Social Network writer backs Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg over 'stolen ideas' claims
Aaron Sorkin, the creative brains behind the new Facebook movie "The Social Network", has offered his support to Mark Zuckerberg, after the tech boss was accused of stealing the idea for the social networking site.
The West Wing creator said he had “empathy” for the Facebook founder and chief executive, who was accused by former Harvard friends of taking their idea and making billions from the now global phenomenon.
Sorkin, who also wrote The American President and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, disclosed his sympathy just days before his new Hollywood film – which details the messy and contentious founding of Facebook in 2004 - has its worldwide premiere.
“I've been that guy. I've been the Mark Zuckerberg in that situation, and I have absolute empathy for him,” Sorkin, 49, told Time Magazine.
“With The West Wing, you'll get somebody who says, ‘but 10 years ago, I wrote a script about the President, and look at all the similarities! There are scenes that take place in the White House’.
“Frankly, the line ‘If you guys were the inventors of Facebook, you would have invented Facebook’ - it's what I always want to say to these people. So I had a lot of empathy for Mark.”
The Social Network, which debuts at the New York Film Festival on Friday, is said to be an unflattering portrait of the Facebook founder and was made without his, or his company’s, co-operation.
But reportedly worried the film could damage Zuckerberg's image, Facebook executives still desperately attempted to get the script altered but ultimately failed.
American reports say the company, which been at the centre of an international row over its attitude to privacy, is now bracing for a movie some say casts its boss as a schemer, backstabber and thief.
The screenplay, based on the book "The Accidental Billionaires" and court documents, is written by Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, who was nominated for an Oscar for "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.
The film, due in cinemas next month, shines an uncomfortable light on a well-publicised rift between Zuckerberg, 26, and a group of Harvard classmates who claimed he stole the idea and subsequently made billions from it.
Staring Jesse Eisenberg and Justin Timberlake as an early Zuckerberg confidante, it also reportedly contains several controversial parts including a graphic sex scene and another at a wild party where cocaine is snorted off women’s breasts.
On Wednesday Zuckerberg, who has said he will not watch the film, had his personal wealth estimated by Forbes magazine as now being worth $6.9bn (€5.1bn), making him one of the "400 Richest People in America".
Earlier, it was disclosed that he had agreed to a $100m (€74.5m) donation to the troubled public school system in Newark, New Jersey.
Last month reports suggested Facebook, which announced in July that its membership topped 500 million, is now worth almost $34bn (€25bn).
The new Hollywood film details allegations from Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, who later rowed for Oxford, and Divya Narendra who claimed they came up with the idea for the social networking site they called ConnectU.
But they lacked the technical expertise to make it work, so enlisted the help of computer science student Zuckerberg.
When Zuckerberg launched Facebook, they launched legal action against him after their significantly less successful site failed.
They accused Zuckerberg, a second year student at the time, of stealing the idea, source code and business plan for Facebook a year before Facebook was launched.
Last year, a US law firm accidentally disclosed that Facebook had paid $65m (€48m) to settle the claim.
A condition of the deal was that all parties keep details confidential or face a multi-million dollar penalty. Neither side has ever commented.