, President, Women Artists and Writers International

 

What is the most gracious act of kindness you’ve witnessed?

I was riding the BART train when a homeless man said to me, “I can tell you love music. I’m going to give you this flute.” To this day I have no idea how he knew I’d sold my beloved flute when I moved; his generosity was amazing.

Words by sarawr

What was your most memorable encounter with a celebrity?

heartaflutterGene Autry hired me to ride in the Buffalo Bill Jr. series as a double for Nancy Gilbert aka Calamity Jane. Next to bedazzling, breathtaking Dick Jones. Starred: The Range Rider, Gene Autry Show and Last of the Pony Riders. Heart aflutter, how does an eight-year-old talk to her heroes?

Words by Loretta Kemsley, President, Women Artists and Writers International

What were the strangest circumstances under which you’ve been intimate?

While staying with my boyfriend’s grandmother in Paris, I lay on our mattress on the living room floor and gave him oral gratification under a blanket while they chatted. I tried to be as quiet as possible, but there must’ve been a distinct bobbing motion under the blanket.

Words by Anonymous

What was your most memorable encounter with a celebrity?

I was 12, riding on the subway in Canada with my parents and brother, when we spotted Steve Carlton, ex-pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. He was my brother’s favorite player. My dad told Steve, “My son idolizes you.” Steve smiled softly and replied, “He shouldn’t.”

Words by Lisa Pellegrini