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Summary:

In a draft script for “The Social Network” that I obtained from sources in the movie industry, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is portrayed as vindictive and naive. A spoiler alert seems strange given the movie is supposedly based on real events, but now you’ve been warned.

The origin of Facebook, as Mark Zuckerberg now tells it, came out of long talks in his dorm room with his college friends about how to make the world more open. Given there are records from Zuckerberg’s sophomoric blog at the time, I think it’s fair to say that’s revisionist history. But there’s revisionist history, and then there’s a Hollywood movie written by Aaron Sorkin.

In a draft script for the upcoming movie “The Social Network” that I obtained from sources in the movie industry, Zuckerberg is portrayed as vindictive and naive. He’s obsessed with being excluded from Harvard’s elite “finals clubs,” he longs for attention from girls, and he’s an eager apprentice to the egotistical bad boy Sean Parker (that’s the Justin Timberlake role, natch). “The Social Network” is set to arrive in theaters in October, with a good chance of influencing popular opinion about the founder of one of the most-used web sites in the world.

Probably the best line in the script comes from a made-up ex-girlfriend based on a line from Zuckerberg’s actual blog, which described the reason he created FaceMash, the predecessor to Facebook, as a way to “take his mind off” a girl who was a “b***h.” The girl, who in Sorkin’s version becomes a recurring character and a driving force for Zuckerberg’s psyche, tells him,

Listen. You’re going to be successful and rich. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a tech geek. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an a**hole.

The action of the script cuts between scenes at Harvard and in Palo Alto and the depositions for lawsuits between Zuckerberg and other former Harvard students who have claimed ownership over the original concept and execution of Facebook (Eduardo Saverin, the original funder of the company, and Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who had informally hired Zuckerberg to build something similar before Facebook launched). Both lawsuits were settled, which is hinted at in the final scenes. The plot plays out in the formative days of the company in 2004 and 2005 – the only reference to the present day is in the marketing for the movie, which proclaims “You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.”

Sorkin’s telling is based largely on largely on Ben Mezrich’s book “The Accidental Billionaires,” a dramatization of the history of Facebook as told to Mezrich by Saverin, but Sorkin takes even greater liberties than Mezrich. The script combines series of events into scenes and turns real people into roles fit for Justin Timberlake. It also gratuitously objectifies women.

Zuckerberg, per Sorkin, is difficult and arrogant – two adjectives that aren’t far off in real life – but he also says outrageous things like:

LAWYER: During the time when you say you had this idea, did you know that Cameron and Tyler came from a family of means?

ZUCKERBERG: (pause) A family of means?

[This question is reformulated a few times and Zuckerberg doesn't directly answer it.]

LAWYER: In one of your e-mails to Mr. Narendra [the Winklevoss' friend and partner] you reference Tate Winklevoss’ consulting firm.

ZUCKERBERG: (beat) If you say so.

LAWYER: Tate Winklevoss founded the firm and its assets are in the hundreds of millions.

ZUCKERBERG: Or roughly the amount I paid in income tax last year, go on.

Sorkin also has Zuckerberg smoking cigarettes, being recognized by Bill Gates while still in college, and planting stories about Saverin and animal cruelty, all of which seem pretty implausible. And it wouldn’t be a very entertaining movie without a 12-foot bong at the Facebook home-office, sex in bathroom stalls, and coke snorted off of underage girls’ breasts at a sorority party celebrating Facebook crossing the 1 million user mark, right?

Zuckerberg has said publicly that he “probably won’t” watch the movie. “I think they somehow portray it that I’m building Facebook to get girls,” he said at a recent appearance at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif. “The truth is, I’ve been dating the same girl since before I started Facebook.”

Zuckerberg added he can only hope that “people will remember us for what we build.” Now that doesn’t sound like a very interesting plot for a movie.

Embedded below is a short excerpt from the script: Excerpt removed at the request of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

There’s No Stopping Facebook

Please see the disclosure about Facebook in my bio.

  1. And this is inaccurate?

    The guy seems like an arrogant schmuck. Someone who thinks they are better then everyone else and has no problem lying, stealing and cheating to get his way. In other words: A spoiled brat.

    Or he could just be misunderstood and all the people who have bad things to say about the guy are in it for revenge or to knock down the guy…

    But I have yet to read a single article that paints him as anything other than this…everyone seems to say bad things about the guy. He has very few defenders. Is this a conspiracy of _____________ or is he really a f’n jerk?

    I say jerk. And everyone wants a jerk to fail. Including me.

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    1. No, I don’t think the movie is accurate, if that’s what you’re asking.

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      1. It’s obviously not the point. The point (again) is: I never heard ANYBODY say anything nice about Zuckerberg, might that be in real life or fictionally. That speaks volumes about the real guy.

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      2. @Luca – Arrogance is a prerequisite for ambition. Zuckerberg is not a bad guy, he’s extremely idealistic and driven. I think he’s created something that’s supremely influential and useful for the world. He has grown into the role he has now.

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      3. Since the nesting limit, I answer here:

        Arrogance isn’t a prerequisite for ambition at all. History is full of brilliant yet humble figures. Nobody can define Gandhi as arrogant, for example.

        But this isn’t even what I was talking about, and how defensive you’re being here means we’re probably onto something: can you find me a single piece of literature that has anything unconditionally nice to say about Zuckerberg? I can’t, and I looked.

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      4. “Nobody can define Gandhi as arrogant, for example.”

        Gandhi told the British they should just surrender to Hitler, which seems pretty damn arrogant to me. Among other things.

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      5. Whether Zuckerberg is a good guy or not is not the issue here in my opinion. The real question is whether this movie is accurate or not. I’m more incline the think it’s not the case, just like with the vast majority of Hollywood biopics. Movie directors are just taking to many freedom adapting their works to an audience who’s more in thirst of sensation/emotion/action than plain truth.

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  2. Vindictive and naive is a pretty nice way of putting it.

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  3. Why is this news? The script has been floating around cyberspace for at least a year.

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  4. I think Mark Zuckerberg is a nice guy. There you go Luca. Your quest is over, you’ve found it.

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  5. [...] got its hands on an early draft of the Facebook movie script. Mark Zuckerberg comes across as vindictive and [...]

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  6. The funniest thing is the article is the statement; “It also gratuitously objectifies women.” Like this is a revelation? Gee, college guys and young tech geeks (along with, er, every other young guy on the planet)objectify women. In that sense, the movie will be spot on accurate (actually, it’ll probably be toned down).

    As for the rest – yeah, Zuckerberg is, and always has been, a total ass. Sometimes that happens with successful guys. I’d say Zuckerberg is currently in the Top 5 A-Hole Tech CEO’s — but he’s got a long way to go to get to #1 (held by Larry Ellison since birth).

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    1. Thanks Max for the perspective. :)

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  7. Ummm….this movie is a work of FICTION based on real people and events. The writer of Your headline is misleading. Even Sorkin stated that he’s not interested in accuracy of fact, he’s only interested in writing a good story.

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  8. C’mon. Let’s admit it. If the movie were true to real life, then it would be boring as ****. The same is true for most biographical movies out there.

    Imagine a movie where it’s Zuckerberg and his friends in a dorm room drinking Coke, cranking code, watching the Simpsons, getting Jack-in-the-Box, taking a dump, sleeping, cranking more code, driving to Safeway to get more Coke, pushing his code live, and so on.

    Without the dramatization people would be falling asleep. A cocky, pretentious, smart and successful playboy is a more interesting character than a nice and humble nerd.

    Lastly, I think Zuckerberg should DEFINITELY see this in that he would get a kick out of how inaccurate the movie is. If I were in his position, I know I would. Why take yourself so seriously? Not everyone has a movie made after them.

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    1. I totally agree, but it’s awful weird to make a movie based on the very recent past depicting real people (many of whom are not public figures) in a fictional way.

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  9. [...] movie portrays Mark Zuckerberg as “vindictive and naïve.” That’s the conclusion GigaOm draws based on a leaked draft script of the film, “The Social Network,” written by [...]

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  10. Everyone involved with the movie has said this is not a documentary based on Facebook and it’s conception. It’s a movie based on the book the Accidental Billionare. David Fincher and Alan Sorkin along with all the actors have said more then once it’s just a movie and that they took liberties with the movie to make it more interesting so whats the big deal?

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