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TIME: It must have been a challenge to make the computer stuff visually exciting people hunched over keyboards.
Fincher: You show shots of someone typing that are as short as you can possibly make them. But it was contextualized interestingly, in that here is somebody hard at work f___ing with the fabric of the outside world, and here's his fantasy of what the outside world is going through. So you could ping-pong back and forth between those two ideas. But part of it is a fantasy. It extends to the casting of Justin Timberlake. A lot of people said, "That's not who [Napster co-founder] Sean Parker is." And I kept fighting for this. It doesn't matter who Sean Parker is; this character of Zuckerberg has to see him as this. He's got to see him as the guy who's got it wired.
It's not just about the people involved. It's the people involved showing us a bigger truth about the last seven years, and a bigger truth about what it is to be youthful and have a dream and enthusiasm, and how once money gets injected into something it tears up the fabric of all of those idealistic good intentions.
TIME: It's a balancing act with the Zuckerberg character. At the beginning of the movie, he's not really all that likable.
Sorkin: I think he spends the first hour and 55 minutes of the movie being an antihero and the last five minutes of the movie being a tragic hero. And I know that by the end of the movie, I kind of want to give him a hug, and I think that people are going to feel that way too.
I also think that we understand, pretty quickly, how he got there. He's 19 years old for most of the movie, and if you're somebody who has spent so much time with your nose pressed up against the window of social life, who has been told that you're a loser over and over I have a hunch we all get told that we're a loser, and how healthy you are as an adult depends on how much you believed it when you were growing up.
Fincher: I really doubt that Mark Zuckerberg was ever told he was a loser. I think he's probably been told he's a f___ing genius for most of his life.
But what does that mean? That's what Harvard is. You're either getting the people who know how to behave, who were genetically created to be in that environment, or you're getting the superfreaks who spiked the graph on one thing. And they're being thrust into this garden party that they never quite signed up for. And I think he's probably the latter.
TIME: What kind of research did you do to create Zuckerberg's character?
Sorkin: [Producer] Scott Rudin made as aggressive an effort as you can make to get the cooperation of Mark and of Facebook. In the end, they decided not to participate, which is easy to understand. And to be honest with you, I'm grateful that it worked out that way. I wouldn't want the movie to be perceived as a Facebook production. I was able to meet with, speak with and e-mail with a number of the principals. It was all on the condition of anonymity, so I can't get too far into that.
TIME: Did you know from the start that you wanted Jesse Eisenberg for the part?
Fincher: We saw a lot of people, and one day I got a clip from Jesse's manager of him doing the first scene in the movie, and Aaron and I were working, and I said, "Come here, you've got to see this." I mean, it's not Mark Zuckerberg. Mark Zuckerberg in none of the file footage that I've found talks anywhere near that fast or has that kind of facility. But it was the perfect representation of the character.