MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
You don't have to be a movie buff to know Aaron Sorkin. You know him from movies like "The Social Network," "Steve Jobs" and "Moneyball" and television shows like "The West Wing." Over more than two decades of screenwriting, Sorkin has made a name for himself as a master of crackling dialogue, complex character study and nail-biter political drama. Sorkin's latest film has all of that and something else. It's his first time in the director's chair.
The film is called "Molly's Game." It's a fictionalized account of a real person named Molly Bloom, an Olympic-level skier whose athletic career ends in a dramatic wipeout. Looking for a change of pace and for something to occupy her time before she goes to law school, she stumbles into the world of underground high-stakes celebrity poker games. Next thing you know, she's in the sights of the Russian mafia and U.S. prosecutors.
Molly Bloom is portrayed by Jessica Chastain. Here's a clip from "Molly's Game." It's a scene where she's confronted by one of her celebrity clients, played by Michael Cera, over control of the weekly game.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "MOLLY'S GAME")
MICHAEL CERA: (As Player X) These guys want to play cards with me, not you.
JESSICA CHASTAIN: (As Molly Bloom) Be that as it may...
CERA: (As Player X) You know who the biggest winner in this game is?
CHASTAIN: (As Molly Bloom) It's you.
CERA: (As Player X) You know the second biggest winner is?
CHASTAIN: (As Molly Bloom) Look.
CERA: (As Player X) It's you. What are you taking home, 10,000 a night now?
CHASTAIN: (As Molly Bloom) That is my business - literally.
CERA: (As Player X) Between you, the dealers and the servers, you're taking a lot of money out of this game.
CHASTAIN: (As Molly Bloom) Not as much as I'm bringing to it.
CERA: (As Player X) That 10,000 is 10,000 that doesn't go in my pocket.
CHASTAIN: (As Molly Bloom) Again, my money...
CERA: (As Player X) Your money is my money.
MARTIN: And Aaron Sorkin is with us now from our studios in New York. Aaron Sorkin, thanks so much for speaking with us.
AARON SORKIN: Well, thanks for having me.
MARTIN: A lot of your films have focused on larger-than-life figures like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. What was it that drew you to this story, the story of Molly Bloom?
SORKIN: Well, you know, I was asked to read the book by an entertainment lawyer I know socially. And then I was asked to meet with Molly. And I read the book. The book is a wild ride. It's the true story of Molly Bloom, who in her 20s and 30s ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes underground poker game. CEOs, billionaires, movie stars, sports figures, politicians would win or lose millions of dollars in the course of a night at Molly's table, sometimes in the course of one hand. And so I read the book and did not think it was something that I'd want to make a movie out of. It wasn't until a couple of days later when I sat down with Molly Bloom and saw that the book was just the very tip of a very large and complicated iceberg that I began to get interested.
What I discovered was that Molly was an honest-to-God real-life movie heroine found in an unlikely place, that this was a morality tale of doing the right thing when the wrong thing is easier, more profitable, more expedient, that it was a story about decency and that it wasn't a story about all the shiny objects, the decadence, the money, the glamour, the Hollywood boldface names, the poker. That was the backdrop for a much more personal and much more emotional and much more inspirational story.
MARTIN: Was decency important to you, decency at the heart of it, was that important to you?
SORKIN: Incredibly important. I like meditations on decency under any circumstances. In the times that we're living in now, when you come face-to-face with decency, it's like a cold glass of water in the middle of a desert. And that's what happened when I met Molly Bloom. Molly is a brilliant woman. When we meet her at the beginning of the movie, she has a gold-plated future. Her whole life is ahead of her.
Molly was ranked third in North America in women's moguls and was on the U.S. Ski Team and is about to, at the top of the movie, run the third and final qualifying round to make the Olympic ski team. She's going to do that, then she's going to go to Harvard Law School with an Olympic medal around her neck. And then she's going to start a foundation that seeds entrepreneurial women. And she comes 100 yards from that goal, when just a fluke accident happens that sends her off course, both literally and metaphorically, into this crazy world of underground poker instead of that perfect life that she was supposed to be living.
MARTIN: You started working on this film quite some time ago, but it's coming out now...
MARTIN: ...In this moment. You know, you're telling a story about a woman navigating a world of powerful, sometimes abusive men who make all the rules, and she's trying to figure out her place in it. And I'm just wondering if you, you know, feel like this adds to that conversation in some way that you may not have anticipated at the time, which how could you have? But I don't know. What do you think now?
SORKIN: Well, I would happily trade the fortuitous timing of the movie for a world in which it wasn't quite as relevant as it is right now. Obviously, yes, first of all, let me confirm that Molly does navigate a world of very powerful men, that oftentimes these men are less than respectful...
SORKIN: Yeah, they're jerks. They're jerks. And moreover, when one of these powerful men feels that Molly is not sufficiently impressed by their power or is paying more attention to another powerful man than they're paying to powerful man number one, they ruin her. They end her. And there's a contradiction there because they're all also in love with Molly. You know, there's some misogyny going on there. So it is very much reflective of what's going on today. I think it was probably reflective of what was going on 50 years ago, too. It's just that sunlight has been poured on this for the last couple of months ever since the Ronan Farrow and New York Times exposes of Harvey Weinstein.
MARTIN: You know, before I let you go, I was reading some of the background notes for the film which, you know, the studios make available before you do an interview. They kind of tell you what the filmmaker's thoughts were, and they interview key people. And one of the things that was interesting in the liner notes for you is that it said that you didn't want to name names. You didn't want it to be a gossip film. You didn't want the audience to sit around wondering, who were these celebrities at these poker games?
You know, now that we're in a moment where people are holding powerful people accountable for their bad conduct, I wonder, is there any part of you that regrets not naming some of those names of people who behave badly toward Molly?
SORKIN: I think that you're asking a very interesting question. So I want to - I want to answer this is as fulsomely as I can. No, right from the very beginning, I knew that I didn't want to gossip about anybody. I don't like gossip. And I think that we're living in a time of gossip. I think that social media has served as a force accelerator.
Moreover, if you're going to make a movie where your heroine is heroic because she refuses to, as you put it, name names, to gossip about people, even though it would mean that she would, you know, all of her money is taken away by the government even though it means she would get her money back, be able to restart her life, guarantee her freedom, she'd be kept out of jail - she still refuses to name names. She still refuses to talk about guys who weren't very good to her. But what you're asking is if Molly was sexually harassed or even, God forbid, sexually abused by one of these guys, that is - that's still a noble thing that she's keeping it to herself.
And let me try to answer the way I think Molly would answer that question. Molly would do anything to protect someone, to warn someone if they were in danger, OK, if they were about to go on a date with or have a meeting with or audition for someone that Molly knew to be dangerous. But that wasn't the case here. Molly also - because I talked to her about the culture we find ourselves in now, what's going on, you know, the Me Too movement.
And Molly distinguishes and thinks it's important to distinguish between boorish behavior, piggish behavior and dangerous behavior. So I think that's the answer that Molly would give. And I think that Molly is a more credible source on this than I am, so I'm going to give you Molly's answer while I kind of take some time to listen to everyone else before I give you mine.
MARTIN: That's Aaron Sorkin. He is an Oscar-and-Emmy-winning writer. He directed his latest film. It's called "Molly's Game," and it is out nationwide on January 5. He was nice enough to join us from our studios in New York. Aaron Sorkin, thank you so much for speaking with us and Happy Holidays to you.
SORKIN: Thank you very much and Happy Holidays to you.
MARTIN: And we had the chance to put some of those questions to the real Molly Bloom. You can hear that interview tomorrow.
(SOUNDBITE OF EKALI AND ZHU'S "BLAME")
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