You may or may not be surprised to know that Aaron Sorkin does walk-and-talks in his real life, too. While I was leaning against a banquet at the crowded after-party for the New York Film Festival premiere of Steve Jobs on Saturday night, the man who gave our pop culture the urgent meeting on the move swooped by, seeming to have several heated discussions about movies at once. Then he stopped. Right in front of me.
It was like suddenly being dropped into an episode of The West Wing in which C.J. and President Bartlet start debating Bukowski*; and then, just as quickly as the walk-and-talk had arrived, it seemed primed to move on. What to do? I scanned my brain for everything I’ve ever wanted to ask Aaron Sorkin. Why did you think that The Newsroom’s campus-rape episode was a good idea? Nope. Tell the truth, you know Josh and Donna were MFEO from the very beginning, right? Yeesh. Then … eureka! I write for New York Magazine, which just published an interview with Quentin Tarantino in which he said he used to watch Newsroom three times a night: “Why would it be surprising that I like the best dialogue writer in the business?” I introduced myself. Had Sorkin read the article? He lit up. “I did! I did read it, and I’ve actually been trying to get word to him about how much I appreciated it,” he told me. He’s also not worried that they might soon be competitors, with Steve Jobs and The Hateful Eight looking like locks for Best Screenplay Oscars (though in different categories, I now realize). “I don’t really think of it like that,” he said. “In the end, we’ll all be out at the same dinner parties together.”
The (brief) conversation moved on to Steve Wozniak, whom I once interviewed in Los Gatos, California, upon the release of that other Steve Jobs movie that shall remain unnamed but starred a guy whose name rhymes with Bashton Lutcher. Sorkin’s version, directed by Danny Boyle, is based on the Walter Isaacson book, stars Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, and Seth Rogen, and is structured in three acts, each taking place during the frenzied moments before Jobs gets onstage at various product launches. Woz had left the party, but Sorkin had spent all week with the guy and seemed incredibly fond of him. “Woz, he is a trip,” Sorkin said. “I once asked him something so straightforward, like if he’s a San Francisco Giants fan, and he started talking about electrical currents.” While in Los Gatos, Woz had let me ride his Segway for five seconds before he deemed me too reckless a driver. Sorkin hasn’t yet had that experience. “It’s not like I was denied permission,” he said, laughing. “The opportunity just never came up.”
Of course, as soon as Sorkin walked off, I tweeted all about it. It was past 1 a.m. EST, but my college friend Hrishikesh Hirway, who lives in Los Angeles and just happens to be the world’s biggest Sorkin fan, was up. He also happened to have executive-produced a pilot with Josh Malina for a game show called Celebrity Celebrity, in which two teams of famous people try to guess the names of other famous people by describing them, and is prepping to launch a podcast called “West Wing Weekly,” in which he and Malina will discuss every episode of the series one by one, along with special guests. About 14 overly excited texts in, Hrishi sent me a photo of himself with Josh Malina and Bradley Whitford and told me that if I could get Sorkin to take a photo with the photo, it would make his life.
I recruited a friend and put a plan into place to ambush Sorkin on his next walk-and-talk, which happened to be the one that was leading him out the door and into the night. I hated to bother him, but my friend is a crazy fan and has this picture, and could he take a picture with the picture? He lit up again when he looked at the picture. “Of course I’ll do it! It’s Malina and Whitford!” But when I asked him to hold my phone next to his face so my friend could take the photo, he recoiled. “I don’t know how to use that!” I think maybe he thought I wanted him to take the picture? Anyway, we worked it out, and Sorkin was a mensch, and the brilliant result is below. But, yes, the writer of the Facebook and Steve Jobs movies seems to be scared of cellular phones, just FYI.
*This is not what Sorkin was talking about. I actually couldn’t figure it out.