TORONTO >> Aaron Sorkin was sitting in a restaurant with producers Amy Pascal and Mark Gordon, ticking off the names of top Hollywood directors who might be a good fit for the script Sorkin had just finished: “Molly’s Game,” a drama about the so-called “poker princess” Molly Bloom.
“When we got to the end, Mark and Amy said, ‘But we think you should direct it,’” Sorkin recalled in an interview. “And I grabbed at the chance.”
“Molly’s Game” premiered Friday night at the Toronto International Film Festival where it was immediately greeted with rave reviews, awards forecasts for star Jessica Chastain and a general reaction of: Sorkin, director, is a rip-roaring success.
He had come close before.
“I was going to direct ‘The Social Network.’ Amy Pascal, Scott Rudin and I said, ‘You know what, let’s just give it to David Fincher and once he’s passes, I’ll direct it,’” said Sorkin. “I’ve never been so lucky to not direct something in my life.”
Fate intervened, Sorkin and Fincher created one of the most celebrated films of the decade, and Sorkin’s chance to take the director’s chair had to wait. Danny Boyle took the reins of Sorkin’s next script, the Apple co-founder biopic “Steve Jobs.”
But the cards came up different for Sorkin on “Molly’s Game,” which STX Entertainment will release Nov. 22. The story is a rich one — full of Sorkin’s whip-smart dialogue — that Sorkin says he became obsessed with telling. “At some point, you have to fall in love,” he said. “With this, it was right away.”
The film is partly based on Bloom’s memoir about running a high-stakes poker game in Los Angeles where bold-faced names like Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Ben Affleck were regulars. Bloom was herself a former elite freestyle skier whose Olympic chances were dramatically derailed by an injury. She was later arrested as part of a larger mafia investigation.
Impressed by Bloom’s intellect, sense of humor and character, Sorkin could see Bloom was more interesting than her tabloid persona.
“She struck me as a unique movie heroine,” he says.
Sorkin, the 56-year-old writer of “Moneyball,” ”Charlie Wilson’s War” and “A Few Good Men,” didn’t pen the screenplay expecting to direct.
“But once I did write it, I just had this very specific notion of what it should feel like, what it should look like, what it should be like. I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to articulate it to a director,” said Sorkin. “I’m not done wanting to work with great directors. On this movie, I just didn’t want to litigate my choices.”
The experience, he says, was one of the most rewarding of his career.
“I had the time of my life,” he says. “I loved every minute of it.”