Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Last Word: Aaron Sorkin

From Men's Journal, an interview with one of my favorite writer/directors, Aaron Sorkin. He was writer and creator of The West Wing and Sports Night, writer of The American President (which is where the idea for The West Wing came from), and writer of The Social Network, among many other credits.

The Last Word: Aaron Sorkin

The 'Newsroom' creator on writing, regret, and the one thing that lives up to the hype. 

The Last Word: Aaron Sorkin
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What advice would you give to younger you?
To try to enjoy things a little more and not be so nervous about everything. I would give a lot of advice because I've made a lot of mistakes. Certainly I'd tell myself not to try drugs. Once you do that, you're going to change the trajectory of your life in a terrible way.

Don't drugs help the creative process, at least for a time?
Yeah. If we're going to have a really honest conversation about this, drugs haven't hurt my record collection any. My big fear when I quit drugs was that I wouldn't be able to write anymore. Because if you're a writer and you're on a roll – and I was on a roll when I was high – you don't want to change anything about the way you work. But I'm 11 years clean now, and I've been much more productive in those 11 years than I was in the 11 years prior. But even if I hadn't been, it wouldn't have been worth it.

What motivates you?
My biggest motivation is that I love writing. And I love putting on a show. Also, fear of failure is a huge motivation. About a year and a half ago, I won the Oscar, and I walked off stage and was taken through a labyrinth of press rooms, and I don't think five minutes had gone by before I thought to myself, "Oh, shit...I have to do this every time now, or it's a failure."

What's the best way to end a relationship?
I've had to end a few. I have a fantastic divorce. Julia, my ex-wife, and I split up when our daughter Roxy was only five months old, so her parents living apart is the only life she's ever known. We don't pass her back and forth, there's no schedule. We often do things as a family. We take vacations together, we go out to dinner together. We hang out together. I consider myself extremely lucky that I have this kind of divorce. So whatever we did is the way to do it.

How has being a dad changed you?
Being a father is the only thing that lives up to the hype. When I'm with my daughter – when we're doing homework together or hanging out watching a movie or kicking a soccer ball around or doing any of the things that we do – that's the only time that I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. When I'm with Roxy, it's a great relief to no longer be the most important thing in my life.

How does a man know when someone is bullshitting him?
Here's the problem: When someone's bullshitting you, they're usually telling you something you want to hear, so you don't want it to be bullshit, and so you haven't turned on your bullshit detector. Which is why, when you can find people who are honest with you, you should stay close to them.

What's the one thing every man should experience before he dies?

Well, love, for sure, and a steak at Peter Luger's.

How should a man grow old?

The trick is that it's pretty easy to get angry at youth because you're so envious of it. They've got so much more of their life left. They've got more energy than you do, the world is kind of calibrated toward them. Skip that. It's not going to do any good.

What do Americans not understand about Hollywood?

You know, it always kind of cracks me up when the Right feels that Hollywood is anti-America. No industry has come closer to creating the illusion of that America than Hollywood has. We're the ones who created the idea of pioneering the West with John Wayne. We're the ones who created the image of a nuclear American family where everybody's happy. We did all that. You have the image of America that you have because we invented it and put it on a screen.

How should a man handle regret?

Oh, gosh, regret is the worst. There's a lot of things in my life that I regret, but if I could find a way to draw a line from that thing to my daughter, and say, "If it hadn't been for that stupid thing, I never would've done this stupid thing, which led me to this good thing, which led me to Roxy." Then I feel great. Then I don't care.

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