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Facebook Execs Do Not ‘Like’ the Facebook Movie

It is no secret that Hollywood likes to add touches of flourish to increase the dramatic flair of true subject material. It happens, and is expected. No one complained when Rudy finally got his shot to play for Notre Dame, despite the fact that the film’s vilified coach was actually the one that in real life insisted Rudy get to play. We got it, it made for a better movie. But when the subjects in question are the founders of the second most trafficked website in the world, and when the film attempts to make them look like their motivation for building a global corporation was to meet girls and do drugs, that is unlikely to go over quite as smoothly as seeing plucky young Rudy score a touchdown.

The NY Times is reporting that two Facebook executives, Elliot Schrage, VP of communications, and Sheryl Sandberg, the COO, saw The Social Network. Both apparently hated the movie.

“It’s crazy because all of a sudden Mark [Zuckerberg] becomes this person who created Facebook to get girls or to gain power,” said Chris Hughes, a Facebook co-founder who left in 2007 to join the Obama presidential campaign. “That’s not what was going on. It was a little more boring and quotidian than that.”

Negotiations between the studio and Facebook have apparently been underway for quite awhile now in the hopes that the movie would tone down some of the more — shall we say “factually challenging” — parts of the movie. Early scripts were made available to the Facebook execs, who immediately attempted to change several aspects of the movie. The studio did agree to minor changes in order to gain more cooperation, but would not make any significant changes where it came to the characterization of Zuckerberg and others.

In The Social Network, the movie based on journalist Ben Mezrich’s book, The Accidental Billionaires, the story portrays Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as a lonely and jealous student who designs Facebook in an attempt to become popular and be invited to all the “right” parties. The original book is based heavily on interviews from Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders of Facebook who later had a falling out with Zuckerberg. After the founding of Facebook, investors backed Zuckerberg as CEO, which diminished Saverin’s role and influence, and eventually led to his departure and subsequent legal action. Other sources, most of which were also involved in some form of legal action against Facebook, were also consulted.

“Honestly, I wish that when people try to do journalism or write stuff about Facebook that they at least try to get it right.” Zuckerberg told the NY Times in a separate interview. “The movie is fiction.”

The Social Network stars Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and was directed by David Fincher. It is due out on October 1.