By now, we are all very aware that Aaron Sorkin borrows material — from his own shows, from real-life reporters, from beloved early nineties football movies, and occasionally from his personal life. (Most famously, Harriet Hayes, the unfunny comedienne-slash–Evangelical Christian star of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, was inspired by Sorkin’s ex-girlfriend Kristin Chenoweth.) It should come as no surprise, then, that Sorkin’s dating life has made its way onto The Newsroom — in the form of Nina Howard (Hope Davis), the gossip reporter who is apparently based on a real New York Post writer. We know this because Mandy Stadtmiller, the now-former Post writer in question, wrote a deeply confessional, sometimes mortifying blog post — with e-mail screencaps — explaining how she wound up on The Newsroom. It is a doozy, full of gossip and self-hate and dialogue that matches the show almost word for word, and you should read it if only to learn how Aaron Sorkin signs a birthday card. But here are some highlights:
Aaron Sorkin really didn’t know what a takedown piece was.
“I have to write a takedown piece,” I said. He looked at me like I had three heads. He wasn’t as well versed in the jargon of personal character assassination.
“A takedown piece?” he asked.
“Yes,” I said. “You know, a takedown piece. That’s what we call them at The Post. That’s what we do. It’s The Post…”
Mandy Stadtmiller is probably to blame for that Coldplay moment.
Later in the night, I fell into a bad habit I have: offering unwanted advice ever so arrogantly on exactly how I can “help” someone. You know, because I’m just oh so self-actualized. Both my parents are therapists. I’ve been through a lot of therapy. So you can see where my (very misguided) heart lay.
“Don’t try to fix me,” he said.
Sorkin did in fact warn Stadtmiller that he was basing the Hope Davis character on her — but not in a mean way. From a Sorkin e-mail:
I’m about to start writing that episode right now and I’m telling you now as I told you then, THIS CHARACTER IS NOT YOU. In fact, in the writer’s room, when talking about this story, we call the character ‘Bad Mandy’ (as opposed to real Mandy) because I haven’t named her yet. I thought it was worth re-emphasizing that.”
Stadtmiller was initially okay with that.
Of course, I was thrilled.
Even though Sorkin wrote this (in an email):
“You’re a brilliant and funny woman in the body of an idiot.”
And then when she saw the episode, she was upset — but not with Aaron Sorkin. With herself.
I will tell you that I fully cried, totally humiliated at the wreckage of what happens when you are a scheming little manipulating starfucker such as myself. Maybe it bothered me so much because I realized how close to the character I really was. Where I get into trouble — where I got into trouble — is when I am a big gnarly faker. I get rewarded for it, obviously. I get raises. And dates. With powerful men. But it’s gross. I am a gross person who is fake when I am fake.
Meanwhile, Sorkin has been very supportive of her novel.
More recently, Sorkin said of the creative process itself: “You’re a very gifted writer with a unique, beautiful and stunning voice. Most of the time it’s going to be brutal and demoralizing but when you see the result you won’t feel any pain.”
The rest is here. Not kidding about the e-mail screengrabs.