Integral Motives

Aaron Sorkin is the acclaimed creator of TV series The West Wing and The Newsroom and the writer of several screenplays including Moneyball, Steve Jobs and The Social Network, for which he won an Oscar. He returns with his first film as writer-director Molly’s Game, based on the true story of Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain), a former Olympic ski-champion who became an FBI target after she started running the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game.

ASFF: How did you look to adapt Molly Bloom’s memoir?
AS: I was sent the book by an entertainment lawyer who I know socially, who said “Do me a favour, read this book, and meet with my client, Molly Bloom.” I Googled her, read a few tabloid things about her, but I read the book – and the book is a wild ride. I went and I met with Molly and that’s when I was hooked. The book was the tip of the iceberg. There was much more to this story and it was a much bigger, deeper and more emotional story than how she became the biggest game runner in the world.

ASFF: What did you make of Molly?
She immediately struck me as brilliant, as strong as a tree, with a very sly sense of humour. The more I heard of the real story, the more I wanted to write this right now. This was a unique heroine found in an unlikely place, and this was a story about many things including doing the right thing. It appealed to my sense of romanticism.

ASFF: Did you think the film would become about gender politics, as it has?
AS: I think I let it become about that. When I’m writing, I really try to stick to intention and obstacle as much as I can. There are going to be themes that will emerge, and when you do your second draft you take away the things that aren’t that. But I think I knew it was going to be about gender politics before I started writing it, just talking to Molly.

ASFF: This is your first feature as a director. Were you nervous on that first day?
AS: Well, I made sure that the first day was a relatively easy day. There was no such thing as an easy day on this movie…[but] I was surrounded by a fantastic group of people, I went into this saying “Don’t pretend you know more than you do, you’ll be figured out. But you do know what you want, you’re not at sea with this, you know what you’re looking for, so project that confidence, lead and people will follow.” And in Jessica [Chastain] and Idris [Elba] I had real partners on the stage. There were a lot of butterflies on the first day, but once we got into it and were doing it, you’d just get lost in the work.

ASFF: The film’s major theme would be integrity. Do you agree?
AS: You’re right – if the movie could be summed up in one word, it would be “integrity”, or “decency.”

James Mottram

Molly’s Game opens in cinemas from 1 January. For more details, visit:

1. Still from Molly’s Game.