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The Social Network
Press Conference
With Justin Timberlake, Jesse Eisenberg and Arron Sorkin
New York Film Festival
September 24, 2010

Written by H. B. Forman



“ Getting to the heart of the Social Network”

The Social Network

The new film The Social Network is sharp, topical and on-the-mark.

One of the standouts at this year’s New York Film Festival, the premise of the movie is delving into the life of Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of the biggest virtual community -- known as Facebook – and the film is more than compelling.

Add to the fact that it was written by West Wing and American President scribe Aaron Sorkin, and it is portrayed by a stellar cast, including singer/actor Justin Timberlake, and actors Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield, it all adds up to a major home run.

Believe it or not 26-year-old Mark Zuckerman [Eisenberg] started Facebook in his dorm room and seven years later, it was a multi-million-dollar corporation valued a few years ago at $15 billion. Facebook connects 500 million members in 207 countries. The movie looks at this abrasive, sarcastic and rather angry young man, who prefers computers to people. The movie is tense, fast moving and compelling.

The Social Network, which recently opened in area theaters, profiles one young man’s road to becoming a billionaire and fans everywhere are buzzing about the accuracy of the film’s storyline. Whether or not the film is true, it’s undeniable that Facebook has had a huge impact on society and our daily lives.

According to a recent poll at MovieTickets.com, of almost 10,000 moviegoers, 39 percent of them began using Facebook as a teenager, while surprisingly 25 percent of them began using the social networking site when they were over the age of 40. So above all else, it is a movie that is terribly current in its content and makes us think on many levels.

The well-attended 48th New York Film Festival showed a wide variety of cutting, edge, intelligent, thought-provoking and eclectic films, including Clint Eastwood’s latest Hereafter, starring Matt Damon and Bryce Dallas Howard, that follows three separate plotlines dealing with mortality. Here is a look at The Social Network from its actors and writer, Aaron Sorkin.

Justin Timberlake
Photo Credit PR Photos

Question: Are you addicted to Facebook in the real world?

Justin Timberlake: It's hard enough to do voice work in animated films, at the same time!

Question: Justin, will you be singing again anytime soon?

Justin Timberlake: I was hoping you were going to ask me about [my animated work as] Yogi Bear! I'm glad that we can just get that...out of the way.

Question: What are some of the challenges of playing guys that lots of people think are well…assholes?

Justin Timberlake: It soon became clear to me that my character wasn't...the hero! So to speak. But you never play anything sitting behind a laptop, twirling your mustache. And that's the beauty of this film to me. You sort of get to pick who you side with. And I think that's the dynamic of what makes these characters tick. But you defend your character; just like nobody believes what they're doing is wrong in life.

Question: Was there something about Zuckerberg that got you hooked on this movie?

Justin Timberlake: I also have empathy for human beings, thank you! No, I think we all felt that so much information was just there, on the paper. But as far as playing my character, I just stayed far away from anything on the Internet as I could. Just for myself, you meet my character when he pretty much meets Facebook. So I wanted to be excited by that. But like what's been said, the themes and ideas are so much bigger than what the actual invention of Facebook in the film services.

Question: What else are your thoughts about this movie – which has to be so different from your music?

Justin Timberlake: I’ll jump to it really quickly. It’s fun to watch the film. There are so many scenes that get shot without certain actors in the scenes and I think there’s a line that Jesse’s character has about it being a final club. He said, “You are the president. It’s a party and you’re throwing it.” I think that’s kind of the intrigue behind having your own Facebook page and creating your own profile. It’s your world; I would assume that that’s sort of what it is. As we’ve been promoting this film I get the idea collectively that none of us are really that savvy at using Facebook or any other social networking site, so I would think that that would be the intrigue.

Question: Okay, that makes sense what else struck you?

Justin Timberlake: I think that what makes the film so intriguing in the bigger picture of things if you kind of zoom out is that I think social networking in general is still a hypothesis. I find that people are still asking the question and they ask it more and more to people like us – I don’t know why they expect an answer, because like I said, I’m ridiculously stupid when it comes to computers and social networking – but I think the hypothesis is still pretty clear -- is it a good thing or is it a bad thing?

Question: Okay makes sense.

Justin Timberlake: And I think there’s always a medium, there’s always a medium that’s being pushed to show us how human we are, how kind we are and how cruel we are, and so the accessibility and the instant gratification of having all of your photos and profile and everything lined up, I think that’s probably what makes something like a Facebook or any other social networking site so great to people. I think that’s the intrigue is that we still wonder if it’s going to create great things in the world or are we going to waste away with it, and that’s probably what’s going to get people in the theater.

Question: I know you said you’re not really that savvy when it comes to computers, but what is your online obsession?

Justin Timberlake: You you really want to know about that? It’s really not that interesting. I’m not obsessed. I’m happy to say, I’m three years clean.

Question: I understand you did get to meet Sean Parker and I wonder how that went and if you gained anything from it.

Justin Timberlake: I briefly bumped into him here in New York one time, but we spoke for probably all of two minutes. Ironically, I met him before I was cast in the role. One of the parts of the zeitgeist that is the internet, there was about a three week period where I was going through the audition process that it was announced that I was going to play the role. So I went through a three week period of damn it, I better get this role because everyone think I’m playing him. No, I’m kidding. But I met him before I was cast in the role of Sean Parker in the movie. We met briefly and he seemed very nice but we didn’t really talk about much. He mentioned that he had read the script and he thought that I was going to be playing the part but at the time I wasn’t, so that was awkward. He seemed like a nice guy though. We said hello and it was in passing; I was leaving and he was arriving to a place.

Justin Timberlake and Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network

Question: Jesse, were you trying to play Zuckerberg as Asperger Syndrome afflicted?

Jesse Eisenberg: Well yeah, there's a certain kind of disengagement that you see. But frankly, it's not unlike some of the disengagement I do during these interviews! Because, they can be incredibly uncomfortable. So to attribute his behavior to some kind of extreme diagnosis, doesn't feel right to me. But there was this quality I wanted to bring out. You know, this difficulty connecting with others. Of course that would make his invention so much more ironic. You know, that he created something that connects everybody else. And feels perfectly comfortable in the environment of Facebook.

Question: Will you elaborate on that?

Jesse Eisenberg: Well, even though he may seem enigmatic and detached, there was still something beneath that. And he's created something out of nothing and is a billionaire, but still feels alone. So even though it may seem mysterious, it's coming from a real place. But yeah, it was certainly something that we wanted to bring out. And it makes the character far more interesting to play, that he has trouble connecting with others. But I certainly don't want to diagnose him!

Question: Are you addicted to Facebook in the real world?

Jesse Eisenberg: I signed up for Facebook the first day of rehearsal. So I could understand what my character was talking about!

Question: What are some of the challenges of playing guys that lots of people think are assholes?

Jesse Eisenberg: Well, it's impossible to play a role and look at it the way you do, or objectively at all. Because my main responsibility was not only to understand where my character was coming from, but to be able to defend all of his positions and his behavior. And ultimately sympathize with him.

Question: Anything else you can add to that?

Jesse Eisenberg: Well, over the course of the movie, and now, I've developed an even greater affection for my character. You have no choice. I mean; it's impossible to disagree with a character. You know, you're shooting over months and for very long days, so you're spending a lot of time working hard to defend your character's behavior. So even if the character is acting in a way that hurts other characters, you still have to understand all of that behavior. It's just impossible to play it any other way.

Question: Was there something about Zuckerberg that got you hooked on this movie?

Jesse Eisenberg: I auditioned for the movie prior to looking up Mark Zuckerberg online.

Question: Well, you seemed to nail him pretty well anyway.

Jesse Eisenberg: I didn't know what he looked like, and I never heard him speak. But in order to fell more prepared and know whom this guys was, I got my hands on every interview, and watched every video that was online. But this is not so much a movie about Facebook. In the same way that this is not a traditional biopic, where I'm trying to do an imitation of him. So I was really just focused on playing the director's idea of Mark Zuckerberg. And even though he may seem enigmatic and detached, there was still something beneath that. And he's created something out of nothing and is a billionaire, but still feels alone. So even though it may seem mysterious, it's coming from a real place. But yeah, it was certainly something that we wanted to bring out. And it makes the character far more interesting to play, that he has trouble connecting with others. But I certainly don't want to diagnose him!

Question: Jesse, if you could meet Mark Zuckerberg and speak with him, what would you like to know?

Jesse Eisenberg: I’d like to go to Johnny Rockets with Mark because I like their shakes. I spent six months thinking about him everyday, I developed a great affection for my character and of course by extension the man, and I’d be very interested in meeting him. Fortunately, my first cousin, Eric, got a great job working at Facebook about a month before we finished shooting, and I’m hoping he’ll facilitate an introduction one day. I don’t know what I would say. It’s the kind of thing you think about all the time but then I’d finally give the card to Lucy and say Merry Christmas, Lucy, instead of Happy Valentine’s Day.

Question: Talk about the character of the ad executive and whose idea it was for this character? I couldn’t find when I was watching the film who the clear-cut good guys and bad guys were. Who’s the antagonist of this story?

Aaron Sorkin: I’m glad that you couldn’t find a clear cut good guy or bad guy, right, wrong, a person with the truth, a person who is lying. The antagonist and protagonist in the story shifts as we go along. This movie I don’t think belongs to any particular drama, but the one it’s most closely related to is actually a courtroom drama, where we are certain of someone’s guilt or innocence at the beginning and we change our mind five times all the way through. But strictly speaking, and I don’t mean to get hoity toity on you, but in Aristotelian terms, Mark is the antihero, which actually makes him the protagonist. Generally we equate the protagonist with the hero, with the good guy; that’s actually not what it means. He spends the first hour and 55 minutes being the antihero and the final five minutes of the movie being a tragic hero, which means that he has paid a price and is experiencing remorse.

Question: Tell us more about this, please

Aaron Sorkin: The antagonist again, purely Aristotelian terms, stuff that you learn in playwriting school, which is the person without whom the story couldn’t get going, are the Winklevosses, Sean, and even Eduardo, which is to say simply that if nobody ever sued Mark or Facebook there wouldn’t be a story. In other words, the protagonist and antagonist in this case don’t relate to good guy and bad buy.

Question: I get the sense that you and [the film’s director] David Fincher are both fairly meticulous individuals. So I was wondering if you could talk about generally what your working style is, how do two people with pretty specific visions make it work in a collaborative way?

Aaron Sorkin: David is peerless, absolutely peerless as a visual director, and I write people talking in rooms. But David, first of all, embraced the fact that this was going to be a story told through language, but he did bring a distinct visual style to this, and he did as a director get sensational performances out of his very talented, but young, cast.

Question: Were there any disagreements or differences between the original script and what we saw on screen?

Aaron Sorkin: Our disagreements fell into two categories; things like the screwdriver and the beer, and let me just parenthetically say for anybody who doesn’t know what you’re referring to, this was in Mark Harris’ New York magazine piece that I think is out this week. We know from Mark’s blog, this is early on, the blog that we hear in voiceover after the breakup scene with Erica, that he’s drunk. He says so; he says, “I’m intoxicated.” That blog was verbatim; I excised small parts of it just to make it shorter and make my life easier with transitions, but it was verbatim.




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