Although they had never worked together before, Rudin—who won an Oscar for best picture for No Country for Old Men and is known for both his excellent taste and his ability to get difficult movies made—agreed to Sorkin’s writing the script. The book proposal had been written by Ben Mezrich, a Harvard graduate who had been successful with another brainy true-life tale—Bringing Down the House, a best-seller about the M.I.T. students who counted cards and beat Vegas at blackjack. That book became the film 21, and at the premiere in Las Vegas, Mezrich met Eduardo Saverin. Saverin wanted to tell his side of the story: how he had funded Facebook from its inception, how Zuckerberg had betrayed him, how their friendship had crumbled. In 2005 Saverin was cut out of Facebook by Zuckerberg and sued, eventually getting an undisclosed settlement. Saverin’s lawsuit was compounded by another lawsuit, brought by Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, twin brothers who had approached Zuckerberg, pre-Facebook, about helping them with their idea, a similar-sounding website called Harvard Connection.
“I wasn’t aware of any of this when I started researching the project,” Sorkin said. Both authors met repeatedly with Saverin and the Winklevoss twins, but Zuckerberg did not cooperate with either the book or the movie. Mezrich’s book, The Accidental Billionaires, which Zuckerberg decried as fiction, was published in 2009 and is sympathetic to Saverin, but sticks to a fairly conventional biographical framework. Sorkin’s script, on the other hand, searches for the reasons and the larger meaning behind the actions of all these men. Instead of focusing solely on how, when, and where Facebook happened (as Mezrich does), Sorkin utilized the legal depositions of the principals—Saverin, the Winklevosses, and, especially, Zuckerberg—and each has their version of events. “There is no ‘truth,’” Rudin explained when I called to ask him about the origins of the project. “And that’s what’s interesting about this story: Truth is always subjective.”
Sorkin’s research unearthed the very first words on what became Facebook—an angry blog post that Zuckerberg allegedly wrote after being dumped by a girl. That blog morphed into a Zuckerberg-invented computer program called Facemash, in which photos of Harvard women were posted online, and compared and contrasted based on their looks. It was a classic misfit’s revenge: If he couldn’t get the girl, he would trash the girl. “I think there’s a subset of nerds who are not the cuddly kinds of nerds we made movies about in the Eighties,” Sorkin said. “These nerds don’t understand why attractive women are still dating the quarterback and not them, why women don’t get that they’re the ones running the universe right now. There’s an arrogance that has alchemized into real nastiness.”