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Aaron Sorkin condemns ‘distorted’ New Yorker profile of Jeremy Strong and newspaper responds

A spokesperson for the paper defended the piece, saying it is a ‘nuanced, multi-sided portrait of an extremely dedicated actor’

Ellie Harrison
Saturday 11 December 2021 14:01
Succession season 3 UK trailer

Aaron Sorkin has condemned a recent profile of Jeremy Strong in The New Yorker, saying it paints a “distorted” picture of the actor.

Written by journalist Michael Schulman, the feature, titled “On Succession, Jeremy Strong doesn’t get the joke” was published on 6 December.

It includes quotes from Strong’s co-stars, including Brian Cox and Kieran Culkin, both of whom commented on Strong’s serious approach to his performance. The article portrayed Strong as an intense actor, deeply committed to his craft, who takes every role he lands – including as media mogul Logan Roy’s son Kendall Roy on Succession – as “seriously as his own life”.

“The result that Jeremy gets is always pretty tremendous,” Cox, who plays Logan Roy, said in the interview. “I just worry about what he does to himself. I worry about the crises he puts himself through in order to prepare.”

He added: “Actors are funny creatures. I’ve worked with intense actors before. It’s a particularly American disease, I think, this inability to separate yourself off while you’re doing the job.”

Culkin said: “After the first season, he said something to me like, ‘I’m worried that people might think that the show is a comedy.’ And I said, ‘I think the show is a comedy.’ He thought I was kidding.”

The interview has sparked an animated conversation on Twitter, and Sorkin, who worked with Strong on his 2017 film Molly’s Game and last year’s The Trial of the Chicago 7, has now weighed in on the discussion.

“After reading Michael Schulman’s profile of Jeremy Strong – a profile in which I participated – I wanted to speak up,” he wrote. “I think I helped Mr Schulman create what I believe is a distorted picture of Jeremy that asks us to roll our eyes at his acting process.”

In the letter – which was posted to Twitter by Jessica Chastain, who has also worked with Strong and Sorkin – the writer-director went on to accuse Schulman of cherry-picking his quotes to make Strong come across as eccentric or difficult to work with.

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He points out that Schulman used quotes about Strong asking to be sprayed with real tear gas when acting out protest scenes in The Trial of the Chicago 7, but that the writer did not include the following quote: “Jeremy’s not a nut. He doesn’t make people call him by his name on set.”

Sorkin concluded the letter with: “Jeremy Strong is a great actor and a great company member. There isn’t a writer, director or producer on Earth who wouldn’t grab at the chance to cast him.”

Jeremy Strong in ‘Succession'

A New Yorker spokesperson told Deadline in response: “This is a nuanced, multi-sided portrait of an extremely dedicated actor. It has inspired a range of reactions from people, including many who say that they are even more impressed by Jeremy Strong’s artistry after having read the article.”

Chastain defended Strong on 7 December with a tweet of her own. “I’ve known Jeremy Strong for 20yrs & worked with him on 2 films,” she wrote. “He’s a lovely person. Very inspiring & passionate about his work. The profile that came out on him was incredibly one sided. Don’t believe everything you read folks. Snark sells but maybe it’s time we move beyond it.”

One day later, Succession’s Cox went on Late Night with Seth Meyers and expressed concern about Strong being “obsessed” with the role.

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