Last Sunday, the same night as one of Succession’s most shocking episodes, The New Yorker dropped a lengthy, revealing profile of one of its more acclaimed cast members, Jeremy Strong. It painted him as intense — not a Method actor, per se, but someone whose approach to playing the deeply troubled Kendall Roy make him at least slightly difficult to work with. The article immediately set off a firestorm, and in the ensuing days longtime friend Jessica Chastain expressed displeasure with the way it was written. Now one of Strong’s directors has done so, too.
On Friday night, Chastain posted a letter from Aaron Sorkin, who directed Strong in The Trial of the Chicago 7, where he played Yippie Jerry Rubin. (He also directed Chastain in Molly’s Game.) Sorkin — who is wisely not on social media — was one of the people quoted in the New Yorker profile, and he worried that he helped contribute to a portrait of him that he felt was inaccurate.
Aaron Sorkin doesn’t have social media so asked me to post this letter on his behalf xx pic.twitter.com/3Ol1KGoJKM
— Jessica Chastain (@jes_chastain) December 10, 2021
“After reading Michael Schulman’s profile of Jeremy Strong — a profile in which I participated — I wanted to speak up,” Sorkin 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.”
Sorkin said he was e-mailed five questions but that “only one and a half of these answers were used.” That, Sorkin wrote, “is perfectly normal,” but they happened to be ones that showed Strong taking his method to extreme measures. One involved him requesting to be tear gassed (Sorkin told him no), and another where he tormented actor Frank Langella, playing a judge, by reading aloud from his (excellent) memoir in “silly voices,” even playing the kazoo as he spoke.
The filmmaker and playwright showed his full responses to Schulman, where he praised Strong’s work on Succession and compared him to Dustin Hoffman.
After the one-two punch of Chastain and Sorkin coming for the New Yorker profile, the publication itself decided to respond. “This is a nuanced, multi-sided portrait of an extremely dedicated actor,” they wrote in a statement to Deadline. “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.”
In the meantime, since the public got a fuller picture of Strong’s methodology, it’s sparked a conversation about actors whose dedication can sometimes take them to extremes — and, in Strong’s case, get results. Still, his onscreen pops, Brian Cox, does worry.