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Aaron Sorkin (1961)

Aaron Benjamin Sorkin

Type :  

  Summary  

Aaron Benjamin Sorkin is an Academy and Emmy award winning American screenwriter, producer, and playwright, whose works include A Few Good Men, The American President, The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The Social Network, and Moneyball.

After graduating from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Musical Theatre in 1983, Sorkin spent much of the 1980s in New York as a struggling, sporadically employed actor. He found his passion in writing plays, and quickly established himself as a promising young playwright. His stage play A Few Good Men caught the attention of Hollywood producer David Brown, who bought the film rights before the play even premiered.

Castle Rock Entertainment hired Sorkin to adapt A Few Good Men for the big screen. The film, directed by Rob Reiner, became a box office success. Sorkin spent the early 1990s writing two other screenplays at Castle Rock, Malice and The American President. In the mid-1990s he worked as a script doctor on films such as Bulworth. In 1998 his television career began when he created the comedy series Sports Night for the ABC network. The second season of Sports Night was its last and in 1999 overlapped with the debut of Sorkin's next TV series, the political drama The West Wing, this time for the NBC network. The West Wing won multiple Emmy Awards, and continued for three more seasons after he left the show at the end of its fourth season in 2003. He returned to television in 2006 with the dramedy Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, about the backstage drama at a late-night sketch comedy show, once again for the NBC network. While Sorkin's return was met with high expectations and a lot of early online buzz before Studio 60's premiere, NBC did not renew it after its first season in which it suffered from low ratings and mixed reception in the press and on the Internet. He also wrote the feature film screenplay for The Social Network, winning the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

After more than a decade away frm the theatre, Sorkin returned to adapt for the stage his screenplay The Farnsworth Invention, which started a workshop run at La Jolla Playhouse in February 2007 and which opened on Broadway in December 2007.

He was a cocaine addict for many years, but after a highly publicized arrest he received treatment in a drug diversion program and is reported to have recovered. In television, Sorkin is known as a controlling writer, who rarely shares the credit of penning screenplays. His writing staff are more likely to do research and come up with stories for him to tell. His 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 edits.

  Biography  

 early years
Sorkin was born in Manhattan to Jewish parents and was raised in the wealthy suburb of Scarsdale, New York. His mother was a school teacher 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. His paternal grandfather was one of the founders of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union . 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.

Sorkin attended Scarsdale High School where he became involved in his high school drama and theatre club. In eighth grade he played General Bullmoose in the musical Li'l Abner. In the Scarsdale High School senior class play Once Upon a Mattress, Sorkin played Sir Harry.

In 1979, Sorkin attended Syracuse University. In his freshman year he failed a class that was a core requirement. It was 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. He returned in his sophomore year determined to do better, and graduated in 1983 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in musical theatre.

 Unemployed actor, promising playwright


After graduation, Sorkin moved to New York City where he worked odd jobs including delivering singing telegrams, driving a limousine, touring Alabama with the children’s theatre company Traveling Playhouse, handing out fliers promoting a hunting-and-fishing show, and bartending on Broadway at theatres such as the Palace Theatre. One weekend, while house sitting at a friend's place he found an IBM Selectric typewriter, started typing, and "felt a phenomenal confidence and a kind of joy that life."

He continued writing and eventually put together his first play Removing All Doubt which he sent to his old 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. 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. His reputation as a playwright was quickly gaining stature on the New York theatre scene.

 A Few Good Men

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 3-year stint with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps. 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. Sorkin took that information and wrote much of his story on cocktail napkins while bartending at the Palace Theatre on Broadway. 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.

In 1988 Sorkin sold the film rights for his play A Few Good Men to producer David Brown before it premiered, in a deal reportedly "well into six figures." 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. 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.

Sorkin continued writing Making Movies and in 1990 it debuted Off-Broadway at the Promenade Theatre, produced by John A. McQuiggan and directed by Don Scardino. 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 producing partner at Castle Rock, opted to direct it.

 personal life
From 1996 to 2005, he was married to Julia Bingham. They have one daughter, Roxy, born in 2000. For several years, he dated Kristin Chenoweth, who played Annabeth Schott on The West Wing . He has also reportedly dated The New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd.

A consistent supporter of the Democratic Party, Sorkin has made substantial political campaign contributions to candidates between 1999 and 2007, according to CampaignMoney.com. 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. In August 2008, Sorkin was involved in a Generation Obama event at the Fine Arts Theatre in Beverly Hills, California, participating in a panel discussion subsequent to a screening of Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

In 1987, Sorkin started taking marijuana and cocaine. He has said that in freebase cocaine he found a drug that gave him relief from certain nervous tensions he deals with on a regular basis. 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. 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. He was ordered to a drug diversion program. Saturday Night Live parodied the highly publicized event in a comedy sketch called "The West Wing" where the U.S. President played by Darrell Hammond does a "Walk and Talk" through the corridors of the White House while tripping on mushrooms, accompanied by host Pierce Brosnan.

Sorkin continued working on The West Wing, and his workaholic habits and drug-taking were both reported to have contributed to the break-down of his marriage, which ended in divorce.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "Aaron Sorkin", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.