Facebook film is work of fiction, says its ex-boss

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The Independent Culture

One of the biggest films of last year, The Social Network, is hotly tipped to pick up several Academy Award nominations when they are announced today. But an unwilling star of the movie charting the birth of Facebook wants everyone to know it is a "work of fiction".

Sean Parker, the co-founder of the music sharing website Napster, and ex-president of Facebook, appeared at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich on Sunday. When the Brazilian novelist, Paulo Coelho, asked: "Are you happy with the movie?" Parker's immediate response was diplomatic: "I have deep respect for David Fincher. I think he's a brilliant film-maker."

He went on to extol the virtues of the movie, calling it "beautifully shot" and a "gorgeous film" but before he offered a complete endorsement, he added: "It's a complete work of fiction."

The Social Network has taken $204m (£127m) at box offices worldwide since its American release on 1 October. This figure was given a healthy boost when it took four Golden Globes for best director, best drama, best screenplay and best score last Sunday.

The director, David Fincher, used his acceptance speech at the Globes as a platform to offer an olive branch to Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of Facebook, who is portrayed by Jesse Eisenberg as a ruthless, socially inept geek in the film, saying: "You turned out to be a great entrepreneur, a visionary and an incredible altruist."

Maybe Mr Parker felt that an apology should have name-checked him too, after "the character played by Justin Timberlake, who happens to have my name", was portrayed as a Machiavellian villain of the piece who is arrested for possessing cocaine.

Displaying remarkably good humour about a project that has obviously blighted his life since its release last autumn, Mr Parker joked that as Coelho had not mentioned the film in a preliminary conversation, maybe he would "get off" having to answer questions about it.

Mr Parker's unhappiness at his portrayal was clear, although he seemed happy to confess that he "actually enjoyed watching" the film. But his struggle to elucidate belied the conflict he felt about it. Referring to a party scene which shows drug use and supermodels, he said: "I wish my life were that cool. I'm a geek from Silicon Valley. There are no Victoria's Secret models in Silicon Valley. This doesn't happen."

Rather than worry about the illegal activity that the film portrayed his character indulging in, Mr Parker felt most frustrated by a scene with Eduardo Saverin, the Facebook co-founder and original financial backer, played by Andrew Garfield.

The scene shows Mr Parker writing Saverin a cheque, throwing it in his face and getting security to escort him out of the building. "I mean that's just rude. This guy in the movie is a morally reprehensible human being," Mr Parker told his audience.