In less than a decade, Facebook has become a worldwide phenomenon; but despite its overnight success, the creation of this Internet-based community was not without controversy and a new film, The Social Network, is based on that true story ? or, actually, the various versions of that true story.
"People want to go on the Internet and check out their friends, so why not build a website that offers the friends, pictures, profiles ?"
"This idea is potentially worth millions of dollars."
Getting dates, not making money seems to have been the motivation for Mark Zuckerberg in 2003 when, smarting from a break-up, the Harvard student and computer whiz sat down at the keyboard with his best friend Eduardo.
Their "Facemash" website became an instant hit on campus. It took a few refinements to expand the scope and turn it into something that captured the attention of the world just by posting information members want their friends to know.
"You don't know my name, do you? How do you go to a party and you meet somebody ?"
"Amelia Ritter, but you prefer Amy. You're from Orinda. Your father is in commercial real estate and your mother is 10 years sober."
"What's my major?"
"French. Your major is French."
Facebook quickly grows into a global connection with some 500 million 'friends;' but, as the movie's advertising points out, you don't get that many friends without making a few enemies.
"You stole our website!"
"They are saying we stole the Facebook ?"
"I know what it says."
"So did we?"
The legal battle pits friend against friend and shatters relationships. English actor Andrew Garfield, who plays Eduardo Saverin, says the technology they invented is not the story.
"Facebook is just a backdrop to these incredibly universal themes that are playing out between people," explains Garfield, "like brotherhood, love, betrayal, power - all of these Shakespearean, Greek things."
Jesse Eisenberg stars as the computer genius at the center of the tempest, but he never spoke with the real Mark Zuckerberg (who, like the other principals, did not cooperate with the making of the movie).
"I spent six months thinking about him every day," says Eisenberg. " I developed a great affection for my character and, of course, by extension, the man. I'd be very interested to meet him."
The Social Network script is by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who says the multiple (and conflicting) versions of the truth challenged and intrigued him.
"The antagonist and protagonist in this story shifts as we go along," notes Sorkin. "I don't think this movie belongs to any particular drama, but the one that it is most closely related to is actually courtroom drama, where we are certain of someone's guilt or innocence at the beginning and we change our minds five times all the way through. Strictly speaking, Mark is the anti-hero for the first hour and 55 minutes and the final five minutes being the tragic hero, which means that he has paid a price and is experiencing remorse. Protagonist and antagonist in this case don't relate to 'good guy' and 'bad guy.'
Sorkin insists his script is fair to all sides in the ongoing argument; but star Eisenberg says it is important to keep in mind that The Social Network is the dramatized version of events, not a documentary.
"In the movie that Aaron created is a guy that is desperately trying to fit in and doesn't have the social wherewithal to do so. I could certainly relate to that," admits Eisenberg. "Almost to cope, he creates this incredible tool to interact in a way that he feels comfortable. Because of his incredible insights, 500 million other people also feel comfortable using that tool. It's just a fascinating character, complicated in all the right ways, so even though he acts in a way that might be hurtful to other characters, by the end of the movie it's totally understandable.
The Social Network, directed by David Fincher and executive produced by Kevin Spacey, also features pop star Justin Timberlake as an early Facebook supporter, Sean Parker, founder of the Napster file-sharing website. The eclectic, electronic-themed soundtrack is composed by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor.