It was, Aaron Sorkin assumed, an attempted murder. Scott Rudin, godlike stage and screen producer, had asked him to turn To Kill a Mockingbird into a play. “I thought, ‘Oh, this is how Scott’s finally going to kill me. This is a suicide mission.’”
Harper Lee’s novel stands alongside Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as a sacred American text. It is about racism in Alabama in the 1930s. To tinker with it is to invite popular and professional death, even if you happen to be America’s supreme screenwriter. Nevertheless, Sorkin took the job — he desperately wanted to do a play.
At first, he did not tinker. “My first draft was terrible. I tried to gently transfer the book, sort of swaddle it in…
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