Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin books and biography


Aaron Sorkin

A screenshot of Aaron Sorkin from a 1st Season DVD documentary of The West Wing.
Born: 9 June 1961
New York, NY, US
Occupation: Screenwriter
Children: Daughter, Roxy, born in 2000

Aaron Benjamin Sorkin (born on June 9, 1961 in New York City) is an American screenwriter, producer and playwright. He is the author of the screenplays for the films A Few Good Men and The American President and the creator of the television series Sports Night, The West Wing, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.


Early years

Sorkin was born in Manhattan but grew up in Scarsdale, New York. Sorkin's mom was a school teacher and his dad a lawyer. His parents took him often to the theater before he was even a teenager to shows such as Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and although he didn't understand the plot he enjoyed the sound of dialogue.[1]

He attended Scarsdale High School in Scarsdale, NY where he was involved in his high school drama and theater club. In eighth grade he played General Bullmoose in the musical Li'l Abner[2] and later he served as vice president of the drama and theater club.[3] He graduated with the class of 1979.[4]

He flunked his freshman year at Syracuse but returned determined to do better. He played Young Scrooge in [3]

In 1983 he graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Theater.

"I don't want to analyze myself or anything, but I think, in fact I know this to be true, that I enter the world through what I write. I grew up believing, and continue to believe, that I am a screw-up, that growing up with my family and friends, I had nothing to offer in any conversation. But when I started writing, suddenly there was something that I brought to the party that was at a high-enough level."
-Aaron Sorkin, on becoming a writer.[5]

After graduation, Sorkin moved to New York City where he worked odd jobs ranging from delivering singing telegrams, driving a limousine, touring Alabama with the children’s theater company Traveling Playhouse[5], handing out fliers promoting a hunting-and-fishing show, to bartending on Broadway.[2] One weekend, while house sitting at a friend's place he found an I.B.M. Selectric, started typing, and "felt a phenomenal confidence and a kind of joy that (he) had never experienced before in (his) life."[5]

He continued writing and eventually put together his first play Removing All Doubt. He sent it to his old theater teacher, Arthur Storch, who was impressed. In 1984 at 23 his first play Removing All Doubt was being staged for drama students at his alma mater, Syracuse University. After that, he wrote Hidden in this Picture. The contents of his first two plays got him a theatrical agent.[6] He quickly established a reputation as a young, promising playwright on the New York theatre scene.

He sold the film rights for his play A Few Good Men to producer David Brown before it even premiered.[7] His 1989 Broadway play A Few Good Men earned rave reviews.

One of Sorkin's oldest friends is Joshua Malina, who played a part in A Few Good Men on Broadway and was subsequently in almost every one of Sorkin's works.[8][9]

Screenwriting career

In 1992 Sorkin was approached by creative consultant William Goldman to flesh out a premise of Goldman's which became the screenplay for Malice. Sorkin wrote the first two drafts of Malice, then had to leave to work on the screenplay for A Few Good Men, so Scott Frank wrote drafts three and four, and then Sorkin returned once free again to write the final shooting script.[10]

Castle Rock Pictures asked for a sample of his writing. He actually sent A Few Good Men to producer/director Rob Reiner as an example of his writing; Reiner liked it so much, he set out to get the film rights. A Few Good Men was made into a critically acclaimed feature film in 1992, kick-starting his Hollywood career.

William Goldman was a consultant on The American President and became a friend and mentor to Aaron Sorkin.[1]

He met his wife, Julia, a lawyer at Castle Rock, the studio that produced The American President, and she was ultimately responsible for paying Sorkin as little as possible for his screenplay.[11]

Sports Night

Sorkin was writing a feature film screenplay called Sports Night but was unable to structure it, so instead he turned it into a TV series that was picked up by ABC.

The West Wing

Sorkin is probably best known for his political TV drama, The West Wing starring Martin Sheen as the President of the United States, a series originally conceived from leftover dialogue written for Sorkin's 1995 feature The American President. The West Wing was honored with 9 Emmy Awards for its debut season, making the show a record holder for most Emmys won by a series in a single season. The Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series was awarded to each of the first four West Wing seasons. Sorkin left the show in 2003 at the end of the fourth season (the subsequent fifth season failed to get the Outstanding Drama Series Emmy award, though it was still nominated every season after Sorkin's departure). Before The West Wing, Sorkin also created and wrote many of the episodes of the critically acclaimed but short lived TV dramedy Sports Night, which ran from 1998-2000 on ABC.

"Stockard had done an episode of the show as the First Lady ... She took me out to lunch and said she really liked doing the show and wanted to do more and started asking me questions like, “Who do you think this character is?” And those aren’t questions I can answer. I can only answer, what do they want?"
-Aaron Sorkin, on creating characters.[12]

As a writer, Sorkin received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series (The West Wing). In addition, he has received numerous nominations and awards at the Golden Globes, Television Critics Association Awards, Producers Guild of America Golden Laurel Awards and the Writers Guild of America Awards.

Sorkin describes his role in the creative process as "not so much [that of] a showrunner or a producer. I'm really a writer."[8] He admits that this approach can have its drawbacks, saying "Out of 88 [West Wing] episodes that I did we were on time and on budget never, not once."[13]

Sorkin was arrested on April 15, 2001 after guards at a security checkpoint at the Burbank Airport found hallucinogenic mushrooms, marijuana and crack cocaine in his carry-on bag. He was later ordered to a drug-diversion program.[14]

During The West Wing's fourth season, major shake ups occurred. Rob Lowe — initially slated to be the central character but given less and less screen time as the show went on — chose to leave the series. In 2003 Sorkin and fellow executive producer Thomas Schlamme left the show, with producer John Wells taking on an expanded role as showrunner.[15]

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Ever since 2003 there had been reports that Sorkin was working on a latenight comedy show like "Saturday Night Live."[16] In 2006 that show became a reality in the form of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, working with his frequent partner, Thomas Schlamme. In it, the character Matt Albie played by Matthew Perry is partly based on him. He also said that Perry was the only one he thought of to play the part which is why the first name is Matt. The pilot episode of this project aired on NBC September 18th, 2006, after premiering the day before on CTV. In the pilot of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip it is revealed that Bradley Whitford's character (Danny Tripp) is unable to direct a film because of a positive drug test. The film Tripp was slated to direct is about Nikola Tesla, an influential electrical engineer similar to Farnsworth.

Sorkin has also adapted George Crile's Charlie Wilson's War for Tom Hanks's production company, with Hanks in the title role. [17] Reports from Variety [18] and the Hollywood Reporter [19] indicate that Julia Roberts is interested in co-starring in the film, and that Mike Nichols will be the director.

Returning to the theater

In 2005 Sorkin did a polish of his play A Few Good Men for a revival at London's Theater Royal Haymarket. It had been 15 years since he had originally written it. The West End revival opened in the fall of the same year and was directed by David Esbjornson, with Rob Lowe of The West Wing in the lead.[20]

In June 2004, Sorkin completed a screenplay based on the story of Philo Farnsworth, entitled The Farnsworth Invention, to be directed by Schlamme. While the film production appears to be on hold, in 2005, it was announced that The Farnsworth Invention was going to be rewritten as a play to be performed at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin. The La Jolla Playhouse in California announced in early 2006 that it was also going to stage a production of the play in conjunction with The Abbey. In 2006, The Abbey pulled out of the joint effort due to internal disagreements and changes in the theater's management.[21] The play is scheduled to debut at La Jolla Playhouse on February 20th, 2007 under it's Page To Stage New Play Development Program, in which audiences experience the 'birth' of a play, taking part in its shaping as Sorkin and director Des McAnuff make constant changes in response to audience reactions and feedback. The play will run at La Jolla Playhouse until March 25th, 2007.[22]

Writing style

"For me, the (writing) experience is very much like a date. It's not unusual that I'm really funny here and really smart here and maybe showing some anger over here so she sees maybe I have this dark side. I want it to have been worth it for everyone to sit through it for however long I ask them to."
-Aaron Sorkin[23]

Sorkin is known for writing memorable lines and fast-paced dialogue, as well as extended soliloquies for prominent characters, such as the "I am God" piece from Malice. Another Sorkin trademark is how his characters frequently walk side by side while talking at the same time, usually while on their way to a meeting or conference related directly to whatever the discussion is, a practice that has often been referred to as the "Walk and Talk" or "pedeconference".[24] He has also made non-speaking cameo appearances, appearing as a man at a bar in an episode of Sports Night and as one of the witnesses at the swearing-in of the new president in the final episode of The West Wing.

Sorkin uses an Apple Macintosh computer; as he appeared in the 2003 introduction video for the 12 and 17 inch PowerBook computers, in which he praised the features of Apple's notebooks. He says that he "wrote The American President on what was the first portable Apple computer, I wrote the series Sports Night on a G3, and now I write The West Wing on a G4."


Sorkin is also a fan of the rock band Dire Straits, especially of their song Brothers In Arms. He used it in the closing scene of the West Wing's 2nd season finale, a chance he'd been waiting for a while to come.[citation needed]



  • Sports Night (television series, 1998-2000; creator, writer, executive producer)
  • The West Wing (television series, 1999-2006; creator, writer, executive producer (1999-2003))
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (television series, 2006-; creator, writer, executive producer)


  • A Few Good Men (1992; screenplay)
  • Malice (1993; screenplay, story)
  • Schindler's List (1993; uncredited script doctor)
  • The American President (1995; writer)
  • The Rock (1996; uncredited script doctor)
  • Excess Baggage (1997; uncredited script doctor)
  • Bulworth (1998; uncredited script doctor)
  • Enemy of the State (1998; uncredited script doctor)
  • Charlie Wilson's War (2008; screenplay)
  • The Farnsworth Invention (writer - Announced)


  • Hidden in this Picture (1988; playwright)[25]
  • A Few Good Men (1989; playwright)[26]
  • Making Movies (1990; playwright)[27]
  • The Farnsworth Invention (writer - Announced)


  1. ^ a b Emma Forrest (2002-05-02). Words fly down the halls of power. The Age. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
  2. ^ a b In The Spotlight - Aaron Sorkin '83. Syracuse University Magazine (Summer 2001). Retrieved on 2006-11-27.
  3. ^ a b Aaron Sorkin Biography. Yahoo! TV. Retrieved on 2007-01-11.
  4. ^ Distinguished Alumni honor. Scarsdale Alumni Association, Inc. (2006-04-29). Retrieved on 2007-01-11.
  5. ^ a b c Peter De Jonge (2001-10-28). Aaron Sorkin Works His Way Through the Crisis. New York Times Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
  6. ^ Valerie Weiss, PhD (December 2003). Three days, 15 seminars, one great experience. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
  7. ^ William A. Henry III (1989-11-27). Marine Life. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
  8. ^ a b Interview with Aaron Sorkin: Creator and Executive Producer of "Sports Night" and "The West Wing". Comedy (2001-01-01). Retrieved on 2007-01-10.
  9. ^ Curt Schleier (2005-09-02). A ‘West Wing’ Jew close to the president. Jewish News Weekly of Northern California. Retrieved on 2007-01-14.
  10. ^ James Berardinelli (1993). Malice: A Film Review. Retrieved on 2007-01-10.
  11. ^ John Levesque (2000-03-07). Aaron Sorkin is a man of many words. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved on 2007-01-10.
  12. ^ Interview with Aaron Sorkin (PDF). OnWriting Magazine p.6. The Writers Guild of America, East, Inc. (February 2003). Retrieved on 2007-01-10.
  13. ^ Sorkin, Aaron. Interview with Charlie Rose. The Charlie Rose Show., New York. 2003-08-13.
  14. ^ Bridget Byrne. "West Wing" Creator Diverted. E! Online News.
  15. ^ Josef Adalian (2003-05-01). Sorkin sulking away from 'Wing': Regime change for NBC White House series. Variety. Retrieved on 2007-01-14.
  16. ^ Scott Hettrick (2003-09-11). [ Inside Move: Sorkin scripting play, pic Return to TV on hold]. Variety. Retrieved on 2007-01-14.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^,24012,1147836_10_0_,00.html
  20. ^ Michael Fleming (2005-04-24). West End boys club: Lowe, Sorkin team for 'Good Men' revival. Variety. Retrieved on 2007-01-10.
  21. ^ Karen Fricker (2006-02-05). 'Farnsworth' fumble: Abbey drops ball on Sorkin commission. Variety. Retrieved on 2007-01-02.
  22. ^ Sorkin and McAnuff Collaborate on LaJolla's 'Invention'. Retrieved on 2007-01-02.
  23. ^ John Levesque (2000-03-07). Aaron Sorkin is a man of many words. Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved on 2007-01-10.
  24. ^
  25. ^ Mel Gussow (1988-08-24). Review/Theater; Three Plays on Desire. New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
  26. ^ Frank Rich (1989-11-16). Review/Theater; Honor, Bullying and Conformity In the Trial in 'A Few Good Men'. New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.
  27. ^ Mel Gussow (1990-03-28). Review/Theater; 'Making Movies,' a Satire Of the Celluloid World. New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-01-12.

Further reading

  • (2005-01-11) Thomas Fahy: Considering Aaron Sorkin: Essays on the Politics, Poetics and Sleight of Hand in the Films and Television Series. McFarland & Company, Inc.. ISBN 978-0786421206. 

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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