Monday, June 18, 2012

Sorkin: "I Like the Sound of Intelligence"

Aaron Sorkin's new skein The Newsroom is debuting next Sunday on HBO and, shock of shocks, I'm hugely excited for it. So much so that, as I promised earlier, I just got off the phone with DirecTV to make sure I'll be able to watch as it airs. Seriously, this is a big step for me. It's the Zaki Hasan equivalent of getting pay-per-view before a big fight.

With the days to the debut counting down, Sorkin is out making the usual media rounds, but I found this chat with Mark Harris of The Vulture especially illuminating, as it covers a whole lot of ground beyond just The Newsroom, dipping into his politics, his writing style, and his views on some of his past works. There's far too much meat for me to just pull one highlight from, so click past the link for a sampling of some of his choicest comments.

On how he manages to sound so smart in his writing:
I write about people who are smarter than I am and know more than I do, and I am able to do that simply by being tutored almost phonetically, sometimes. I’m used to it. I grew up surrounded by people who are smarter than I am, and I like the sound of intelligence. I can imitate that sound, but it’s not organic. It’s not intelligence. It’s my phonetic ability to imitate the sound of intelligence.
On what makes for an appealing character to write:
I’m writing about not the difference between good and bad but the difference between good and great. You take a guy who’s a perfectly nice guy. He’s doing fine. He’s not breaking any laws. And he covets the fact that people like him, and he’s popular. He covets the fact that he doesn’t have a lot of enemies. And you make him have to risk that by reaching higher.
On what's wrong with the media:
Nobody uses the word lie anymore. Suddenly, everything is “a difference of opinion.” If the entire House Republican caucus were to walk onto the floor one day and say “The Earth is flat,” the headline on the New York Times the next day would read “Democrats and Republicans Can’t Agree on Shape of Earth.”
On what Will McAvoy, The Newsroom's lead character (played by Jeff Daniels) represents:
If Josiah Bartlet on The West Wing was the Democrat that Democrats would love to see, I think that Will McAvoy is the Republican that Democrats would love to see.
On whether he watched The West Wing after he departed the series (at the end of the fourth season):
...the day before the season-five premiere aired, a copy was messengered to me. I stuck the tape in, and I did not get even 60 seconds into it before I had to shut it off. Not because it was great, not because it was less than great, but because it was like watching somebody make out with my girlfriend.
On why his much-ballyhooed Studio 60 flamed out on NBC five years ago:
I simply didn’t write it well enough.
On Mitt Romney being cowed by the far right:
Romney had a gay foreign-policy spokesperson who resigned. And the tweet or the post from the family-values guy who was really upset that Romney had a gay spokesperson was, “Romney has just said to the family-values community, ‘Drop dead.’ ” What would have happened if Romney had said, “I’m not telling the family-values community to drop dead. I’m telling homophobes to drop dead”?
On advice he'd give President Obama:
There have been times when I have wished that I could make a rhetorical suggestion. For instance, you need the wealthiest people to pay higher taxes. Why not frame it as a patriotic sacrifice? Why not say that for generations now, it has been mostly the sons and daughters of working-class families who have fought our wars for us, with many of them paying the ultimate sacrifice?
There's much more here, and as always with Sorkin, it's all worth a read.

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