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.
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