This years marks 10-year anniversary of the release of one of the greatest movies of the 21st Century, The Social Network, a film that remains just as popular and significant now as it was when it was released in 2010. Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by David Fincher, this blistering retelling of the early years of Facebook and the drama surrounding its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is a landmark in both storytelling and filmmaking in its depiction of the world’s most visible and consequential social media platforms. But how it all came together is just as interesting, as these behind the scenes facts show.
Facebook Had A List Of Requirements In Order To Participate
You would think that a movie based on Facebook would have had the blessing from the social media giant, but that ended up not being the case. In the lead-up to the 83rd Academy Awards in 2011, David Fincher sat down with Timeout to discuss The Social Network, and during that interview, the director revealed that producer Scott Rudin had a series of conversations with Facebook during pre-production that ultimately fell through due to the company’s requirements:
They had a list of a dozen ‘requirements’ for their participation, and the first two were: it can’t take place at Harvard and you can’t call it Facebook. So, Rudin, who’s not a dumb guy, just said that discussions didn’t need to go any further: we’re going to make a movie about the litigation as the depositions are all part of the public record and we can glean from them the drama we need to make our film.
Later in the conversation, David Fincher revealed that representatives from Facebook attended an early screening and were “appropriately appalled” by what they saw in the finished product.
The Story Is Based On Three Separate, Conflicting Depositions
When writing the Academy Award-winning screenplay for The Social Network, Aaron Sorkin couldn’t turn to Facebook to see how the early days of the company played out, so he turned to three separate and conflicting depositions that were taken over the course of two lawsuits filed at roughly the same time. In the video “How I Wrote The Social Network,” Sorkin explained that even though the defendant (Mark Zuckerberg), the plaintiffs, and the witnesses all swore an oath to tell the truth, they each told very different versions of the story, which made things exciting:
I liked that there were three different and oftentimes conflicting versions of the truth. I liked courtroom dramas and I liked Rashomon, so I wanted to tell all three versions. I make it very clear to the audience that facts are in dispute and that the movie continually reminds you that you are listening to a series of unreliable narrators.
This idea of having an unreliable narrator adds another dimension to the movie and gives the audience another factor to take into consideration when deciding who is wright and who is wrong in the various scenarios featured in the movie.
Aaron Sorkin Was Originally Set To Direct, But The Producers Wanted To Give David Fincher A Shot
The original plan for The Social Network was to have Aaron Sorkin both write and direct the project, which would have been a first for the scribe. As early stages of pre-production began to speed up, however, producer Scott Rudin decided he wanted to see if David Fincher would be interested in leading the charge behind the camera. Fincher told THR in 2011 that he was given the script on a Friday and that next Monday he agreed to come aboard, but only if Sorkin was okay with stepping aside. Once that happened, Fincher got to work and the rest is history. Sorkin would go on to make his directorial debut in the 2017 release of Molly’s Game.
David Fincher Was Adamant About The Opening Scene Being Seven Minutes, Twenty-Two Seconds Long
Right off the bat, The Social Network throws the audience into the middle of the drama surrounding Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg with the fast-paced and draining breakup scene between Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) and Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). Aaron Sorkin told THR in 2016 the reason behind this blistering speed of the dialogue goes back to the first meeting he had with David Fincher in which the director timed him reading each of the scenes how they sounded in his head, and the opener ended up being seven minutes, 22 seconds. In rehearsal, as the actors were preparing to shoot, Aaron Sorkin explained that David Fincher would be there timing each go at the scene and come back with notes pretty much saying:
But this scene is seven minutes and 22 seconds long, and you’re doing it at seven minutes and 40 seconds. So I don’t care how, but you’re going to have to talk faster somewhere, because I promise you, this scene plays best at seven minutes and 22 seconds.
Just go back and watch the scene for yourself and try and figure out the two actors were able to get out all of that complex dialogue in such a short amount of time and still have it make sense, even though it was eventually cut down to a little under five minutes in length.
Josh Pence’s Head Was Replaced With Armie Hammer’s In Post, But He Had To Learn Tyler Winklevoss’ Lines
Throughout The Social Network, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss (Armie Hammer) were established as two rowing-obsessed twins who try to get Mark Zuckerberg to help them launch their own website before later suing him for theft of their idea. Finding a set of twins that were six feet five inches tall and 220 pounds that could also act proved difficult for David Fincher, so he decided to cast Hammer to be the face of both twins while hiring Josh Pence to be a stand-in for whenever both brothers were on the screen at the same time. But just because Pence’s face and voice wouldn’t be in the final product, he still had to learn all the lines, as Fincher told EW in 2010:
I said, ‘Look, if you agree to do this, all the over-the-shoulders are going to be you, you gotta learn all the lines, you gotta be there for every shoot day. And when push comes to shove, I’m gonna lop your head off and put Armie’s head on you. It’s gonna be a completely thankless task.
David Fincher went on to explain that Josh Pence was awesome in response to the proposal and said that he’d love to be a part of the movie.
The Thrilling Henley Royal Regatta Scene Was Shot Just Weeks Before The Movie Was To Be Finished
David Fincher is typically known for the dramatic ways in which he frames his shots and shoots action, but The Social Network is essentially two hours of people talking in board rooms and writing code. That is, except for the beautiful and thrilling Henley Royal Regatta scene that shows the Winklevoss twins being narrowly beat by the Dutch rowing team. This whole sequence becomes even more thrilling when you realize that sequence and subsequent party scene were shot just weeks before the movie was supposed to be finished, as Fincher reveals in the film’s director’s commentary:
So this was one of those sequences where the only time we could shoot it was July 4, 2010. It was literally five to six weeks before we had to finish the movie. The movie had to be done so we could get it in theaters, and they were incredibly helpful to us and made it all possible.
And the whole short depth-of-field and artistic feel to the whole rowing scene? Well, that decision wasn’t just made to make it look more aesthetically pleasing but instead because the closeups were filmed at a different location that looked nothing like Henley, and this style allowed Fincher to better stitch the shots together.
Harvard Wouldn’t Allow The Production On Campus
Besides the deposition scenes and the sections of the movie set in California, a large chunk of The Social Network was set at Harvard, where Mark Zuckerberg founded Facebook back in 2004. There was just one problem with that, the university wouldn’t allow the movie to be filmed on campus, as David Fincher explained in the short documentary about the movie’s visuals on its Blu-ray release:
Part of the hardship of working at Harvard, is they weren’t very helpful. To say they weren’t very helpful would actually be giving them a break. They sandbagged us. They were fucking atrocious as far as what they would allow us to do.
To get around this, the production crew filmed at other colleges that had a similar look as Harvard, while also filming establishing shots at sections of Cambridge, Massachusetts that overlooked the university.
To Pull Off The Exterior Shots Of Harvard, A Mime Was Sent To The Iconic Arches To Light Up The Area And Distract Authorities
The exterior shots of Harvard are some of the most prominent in all of the movie, but not being able to film on Harvard property initially proved to be a major issue for the production team. That is until David Fincher came up with a great workaround to capture the iconic arches at the entrance of the prestigious campus, as director of photography Jeff Croneweth revealed in a making of documentary:
Knowing that we couldn’t use the Harvard property at all, the archways were black and silhouetted and didn’t stand out, and they’re the oldest archways at the university, and very iconic of Harvard. David had a fantastic idea of getting a mime to walk in with a battery-powered light that we created and create a mime situation in the arches just as we were shooting. The thought was if security came or a police officer came, by the time you get a mime to stop miming, we had accomplished our shot.
Jeff Croneweth would go on to joke that they were there filming a multi-million dollar movie but still having to go back and use techniques that they would have used in film school.
Jonah Hill Was Considered For The Sean Parker Role Before Justin Timberlake Came Into The Picture
It is hard to see anyone but Justin Timberlake as the cocky and influential founder of Napster Sean Parker in The Social Network, but there was a time when Jonah Hill was in the running for the role. During a 2018 appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast, however, the star of 2011’s Moneyball (also written by Aaron Sorkin) revealed that even though the studio really wanted him to get the role, the decision ultimately came down to David Fincher who ultimately thought Timberlake was the better fit. And even though Hill doesn’t harbor any ill will towards the director for passing him over, he is still bummed about it all these years later because he really likes the movie.
The College Party Scene Where Sean Parker Is Arrested Features The Only Handheld Shot In The Entire Movie
Pretty much every shot in The Social Network is smooth and calculated and gives off a very cool, calm, and collected feel to the movie, even when chaos is happening all around. That’s not the case for the party scene where Sean Parker gets arrested for possession of cocaine and distributing to minors. In the director’s commentary on the film’s Blu-ray release, David Fincher explains that this scene contains the only handheld shot in the entire movie, stating:
This is the one handheld shot in the whole movie because it follows the perspective of somebody who’s maybe inebriated, and felt like the idea of walking out in a tipsy state might best be described by humans sloppily with shouldering cameras.
By having the human element in this one shot, it adds a sense of realism and place that isn’t seen all that much through the rest of the movie, and also shows the predictable unraveling of the Napster founder, proving Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) right.
Those are just 10 things about the making of The Social Network that make the film all that more interesting. What are your thoughts on David Fincher’s landmark Facebook movie? Does it still hold up after all these years?
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August 15, 2020