Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Benjamin Sorkin (born June 9, 1961)[1] is an American screenwriter, director, producer, and playwright. His works include the Broadway plays A Few Good Men, The Farnsworth Invention and To Kill a Mockingbird; the television series Sports Night, The West Wing, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, and The Newsroom; and the films A Few Good Men, The American President, Charlie Wilson's War, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs. For writing The Social Network, he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, among other awards. He made his feature directorial debut in 2017 with Molly's Game, which he also wrote.

Sorkin's trademark rapid-fire dialogue and extended monologues are complemented, in television, by frequent collaborator Thomas Schlamme's characteristic directing technique called the "walk and talk". These sequences consist of single tracking shots of long duration involving multiple characters engaging in conversation as they move through the set; characters enter and exit the conversation as the shot continues without any cuts.

Aaron Sorkin
Sorkin at the PaleyFest 2013 panel for The Newsroom
Sorkin at the PaleyFest 2013 panel for The Newsroom
BornAaron Benjamin Sorkin
June 9, 1961 (age 57)
New York City, U.S.
OccupationScreenwriter, producer, playwright, director
Alma materSyracuse University
Years active1984–present
Julia Bingham
(m. 1996; div. 2005)

Early years

Sorkin was born in Manhattan, New York City,[2] to a Jewish family,[3][4][5][6] and was raised in the New York suburb of Scarsdale.[7] His mother was a schoolteacher and his father a copyright lawyer who had fought in WWII and put himself through college on the G.I. Bill; both his older sister and brother went on to become lawyers.[8][9][10] His paternal grandfather was one of the founders of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union (ILGWU).[10][11][12] Sorkin took an early interest in acting. Before he reached his teenage years, his parents were taking him to the theatre to see shows such as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and That Championship Season.[13]

Sorkin attended Scarsdale High School where he became involved in the drama and theatre club.[14] In eighth grade he played General Bullmoose in the musical Li'l Abner.[15] At Scarsdale High, he served as vice president of the drama club in his junior and senior years and graduated in 1979.[16][17]

In 1979, Sorkin attended Syracuse University. In his freshman year he failed a class that was a core requirement – a devastating setback because he wanted to be an actor, and the drama department did not allow students to take the stage until they completed all the core freshman classes. Determined to do better, he returned in his sophomore year, and graduated in 1983.[18] Recalling the influence on him at college of drama teacher Arthur Storch, Sorkin recalled, after Storch's death in March 2013, that "Arthur's reputation as a director, and as a disciple of Lee Strasberg, was a big reason why a lot of us went to S.U. ... 'You have the capacity to be so much better than you are', he started saying to me in September of my senior year. He was still saying it in May. On the last day of classes, he said it again, and I said, 'How?', and he answered, 'Dare to fail'. I've been coming through on his admonition ever since".[19]

Early career as an actor and playwright

After graduating from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre in 1983, Sorkin moved to New York City where he spent much of the 1980s as a struggling, sporadically-employed actor[15] who also worked odd jobs, such as delivering singing telegrams,[15] driving a limousine, touring Alabama with the children's theatre company Traveling Playhouse,[8] handing out fliers promoting a hunting-and-fishing show,[15] and bartending at Broadway's Palace Theatre.[20] One weekend, while housesitting at a friend's place he found an IBM Selectric typewriter, started typing, and "felt a phenomenal confidence and a kind of joy that [he] had never experienced before in [his] life."[8]

He continued writing and eventually put together his first play, Removing All Doubt, which he sent to his old Syracuse theatre teacher, Arthur Storch, who was impressed. In 1984, Removing All Doubt was staged for drama students at his alma mater, Syracuse University. After that, he wrote Hidden in This Picture which debuted off-off-Broadway at Steve Olsen's West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theatre Bar in New York City in 1988. The contents of his first two plays got him a theatrical agent.[21] Producer John A. McQuiggan saw the production of Hidden in This Picture and commissioned Sorkin to turn the one-act into a full-length play called Making Movies.[22]

A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men at Haymarket Theatre London
A Few Good Men at London's Theatre Royal Haymarket on August 31, 2005.

Sorkin got the inspiration to write his next play, a courtroom drama called A Few Good Men, from a phone conversation with his sister Deborah, who had graduated from Boston University Law School and signed up for a three-year stint with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps. Deborah told Sorkin that she was going to Guantanamo Bay to defend a group of Marines who came close to killing a fellow Marine in a hazing ordered by a superior officer.[23] Sorkin took that information and wrote much of his story on cocktail napkins while bartending at the Palace Theatre.[24] He and his roommates had purchased a Macintosh 512K so when he returned home he would empty his pockets of the cocktail napkins and type them into the computer, forming a basis from which he wrote many drafts for A Few Good Men.[25]

In 1988, Sorkin sold the film rights for A Few Good Men to producer David Brown before it premiered,[26] in a deal that was reportedly "well into six figures".[27] Brown had read an article in The New York Times about Sorkin's one-act play Hidden in This Picture and found out Sorkin also had a play called A Few Good Men that was having Off Broadway readings.[26] Brown produced A Few Good Men on Broadway at the Music Box Theatre. It starred Tom Hulce and was directed by Don Scardino. After opening in late 1989, it ran for 497 performances.[28]

Sorkin continued writing Making Movies and in 1990 it debuted Off-Broadway at the Promenade Theatre, produced by John A. McQuiggan, and again directed by Don Scardino.[22] Meanwhile, David Brown was producing a few projects at TriStar Pictures and tried to interest them in making A Few Good Men into a film but his proposal was declined due to the lack of star actor involvement. Brown later got a call from Alan Horn at Castle Rock Entertainment who was anxious to make the film. Rob Reiner, a Castle Rock producing partner, opted to direct it.[26]


Working under contract for Castle Rock Entertainment

In the early 1990s, Sorkin worked under contract for Castle Rock Entertainment, Inc.[29] He wrote the scripts for A Few Good Men, Malice and The American President; the three films grossed about US$400 million worldwide.[2] While writing for Castle Rock he became friends with colleagues such as William Goldman and Rob Reiner and met his future wife Julia Bingham, who was one of Castle Rock's business affairs lawyers.[30]

Sorkin wrote several drafts of the script for A Few Good Men in his Manhattan apartment,[29] learning the craft from a book about screenplay format.[21] He then spent several months at the Los Angeles offices of Castle Rock, working on the script with director Rob Reiner.[29] William Goldman (who regularly worked under contract at Castle Rock) became his mentor and helped him to adapt his stageplay into a screenplay.[31] The movie was directed by Reiner, starred Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore and Kevin Bacon, and was produced by Brown. A Few Good Men was released in 1992 and was a box office success.[32]

Goldman also approached Sorkin with a story premise, which Sorkin developed into the script for Malice. Goldman oversaw the project as creative consultant while Sorkin wrote the first two drafts. However, he had to leave the project to finish up the script for A Few Good Men, so screenwriter Scott Frank stepped in and wrote two drafts of the Malice screenplay. When production on A Few Good Men wrapped up, Sorkin took over and resumed working on the Malice right through the final shooting script. Harold Becker directed the film, a medical thriller released in 1993, which starred Nicole Kidman and Alec Baldwin. Malice had mixed reviews. Vincent Canby in The New York Times described the film as "deviously entertaining from its start through its finish".[33] Roger Ebert gave it 2 out of 4 stars,[34] and Peter Travers in a 2000 Rolling Stone review summarized it as having "suspense but no staying power".[35]

Sorkin's last produced screenplay for Castle Rock was The American President and once again he worked with William Goldman, who served as a creative consultant.[36] It took Sorkin a few years to write the screenplay for The American President, which started off as a massive 385-page screenplay; it was eventually whittled down to a standard shooting script of around 120 pages.[2] Rob Reiner directed. The film was critically acclaimed. Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times described the film as "genial and entertaining if not notably inspired", and believed its most interesting aspects were the "pipe dreams about the American political system and where it could theoretically be headed".[37]

Script doctor for hire

Sorkin did uncredited script doctor work on several films in the 1990s. He wrote some quips for Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage in The Rock.[38] He worked on Excess Baggage, a comedy about a girl who stages her own kidnapping to get her father's attention, and rewrote some of Will Smith's scenes in Enemy of the State.[38]

Sorkin collaborated with Warren Beatty on a couple of scripts, one of which was Bulworth.[39] Beatty, known for occasionally personally financing his film projects through pre-production, also hired Sorkin to rewrite a script titled Ocean of Storms which never went into production. At one point Sorkin sued Beatty for proper compensation for his work on the Ocean of Storms script; once the matter was settled, he resumed working on the script.[39][40][41][42]

Television writing

Sports Night (1998–2000)

Sorkin came up with the idea to write about the behind-the-scenes happenings on a sports show while he was living in a room in the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles writing the screenplay for The American President.[8][43] He would work late, with the TV tuned into ESPN, watching continuous replays of SportsCenter.[43][44] The show inspired him to try to write a feature film about a sports show but he was unable to structure the story for film, so instead he turned his idea into a TV comedy series.[45][46] Sports Night was produced by Disney and debuted on the Disney-owned ABC network in the fall of 1998.[47]

Sorkin fought with the ABC network during the first season over the use of a laugh track and a live studio audience. The laugh track was widely decried by critics as jarring, with Joyce Millman of Salon.com describing it as "the most unconvincing laugh track you've ever heard".[48][49] Sorkin commented that: "Once you do shoot in front of a live audience, you have no choice but to use the laugh track. Oftentimes [enhancing the laughs] is the right thing to do. Sometimes you do need a cymbal crash. Other times, it alienates me."[48] The laugh track was gradually dialed down and was gone by the end of the first season.[50] Sorkin was triumphant in the second season when ABC agreed to his demands, unburdening the crew of the difficulties of staging a scene for a live audience and leaving the cast with more time to rehearse.[47]

Although Sports Night was critically acclaimed, ABC canceled the show after two seasons due to its low ratings.[51][52] Sorkin entertained offers to continue the show on other television channels but declined all the offers as they were mainly contingent on his involvement which would have been a difficult prospect given that he was simultaneously writing The West Wing at that point.[43]

The West Wing (1999–2006)

Sorkin conceived the political drama The West Wing in 1997 when he went unprepared to a lunch with producer John Wells and in a panic pitched to Wells a series centered on the senior staff of the White House,[2] using leftover ideas from his script for The American President.[53] He told Wells about his visits to the White House while doing research for The American President, and they found themselves discussing public service and the passion of the people who serve. Wells took the concept and pitched it to the NBC network, but was told to wait because the facts behind the Lewinsky scandal were breaking and there was concern that an audience would not be able to take a series about the White House seriously.[54] When a year later some other networks started showing interest in The West Wing, NBC decided to greenlight the series despite their previous reluctance.[53] The pilot debuted in the fall of 1999 and was produced by Warner Bros. Television.[53]

The West Wing was honored with nine Primetime Emmy Awards for its debut season, making the series a record holder for most Emmys won by a series in a single season at the time.[56] Following the ceremony, a dispute arose regarding the acceptance speech for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series. The West Wing episode "In Excelsis Deo" won, which was awarded to Sorkin and Rick Cleveland, while it was reported in a The New York Times article that Cleveland had been ushered off the stage by Sorkin without being given a chance to say a few words.[57] The story behind The West Wing episode is based on Cleveland's father, a Korean war veteran who spent the last years of his life on the street, as Cleveland explains in his FreshYarn.com essay titled "I Was the Dumb Looking Guy with the Wire-Rimmed Glasses".[58] A back and forth took place between Sorkin and Cleveland in a public web forum at Mighty Big TV where Sorkin explained that he gives his writers "Story By" credit on a rotating basis "by way of a gratuity" and that he had thrown out Cleveland's script and started from scratch.[59] In the end, Sorkin apologized to Cleveland.[60] Cleveland and Sorkin also won the Writers Guild of America Award for Television: Episodic Drama at the 53rd Writer Guild of America Awards for "In Excelsis Deo".[61]

In 2001, after wrapping up the second season of The West Wing, Sorkin had a drug relapse, only two months after receiving a Phoenix Rising Award for drug recovery; this became public knowledge when he was arrested at Hollywood Burbank Airport for possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana, and crack cocaine. He was ordered by a judge to attend a drug diversion program.[62] His drug addiction was highly publicized, most notably when Saturday Night Live did a parody called "The West Wing",[63] though he did recover.[13]

In 2002, Sorkin criticized NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw's TV special about a day in the life of a president, "The Bush White House: Inside the Real West Wing", comparing it to the act of sending a valentine to President George W. Bush instead of real news reporting.[64] Sorkin's TV series The West Wing aired on the same network, and so at the request of NBC's Entertainment President Jeff Zucker he apologized, but would later say "there should be a difference between what NBC News does and what The West Wing TV series does."[65][66]

Sorkin wrote 87 screenplays in all, which amounts to nearly every episode during the show's first four Emmy-winning seasons.[67] Sorkin describes his role in the creative process as "not so much [that of] a showrunner or a producer. I'm really a writer."[43] He admits that this approach can have its drawbacks, saying "Out of 88 [West Wing] episodes that I did we were on time and on budget never, not once."[25] In 2003, at the end of the fourth season, Sorkin and fellow executive producer Thomas Schlamme left the show due to internal conflicts at Warner Bros. Television not involving the NBC network, thrusting producer John Wells into an expanded role as showrunner.[68][69] Sorkin never watched any episodes beyond his writing tenure apart from 60 seconds of the fifth season's first episode, describing the experience as "like watching somebody make out with my girlfriend."[70] Sorkin would later return in the series finale for a cameo appearance as a member of President Bartlet's staff.

Sorkin appeared as himself on the 30 Rock episode "Plan B", where he did a "walk and talk" with Liz Lemon played by Tina Fey.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006–2007)

In 2003, Sorkin divulged to the American television interviewer Charlie Rose on The Charlie Rose Show that he was developing a TV series based on a late-night sketch comedy show like Saturday Night Live.[25][71] In early October 2005, a pilot script dubbed Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip for a new television series, written by him and with Tommy Schlamme attached as producer, started circulating around Hollywood and generating interest on the web. A week later, NBC bought from Warner Bros. Television the right to show the television series on their network for a near-record license fee in a bidding war with CBS.[72] The show's name was later changed to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Sorkin described the show as having "autobiographical elements" to it and "characters that are based on actual people" but said that it departs from those beginnings to look at the backstage maneuverings at a late night sketch comedy show.[73]

On September 18, 2006, the pilot for Studio 60 aired on NBC, directed by Schlamme. The pilot was critically acclaimed and viewed by over 12 million people, but Studio 60 experienced a significant drop in audience by mid-season. The seething anticipation that preceded the début was followed up by a large amount of thoughtful and scrupulous criticism in the press, as well as largely negative analysis in the blogosphere.[74] In January 2007, Sorkin spoke out against the press for focusing too heavily on the ratings slide and for using blogs and unemployed comedy writers as sources.[75] After two months on hiatus, Studio 60 resumed to air the last episodes of season one, which would be its only season.

Other works


Aaron Sorkin at the Music Box Theatre in 2007
Aaron Sorkin discussing his play The Farnsworth Invention with an audience at the Music Box Theatre on November 8, 2007.
Aaron Sorkin
Aaron Sorkin interviewed William Goldman in November 2008 at the Screenwriting Expo.

In 2003, Sorkin was writing a screenplay on spec about the story of inventor and television pioneer Philo Farnsworth, a topic he had first become familiar with back in the early 1990s when producer Fred Zollo approached him with the idea of adapting a memoir by Elma Farnsworth into a biopic.[13][76] The next year he completed the screenplay under the title "The Farnsworth Invention", and it was picked up by New Line Cinema with Thomas Schlamme signed on to direct. The story is about the patent battle between inventor Philo Farnsworth and RCA tycoon David Sarnoff for the technology that allowed the first television transmissions in the United States.[77]

At the same time, Sorkin was contacted by Jocelyn Clarke, the commissions manager of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, requesting he write a play for them, a commission which he accepted.[78] In time Sorkin decided to tackle his commission by rewriting "The Farnsworth Invention" as a play.[13][78] He delivered a first draft of the play to the Abbey Theatre in early 2005, and a production was purportedly planned for 2007 with La Jolla Playhouse in California deciding to stage a workshop production of the play in collaboration with the Abbey Theatre. But in 2006, the Abbey Theatre's new management pulled out of all involvement with The Farnsworth Invention.[78] Despite the setback, La Jolla Playhouse pushed on, with Steven Spielberg lending his talents as producer.[79] The production opened under La Jolla's signature Page To Stage program which allowed Sorkin and director Des McAnuff to develop the play from show to show according to audience reactions and feedback; the play ran at La Jolla Playhouse from February 20, 2007 through March 25, 2007.[80][81] A production followed on Broadway, beginning in previews at the Music Box Theatre and scheduled to open on November 14, 2007; however, the play was delayed by the 2007 Broadway stagehand strike.[82][83] The Farnsworth Invention eventually opened at the Music Box Theatre on December 3, 2007 following the end of the strike; it closed on March 2, 2008.[84][85]

In 2005, Sorkin revised his play A Few Good Men for a revival at the London West End theatre, the Haymarket. The play opened at the Theatre Royal Haymarket in the fall of the same year and was directed by David Esbjornson, with Rob Lowe of The West Wing in the lead role.[86]

In February 2016, it was revealed that Sorkin would be adapting Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird for the stage, where he would be working alongside Bartlett Sher.[87] His adaptation opened on December 13, 2018 to acclaimed reviews [88] at the Sam S. Schubert Theatre on Broadway.[89]


Sorkin's return to film occurred when he was commissioned by Universal Pictures to adapt 60 Minutes producer George Crile's nonfiction book Charlie Wilson's War for Tom Hanks' production company Playtone.[90] Charlie Wilson's War is about the colorful Texas congressman Charlie Wilson who funded the CIA's secret war against the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan.[91] Sorkin completed the screenplay and the film was released in 2007 starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman, directed by Mike Nichols.[92]

In August 2008, Sorkin announced that he had agreed to write a script for Sony and producer Scott Rudin about how Facebook was founded.[93] The film, The Social Network, based on Ben Mezrich's novel The Accidental Billionaires, was released on October 1, 2010. Sorkin won the Academy, BAFTA and Golden Globe Awards for The Social Network. One year later, Sorkin received nominations for the same awards for co-writing the screenplay to the film Moneyball.

In May 2012, Sony announced that Sorkin would write a movie based on Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.[94] Sorkin was a guest at the D10 conference in May 2012 and explained his thoughts at the time on the adaptation of Isaacson's biography:

To be honest, one of the hesitations I had in taking on the movie is that it was a little like writing about the Beatles—that there are so many people out there who know so much about him and who revere him that I just saw a minefield of disappointment. Frankly, that I was going to do something and that people who ... hopefully, when I'm done with my research, I'll be in the same ball park of knowledge about Steve Jobs that so many people in this room are.[95]

Steve Jobs, written by Sorkin, directed by Danny Boyle, and starring Michael Fassbender as Jobs, was released in October 2015. On January 10, 2016, Sorkin won the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay for his work on this film.[96]

Sorkin made his directorial debut with STX Entertainment's film Molly's Game, based on poker entrepreneur Molly Bloom's memoir. He also wrote the script for the film, which stars Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.[97][98][99][100] Production began in November 2016, and the film was released in December 2017.[101]


It was announced in 2011 Sorkin would be returning to television with two HBO projects. He has teamed with The Office star John Krasinski to develop a miniseries about the Chateau Marmont Hotel based on Life at the Marmont, a book by the hotel's co-owner Raymond R. Sarlot and Fred Basten.[102] He also developed The Newsroom, a series about a fictional cable news network. The series lasted three seasons, premiering on June 24, 2012, and concluding on December 14, 2014.[103][104][105][106]

Prospective projects

In March 2007 it was reported that Sorkin had signed on to write a musical adaptation of the hit 2002 record Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by psychedelic-rock band The Flaming Lips, collaborating with director Des McAnuff who had been developing the project.[107][108][109]

On July 12, 2007, Variety reported that Sorkin had signed a deal with DreamWorks to write three scripts. The first script is titled The Trial of the Chicago 7, which Sorkin was already developing with Steven Spielberg and producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.[110] In March 2010, Sorkin's agent, Ari Emanuel, was reported as saying that the project was proving "tough to get together".[111] However, in late July 2013, it was announced that Academy Award nominated director Paul Greengrass was in final talks to direct Sorkin's script and that Steven Spielberg had previously been attached.[112]

In August 2008 Des McAnuff announced that Sorkin had been commissioned by the Stratford Shakespeare Festival[113] to write an adaptation of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard.

In 2010 Sorkin reportedly obtained the film rights to Andrew Young's book The Politician (about Senator John Edwards), and announced that he would make his debut as a film director while also adapting the book for the screen.[114]

In November 2010, it was reported that Sorkin would be writing a musical based on the life of Houdini, with music by Danny Elfman.[115] In January 2012, Stephen Schwartz was reported to be writing the music and lyrics, with Sorkin making his debut as a librettist. The musical was expected to come out in 2013–14, with Sorkin saying, "The chance to collaborate with Stephen Schwartz, (the director) Jack O'Brien, and Hugh Jackman on a new Broadway musical is a huge gift."[116] In January 2013, he dropped out of the project, citing film and TV commitments.[117]

In September 2015, it was reported that Sorkin was writing a biopic that will focus on the twenty-year marriage of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and their work together on I Love Lucy and The Lucy–Desi Comedy Hour. Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett is set to star as Ball, while the role of Arnaz is yet to be determined.[118] Two years later, Amazon Studios acquired the rights to the film.[119]

In March 2016, it was announced that Sorkin would be adapting A Few Good Men for a live production on NBC, originally slated to air in 2017;[120] however, as of November 2017 "Sorkin is still mulling the project".[121]

In August 2016, Sorkin launched a series of online screenwriting lessons through MasterClass. His lessons include dialogue, character development, story pacing, plot and his process of working. Students watch 35 short videos, download a PDF workbook, and share their observations and progress through discussion boards and social media groups.[122]

Writing process and style

Sorkin has written for the theatre, film and television, and in each medium his level of collaboration with other creators has varied. He began in theatre which involved a largely solitary writing process, then moved into film where he collaborated with director Rob Reiner and screenwriter William Goldman, and eventually worked in television where he collaborated very closely with director Thomas Schlamme for nearly a decade on the shows Sports Night, The West Wing and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip; he now moves between all three media. He has a habit of chain smoking while he spends countless hours cooped up in his office plotting out his next scripts.[7] He describes his writing process as physical because he will often stand up and speak the dialogue he is developing.[75]

A New York Times article by Peter De Jonge explained that "The West Wing is never plotted out for more than a few weeks ahead and has no major story lines", which De Jonge believed was because "with characters who have no flaws, it is impossible to give them significant arcs".[8] Sorkin has stated: "I seldom plan ahead, not because I don't think it's good to plan ahead, there just isn't time."[55] Sorkin has also said, "As a writer, I don't like to answer questions until the very moment that I have to." The Seattle Post-Intelligencer's TV critic John Levesque has commented that Sorkin's writing process "can make for ill-advised plot developments".[2] Further complicating the matter, in television, Sorkin will have a hand in writing every episode, rarely letting other writers earn full credit on a script.[8] Peter De Jonge has reported that ex-writers of The West Wing have claimed that "even by the spotlight-hogging standards of Hollywood, Sorkin has been exceptionally ungenerous in his sharing of writing credit".[8] In a comment to GQ magazine in 2008, Sorkin said, "I'm helped by a staff of people who have great ideas, but the scripts aren't written by committee."[123]

Sorkin's nearly decade-long collaboration in television with director Thomas Schlamme began in early 1998 when they found they shared common creative ground on the soon to be produced Sports Night.[43][124] Their successful partnership in television is one in which Sorkin focuses on writing the scripts while Schlamme executive produces and occasionally directs; they have worked together on Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Schlamme will create the look of the shows, work with the other directors, discuss the scripts with Sorkin as soon as they are turned in, make design and casting decisions, and attend the budget meetings; Sorkin tends to stick strictly to writing.[43] In response to what he perceived as unfair criticism of The Newsroom, Jacob Drum of Digital Americana wrote, "The essential truth that the critics miss is that The Newsroom is Sorkin being Sorkin as he always has been and always will be: one part pioneer; one part self-conscious romantic; two parts actual Lewis & Clark-style pioneer, trapping his way across an old, old idea of an America that can always stand to raise its game—but most importantly, spinning a good yarn while he does so."[125]

Sorkin is known for writing memorable lines and fast-paced dialogue, such as "You can't handle the truth!" from A Few Good Men and the partly Latin tirade against God in The West Wing episode "Two Cathedrals".[8] For television, one hallmark of Sorkin's writer's voice is the repartee that his characters engage in as they small talk and banter about whimsical events taking place within an episode, and interject obscure popular culture references into conversation.[127]

Although his scripts are lauded for being literate,[8][15][128] Sorkin has been criticized for often turning in scripts that are overwrought.[129] His mentor William Goldman has commented that normally in visual media speeches are avoided, but that Sorkin has a talent for dialogue and gets away with breaking this rule.[36]

Personal life

Obama Fundraiser @ Fine Arts Theatre
Aaron Sorkin speaking at a Generation Obama event, following a screening of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, on August 20, 2008.

Sorkin married Julia Bingham in 1996 and divorced in 2005, with his workaholic habits and drug abuse reported to be a partial cause.[130][131] Sorkin and Bingham have one daughter, Roxy.[132] Sorkin was a dependent cocaine user for many years and, after a highly publicized arrest in 2001, he received treatment in a drug diversion program.[13]

For several years, he dated Kristin Chenoweth, who played Annabeth Schott on The West Wing (though after Sorkin had left the show).[133] He has also reportedly dated columnist Maureen Dowd[134] and actress Kristin Davis.[135]

A consistent supporter of the Democratic Party, Sorkin has made substantial political campaign contributions to candidates between 1999 and 2011, according to CampaignMoney.com.[136] During the 2004 US presidential election campaign, the liberal advocacy group MoveOn's political action committee enlisted Sorkin and Rob Reiner to create one of their anti-Bush campaign advertisements.[137] In August 2008, Sorkin was involved in a Generation Obama event at the Fine Arts Theater in Beverly Hills, California, participating in a panel discussion subsequent to a screening of Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.[138] Despite this Sorkin does not consider himself a political activist: "I've met political activists, and they're for real. I've never marched anyplace or done anything that takes more effort than writing a check in terms of activism".[70]

In 1987, Sorkin started using marijuana and cocaine. He has said that in cocaine he found a drug that gave him relief from certain nervous tensions he deals with on a regular basis.[8] In 1995, he checked into rehab at the Hazelden Institute in Minnesota, on the advice of his then girlfriend and soon to be wife Julia Bingham, to try to beat his addiction to cocaine.[139] In 2001, Sorkin along with colleagues John Spencer and Martin Sheen received the Phoenix Rising Award for their personal victories over substance abuse. However, two months later on April 15, 2001, Sorkin was arrested when guards at a security checkpoint at the Burbank Airport found hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana, and crack cocaine in his carry-on bag when a metal crack pipe set off the gate's metal detector.[8][140] He was ordered to a drug diversion program.[62]

Sorkin continued working on The West Wing amidst his drug abuse.[130][131] In his commencement speech for Syracuse University on May 13, 2012, Sorkin declared that he had not used cocaine for eleven years.[141]

In 2016, after the election of Donald Trump, Sorkin wrote an open letter to his 15-year-old daughter Roxy and her mother Julia Sorkin.[142]



Year Title Notes
1992 A Few Good Men
1993 Malice With Scott Frank
1995 The American President
1996 The Rock Uncredited
1998 Bulworth Uncredited
2007 Charlie Wilson's War Based on the book by George Crile
2010 The Social Network Based on the book The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
2011 Moneyball With Steven Zaillian from a story by Stan Chervin, based on the book by Michael Lewis
2015 Steve Jobs Based on the book by Walter Isaacson
2017 Molly's Game Directorial debut; Based on the memoir by Molly Bloom


Sorkin was the creator, writer and executive producer of the following shows.

Year Title
1998–2000 Sports Night
1999–2003 The West Wing
2006–2007 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip
2012–2014 The Newsroom


Year Title Credit Venue
1984 Removing All Doubt Writer Syracuse University
1988 Hidden in This Picture[143] Writer West Bank Cafe Downstairs Theatre Bar
1989 A Few Good Men[144] Writer Music Box Theatre
1990 Making Movies[22] Writer Promenade Theatre
2007 The Farnsworth Invention[80] Writer La Jolla Playhouse
2018 To Kill a Mockingbird Writer Shubert Theatre

Cameo acting appearances

Year Title Role Notes
1992 A Few Good Men Man in bar
1995 The American President Aide in bar
1999 Sports Night Man at bar Episode: "Small Town"
2006 The West Wing Man in crowd Episode: "Tomorrow"
2009–10 Entourage Himself Two episodes
2010 The Social Network Ad Executive
2011 30 Rock Himself Episode: "Plan B"
2017 Molly's Game Man in bar


Academy Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result
2010 The Social Network Best Adapted Screenplay Won
2011 Moneyball Nominated
2017 Molly's Game Nominated

British Academy Film Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result
2010 The Social Network Best Adapted Screenplay Won
2011 Moneyball Nominated
2015 Steve Jobs Nominated
2017 Molly's Game Nominated

Critics' Choice Movie Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result
2007 Charlie Wilson's War Best Writer Nominated
2010 The Social Network Best Adapted Screenplay Won
2011 Moneyball Won
2015 Steve Jobs Nominated
2017 Molly's Game Nominated

Golden Globe Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result Ref.
1992 A Few Good Men Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay - Motion Picture Nominated
1995 The American President Nominated
2007 Charlie Wilson's War Nominated
2010 The Social Network Won
2011 Moneyball Nominated
2015 Steve Jobs Won
2017 Molly's Game Nominated [145][146]

Primetime Emmy Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result
1999 Sports Night Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series ("The Apology") Nominated
2000 The West Wing Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series ("In Excelsis Deo" & "Pilot") Won
2001 The West Wing Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series ("In the Shadow of Two Gunmen") Nominated
2002 The West Wing Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series ("Posse Comitatus") Nominated
2003 The West Wing Outstanding Drama Series Won
Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series ("Twenty Five") Nominated

Satellite Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result
2010 The Social Network Best Screenplay - Adapted Won
2011 Moneyball Nominated
2015 Steve Jobs Won
2017 Molly's Game Nominated

Writers Guild of America Awards

Year Nominated work Category Result
1995 The American President Best Original Screenplay Nominated
2000 The West Wing Episodic Drama ("In Excelsis Deo") Won
Episodic Drama ("Take This Sabbath Day") Nominated
2001 The West Wing Episodic Drama ("Somebody's Going to Emergency, Somebody's Going to Jail" & "Two Cathedrals") Nominated
2002 The West Wing Episodic Drama ("Game On") Nominated
2005 The West Wing Dramatic Series Nominated
2006 Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip New Series Nominated
Episodic Drama ("Pilot") Nominated
2010 The Social Network Best Adapted Screenplay Won
2011 Moneyball Nominated
2012 The Newsroom New Series Nominated
2015 Steve Jobs Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
2017 Molly's Game Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated


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Further reading

External links

A Few Good Men

A Few Good Men is a 1992 American legal drama film directed by Rob Reiner and starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore, with Kevin Bacon, Kevin Pollak, Wolfgang Bodison, James Marshall, J. T. Walsh, and Kiefer Sutherland in supporting roles. It was adapted for the screen by Aaron Sorkin from his play of the same name but includes contributions by William Goldman. The film revolves around the court-martial of two U.S. Marines charged with the murder of a fellow Marine and the tribulations of their lawyers as they prepare a case to defend their clients.

Charlie Wilson's War (film)

Charlie Wilson's War is a 2007 American biographical comedy-drama film, based on the story of U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson and CIA operative Gust Avrakotos, whose efforts led to Operation Cyclone, a program to organize and support the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet–Afghan War.

The film was directed by Mike Nichols (his final film) and written by Aaron Sorkin, who adapted George Crile III's 2003 book Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History. Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman starred, with Amy Adams and Ned Beatty in supporting roles. It was nominated for five Golden Globe Awards, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, but did not win in any category. Hoffman was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay

The Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay – Motion Picture is one of the annual awards given by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.


† – indicates the winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay

‡ – indicates the winner of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay

†† – indicates a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay

‡‡ – indicates a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay

§ – indicates a Golden Globe Award winner who was not nominated for the Academy Award

List of The West Wing episodes

The West Wing is an American serial political drama television series created by Aaron Sorkin that aired on NBC from September 22, 1999 to May 14, 2006. There are 154 regular season episodes, plus the special episodes "Isaac and Ishmael" and "Documentary Special".

Malice (1993 film)

Malice is a 1993 neo-noir film directed by Harold Becker, written by Aaron Sorkin and Scott Frank, and starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, Bill Pullman, Anne Bancroft and George C. Scott. Adapted from a story by Jonas McCord, the plot follows Andy and Tracy Safian, a newlywed couple whose lives are upturned after they rent part of their Victorian home to Jed, a cavalier surgeon; things are further complicated when he removes Tracy's ovaries during an emergency surgery to save her life. The film features supporting performances from Bebe Neuwirth, Peter Gallagher, and Tobin Bell, with minor appearances from Gwyneth Paltrow and Brenda Strong.

Released in the fall of 1993, Malice grossed a total of $46 million in the United States.

Molly's Game

Molly's Game is a 2017 American biographical crime drama film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin (in his directorial debut), based on the memoir of the same name by Molly Bloom. It stars Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Brian d'Arcy James, Chris O'Dowd, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Claire Rankin, Joe Keery, and Jeremy Strong. The film follows Bloom (Chastain), who becomes the target of an FBI investigation of the underground poker empire she runs for Hollywood celebrities, athletes, business tycoons, and the Russian mob.

Principal photography began in November 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The film premiered on September 8, 2017, at the Toronto International Film Festival, and began a limited theatrical release in the United States on December 25, 2017, by STXfilms, before expanding wide on January 5, 2018, and grossed $59 million worldwide. Molly's Game received positive reviews, with particular praise for Sorkin's screenplay, as well as Chastain and Elba's performances, with the former being considered one of the best of her career by some critics. The film earned Chastain a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress – Drama, while Sorkin earned nominations for his screenplay at the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Writers Guild of America Awards, and BAFTA Awards.

Moneyball (film)

Moneyball is a 2011 American sports film directed by Bennett Miller and written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. The film is based on Michael Lewis's 2003 nonfiction book of the same name, an account of the Oakland Athletics baseball team's 2002 season and their general manager Billy Beane's attempts to assemble a competitive team.

In the film, Beane (Brad Pitt) and assistant GM Peter Brand (Jonah Hill), faced with the franchise's limited budget for players, build a team of undervalued talent by taking a sophisticated sabermetric approach to scouting and analyzing players. Columbia Pictures bought the rights to Lewis's book in 2004.Moneyball premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and was released on September 23, 2011 to box office success and critical acclaim. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actor for Pitt and Best Supporting Actor for Hill.

Political drama

A political drama can describe a play, film or TV program that has a political component, whether reflecting the author's political opinion, or describing a politician or series of political events.

Dramatists who have written political dramas include Aaron Sorkin, Robert Penn Warren, Sergei Eisenstein, Bertolt Brecht, Jean-Paul Sartre, Caryl Churchill, and Federico García Lorca.

Sports Night

Sports Night is an American television series about a fictional sports news show also called Sports Night. It focuses on the friendships, pitfalls and ethical issues the creative talent of the program face while trying to produce a good show under constant network pressure. Created by Aaron Sorkin, the half-hour prime time comedy-drama aired on ABC for two seasons, from 1998 to 2000.

The show stars Robert Guillaume as managing editor Isaac Jaffe, Felicity Huffman as executive producer Dana Whitaker, Peter Krause as anchor Casey McCall, Josh Charles as anchor Dan Rydell, Sabrina Lloyd as senior associate producer Natalie Hurley, and Joshua Malina as associate producer Jeremy Goodwin. Regular guest stars included William H. Macy as ratings expert Sam Donovan and Brenda Strong as Sally Sasser, the producer of West Coast Update (a sister show on the same network as Sports Night) and professional and romantic rival of Dana. Other notable guest stars included Paula Marshall and several who later appeared on Sorkin's The West Wing including Janel Moloney, Teri Polo, Ted McGinley, Lisa Edelstein, Clark Gregg, Nina Siemaszko, John DeLancie, Timothy Davis-Reed, Cress Williams, Nadia Dajani, and Spencer Garrett. In addition, both Malina and Huffman also appeared in The West Wing.

TV Guide ranked it #10 on their 2013 list of 60 shows that were "Cancelled Too Soon".

Stan Chervin

Stan Chervin is a screenwriter.

On January 24, 2012, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the movie Moneyball. His nomination was shared with Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin.

Steve Jobs (film)

Steve Jobs is a 2015 biographical drama film directed by Danny Boyle and written by Aaron Sorkin. Adapted from the 2011 book of the same name by Walter Isaacson as well as interviews conducted by Sorkin, the film is structured into three acts which cover 14 years (1984–1998) in the life of personal computing innovator and Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Jobs, with each act taking place immediately prior to the launch of a key product – the Apple Macintosh, the NeXT Computer and the iMac. Jobs is portrayed by Michael Fassbender, with Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Katherine Waterston, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Jeff Daniels in supporting roles.

Development on the project began in 2011 after the rights to Isaacson's book were acquired. Sorkin wrote the screenplay and filming began in January 2015. A variety of actors were considered and cast before Fassbender eventually took the role. Editing was extensive on the project, with editor Elliot Graham noting that he was working on existing footage while the film was still shooting. Daniel Pemberton served as the film's composer, with a focus dedicated to dividing the score into three distinguishable sections.

Steve Jobs premiered at the 2015 Telluride Film Festival on September 5, 2015, and began a limited release in New York City and Los Angeles on October 9, 2015. It opened nationwide in the U.S. on October 23, 2015, to critical acclaim. People close to Jobs such as Steve Wozniak and John Sculley praised the film's performances, but the film also received criticisms for its inaccuracy in some of its scenes. Winslet won a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress and Sorkin won the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay at the 73rd Golden Globes, while Fassbender and Winslet received nominations for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actress, respectively, at the 88th Academy Awards.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is an American comedy-drama television series created and primarily written by Aaron Sorkin. Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip ran on NBC for 22 episodes, from September 18, 2006 to June 28, 2007. It is Aaron Sorkin's only TV show not to air for more than one season.

The American President

The American President is a 1995 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Rob Reiner and written by Aaron Sorkin. The film stars Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, and Richard Dreyfuss. In the film, President Andrew Shepherd (Douglas) is a widower who pursues a relationship with environmental lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade (Bening) – who has just moved to Washington, D.C. – while at the same time attempting to win the passage of a crime control bill during a re-election year.

Composer Marc Shaiman was nominated for the Original Musical or Comedy Score Oscar for The American President. The film was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical for Michael Douglas, Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical for Annette Bening, and Best Comedy/Musical. The American Film Institute ranked The American President No. 75 on its list of America's Greatest Love Stories.

The Newsroom (U.S. TV series)

The Newsroom is an American television political drama series created and principally written by Aaron Sorkin that premiered on HBO on June 24, 2012, and concluded on December 14, 2014, consisting of 25 episodes over three seasons, with 52 to 73 minute long episodes.

The series chronicles the behind-the-scenes events at the fictional Atlantis Cable News (ACN) channel. It features an ensemble cast including Jeff Daniels as anchor Will McAvoy who, together with his staff, sets out to put on a news show "in the face of corporate and commercial obstacles and their own personal entanglements". Other cast members include Emily Mortimer, John Gallagher Jr., Alison Pill, Thomas Sadoski, Dev Patel, Olivia Munn, and Sam Waterston.

Sorkin, who created the Emmy Award–winning political drama The West Wing, had reportedly been developing a cable-news-centered TV drama since 2009. After months of negotiations, premium cable network HBO ordered a pilot in January 2011 and then a full series in September that year. Sorkin did his research for the series by observing several real-world cable news programs first-hand. He served as executive producer, along with Scott Rudin and Alan Poul.

The West Wing (season 1)

The first season of the American political drama television series The West Wing aired in the United States on NBC from September 22, 1999 to May 17, 2000 and consisted of 22 episodes.

The West Wing (season 2)

The second season of the American political drama television series The West Wing aired in the United States on NBC from October 4, 2000 to May 16, 2001 and consisted of 22 episodes.

Thomas Schlamme

Thomas David Schlamme (pronounced Shla-Me; born May 22, 1950) is an American television director, known particularly for his collaborations with Aaron Sorkin. He has also worked as a producer.

To Kill a Mockingbird (2018 play)

To Kill a Mockingbird is a 2018 play based on the 1960 novel of the same name by Harper Lee, adapted for stage by Aaron Sorkin. It opened at the Shubert Theatre on December 13, 2018.

What Kind of Day Has It Been

"What Kind of Day Has It Been" is the 22nd episode of The West Wing, the season finale of the show's first season. It originally aired on NBC May 17, 2000. Events circle around the attempted rescue of a US fighter pilot in Iraq, and the president taking part in a town hall meeting in Rosslyn, Virginia. The episode was written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Thomas Schlamme.

"What Kind of Day Has It Been" is also the name of the first-season finales of both the series Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, as well as the series finale of The Newsroom, all of which were created by Aaron Sorkin. It was also a quote by Leo in the fourth-season episode "Commencement" in the situation room. Sorkin claimed that he took the phrase from Robert Whitehead, lead producer of Sorkin's A Few Good Men, who used to start meetings at the end of rehearsal days by asking this question.

Works by Aaron Sorkin
Television series
Feature films
Stage plays
Awards for Aaron Sorkin

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