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Exclusive: Aaron Sorkin reveals what scared him the most about his Oscar-nominated screenplay for ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’

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Sorkin shares how scenes in the film took him out of his comfort zone and was "brand new territory" for the director and screenwriter.

Video Transcript

- And just a quick follow-up there, is it a conscious or subconscious thing that several of the best Aaron Sorkin scripts take us to the world of the courtroom, whether it's "A Few Good Men" or your version of "To Kill a Mockingbird" or now this?

AARON SORKIN: That's nice of you to say. I do love courtroom dramas. And mostly what I love is-- listen, I'm a playwright who kind of fakes his way through movies and television shows. I love film and television as an audience member, but never, like so many of my friends who do what I do, kind of was a student of it the way I was a student of plays.

So things like "One Night in Miami," if it-- plays that are movies I love, basically. You know, they say if you're bringing home a new puppy that you should get a crate that's just big enough for the dog to be able to turn around in but no bigger, because those confines give the puppy a sense of security. They like being in that tight space.

And I'm sorry to compare myself to a cute animal. I'm the same way. I need four walls really badly. So the idea of just going outdoors scares me in a script. Writing "EXT." scares me. But riots and violence and all this action, all this stuff I'm not used to was brand new territory for me.

But just to finish up, I like courtrooms not just because of the close confines. But in a courtroom drama, the elements of drama are so clear. The intention and obstacle are so clear. The stakes are clear.

The jury is a stand-in for the audience. The jury knows as little as the audience does, so there's a reason for exposition. And the dynamic between a lawyer and a witness who's being cross-examined is the essence of drama, that friction. So that's why I like courtroom drams.

- That's a great answer.

- And I've got to challenge you, Scott, on his best scripts being courtroom dramas, because I think Steve Jobs-- in terms of a model for how to do a biopic, I consider that like the gold standard of how to do an effective biopic, was that Steve Jobs script.

AARON SORKIN: Well, I really appreciate that. And I would like the rest of you to talk about what you like about my work too. But that's a really good example of the puppy crate, where I was adapting Walter Isaacson's 800-page biography of Steve Jobs. I didn't want to start with, you know, a little boy looking in the window of an electronics store and go through all that.

So I just got as small as I could get. And I said, what if I just wrote a play with three scenes, three real-time scenes. They each take place in the 40 minutes or so before a product launch backstage. And let's give him some intentions and obstacles, and on that clothesline I'll hang the story of Steve Jobs. Or [INAUDIBLE].

- I will be stealing that structure, just to make it official right here. I will be stealing that structure.

AARON SORKIN: I promise you, I didn't invent it. So have at it.