“The Social Network” Screens at Its Own Ground Zero: Palo Alto

Stanford undergrads squeal with delight at the slightest college reference, while Aaron Sorkin denies charges of sensationalism at a question-and-answer session.

Movie theater screen


On Sunday night, The Social Network screened at the packed Aquarius Theater in Palo Alto. The crowd of Stanford students reportedly whooped and laughed at the slightest allusion to their school (Zuckerberg’s Coupa Cafe cup, in one scene; the Stanford logo emblazoned on a coed’s panties, in another). Then, yesterday, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and castmembers Jesse Eisenberg and Andrew Garfield sat for a question-and-answer session at Stanford’s Roble Theater–which is when the real fun began, according to a report in the Stanford Daily.

The cast and crew continued to talk circles around the fact that its film’s portrayal of the founding of Facebook is, to say the least, unflattering. “I just wonder how they’ll feel about it, if they’ll watch it,” said Garfield, who plays Mark Zuckerberg’s business partner Eduardo Saverin. “I hope he”–meaning Saverin–“thinks I’m OK or whatever.” Jesse Eisenberg meanwhile told a story about going to the MTV Video Music Awards with Justin Timberlake (who plays Napster’s Sean Parker in the film), saying “It’s like going to Disneyland with Mickey.”

When Aaron Sorkin arrived–late, apparently–he declared that “we were pretty serious about accuracy,” going so far as to research Zuck’s beer of choice (this despite the fact that Eisenberg said “Aaron’s script invented this character.”) “Nothing was invented for sensationalizing, for the sake of making it sexy…If you saw it in the movie, it’s because someone very credible or more than one someone said it was credible.” Having said all that, Sorkin was quick to admit that he didn’t think “any of us would want the things we did when we were 19 years old made into a movie.”

The Stanford Daily story is adorned with the requisite “react” quotes that make college newspapers such unintentionally fun reading. “I thought it was pretty interesting,” one recent grad said of the film. “I think the way they framed it was unique.”

Well, not everyone is destined to be a movie critic. But another student was more perceptive, conveying that for all the ambiguous messaging of the movie’s posters–“genius” or “punk”? “prophet” or “traitor”?–the film pretty much left room for only one interpretation. “I don’t know how much of a d-bag Zuckerberg is,” said the freshman, “but I thought it was pretty harsh.”

[Cover image credit: Fernando de Sousa via Wikipedia]

About the author

David Zax is a contributing writer for Fast Company. His writing has appeared in many publications, including Smithsonian, Slate, Wired, and The Wall Street Journal.