Playback: Aaron Sorkin on ‘Molly’s Game’ and the Draw of Courtroom Dramas

Welcome to “Playback,” a Variety podcast bringing you exclusive conversations with the talents behind many of today’s hottest films.

As one of Hollywood’s preeminent writers, Aaron Sorkin has left his mark on the stage (“A Few Good Men”), big screen (“The Social Network”) and small screen (“The West Wing”) throughout his career. But with “Molly’s Game,” he tried his hand at directing for the first time. The result is a distinctively Sorkin experience, the unbridled vision of an artist finally deigning to take the wheel.

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In high-stakes “poker princess” Molly Bloom’s story, Sorkin saw an opportunity to present a unique movie heroine, one who exemplifies the characteristics of romanticism and idealism that have often driven his work.

“I was expecting to meet someone, frankly, I wasn’t going to respect very much,” Sorkin recalls of his first meeting with Bloom. “I was expecting to meet someone who was just cashing in on their decade-long brush with celebrity. But within 10 minutes she had completely turned me around. She, it turns out, is built out of character and integrity. Far from cashing in, she has paid a big price for not cashing in.”

Sorkin was initially brought on to only adapt Bloom’s biographical account. He turned his draft in to producers Mark Gordon and Amy Pascal and the three set about considering a list of directors for the project. But Gordon and Pascal had faith that Sorkin would be perfect to tackle the material himself.

“I didn’t believe them and I kind of ‘aw shucks’-ed it,” Sorkin recalls. “But the reason, ultimately, that I decided to direct it, for better or for worse, was I knew there was a gravitational pull back toward the book, toward the shiny objects, the decadence, the money, the glamor, the sex. I wanted to do a story set against the backdrop of that.”

But would he have written it differently if he knew he was going to take the helm?

“I was on a panel where someone asked that question, and I said not only was that the first time I had been asked that question, it was the first time I ever thought about it,” Sorkin says. “And the answer is absolutely yes. I would have. I’m so grateful that I didn’t know I was directing it when I was writing it, because I would have been too scared to write some of the scenes that I wrote.”

For more, including thoughts on the 25th anniversary of the filmed adaptation of his play “A Few Good Men” and why he thinks he’s often drawn to courtroom dramas, listen to the latest episode of “Playback” via the streaming link above.

Subscribe to “Playback” at iTunes.

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