In the last decade, Aaron Sorkin has written one biographical drama after another: The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs. But unlike many other screenwriters, Sorkin is usually more interested in the dramatic arc of his subjects’ lives than the fussy details. As far as we know, Mark Zuckerberg wasn’t actually fostering a grudge about a bad breakup when he rose to prominence. But that plot point sure makes for a great final shot.
A founding player from the LA game, Mr. Curtis sounded like a character witness when he told the Observer, “Molly Bloom was a smart, sweet, ambitious girl, who worked very hard to organize what. Jeremy Bloom was born in Fort Collins, Colorado on April 2, 1982 to his mother, Char Bloom, a ski and fly-fishing instructor, and his father, Larry Bloom, a psychology professor at Colorado State University. Jeremy, his older sister Molly, and his older brother, Jordan, all grew up skiing at Keystone Resort, where Char is a ski instructor.
And yet Sorkin’s latest film and directorial debut Molly’sGame is relatively faithful to the life of its subject, Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain). The so-called “Poker Princess” ran two underground games that attracted high-rolling Hollywood stars, athletes and mobsters in the mid-2000s. It’s not surprising that the movie hews close to reality: Sorkin consulted Bloom throughout his writing process, and the screenplay borrows heavily from her memoir of the same name.
Here’s what’s fact and what’s fiction in the poker film, according to Bloom’s memoir.
In the opening scene of Molly’s Game, a young Molly skis over a twig during an Olympic qualifying run and tumbles down the mountain, sustaining a serious back injury that ends her skiing career. In a voiceover, Molly blames this twig for changing her life path from athlete to “poker princess.” But in real life, that fall never happened.
While Bloom was indeed an Olympic-level skiier, she decided to retire from skiing not after an injury but after a personal coup. Bloom did have some physical roadblocks when she was younger, with an emergency back surgery at 12 after which she was told she could no longer ski competitively. But after a year, she was back on the slopes. And in college, she made the U.S. ski team and finished third overall in the country.
But she decided to step away from the sport after winning that bronze medal because, as she says in her book, she wanted to find a new path in life and succeed on her own terms.
In her book, Bloom speaks very lovingly of her father (played in the movie by Kevin Costner). But he definitely pushed his children to their limits. “Nothing was ‘recreational’ in our family,” she writes. “Everything was a lesson in pushing past the limits and being the best we could possibly be.”
Since Bloom wrote her book before she was sentenced for her role in the gambling ring, she doesn’t address whether her father really showed up in New York City to give her a pep talk about her trial, as he does in the film. But it’s not hard to imagine Sorkin adding that dramatic flourish.
Bloom met her future boss, played in the movie by Jeremy Strong, when he almost hit her with his car in Los Angeles. She had just quit a job as a waitress, and he noticed her uniform. The man, whom she calls Reardon Green in the book, hired her on the spot for a job at his restaurant. Eventually, the entrepreneur made Bloom his assistant, as well.
He wasn’t the most pleasant of employers: The line in the movie when he rejects a bag of bagels he’d asked her to buy, yelling, “These are poor people bagels!” is real, according to her memoir. But he did introduce her to the world of poker and the game at the Viper Room, a bar he co-owned. When he fired her from the game, she used her new contacts to start one of her own.
Aaron Sorkin doesn’t name the celebrity players who frequented Bloom’s game in the film, but Bloom does identify some of them in her book, including Ben Affleck, Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio. However, she only names people who had already been exposed in the media before her book hit shelves, protecting other players from exposure.
Maguire plays the biggest role in Bloom’s memoir, and there appear to be elements of him in “Player X,” played by Michael Cera in the movie. (Sorkin even nods at Maguire, who played Spider-Man, with a line about the unnamed actor playing a superhero.) In the book, Bloom writes that Maguire once offered her $1,000 to bark like a seal and stormed off when she refused. However, Maguire didn’t take the game from her like Player X does in the movie — another player did. But Bloom writes that the actor was the one who gleefully called her informing her that she had lost her weekly game.
The scariest scene in the movie comes straight from the pages of Bloom’s book. The real Bloom began getting nervous about toting around so much money between games and hired a driver for security reasons. It was this driver who introduced her to his mobster “friends.” Bloom did meet them in a fancy hotel lobby, and one of the men really did order an apple martini there.
The men offered Bloom muscle in exchange for a cut of her earnings. She rejected the offer. Weeks later, a stranger showed up at her door with a gun. He slammed her against the wall and stuck the gun in her mouth. He stole her cash and jewelry and made it clear that he was sent by the men she had met at the hotel. He threatened her family if she didn’t accept their protection and then beat her up.
Bloom hid out in her apartment for a week while her bruises healed. The mobsters contacted her about setting up another meeting and she agreed. But before they could meet them, she read in the paper that the FBI had arrested nearly 125 people in a massive mob roundup. She never heard from the men who threatened her again.
Though Bloom did employ real lawyers, Charlie (Idris Elba) is a fictional character who appears to be basically a stand-in for Sorkin himself — someone who is skeptical of Molly at the outset but comes to see her as a heroic figure.
Her lawyer also wouldn’t have had time to formulate opinions about Bloom based on her book. In the movie, Charlie reads the memoir before his first meeting with her. In reality, the book was published after she was arrested but before she was sentenced.
When screenwriter and The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin was looking to make his film directorial debut, he couldn't have picked a better story than that of former professional skier turned poker ring organizer Molly Bloom. In her 2014 memoir Molly's Game, Bloom delivered a scintillating story of how she went from giving up on her Olympic dreams, to being a waitress, and then to running one of the most lucrative underground gambling operations in the country. When Sorkin adapted her book for his 2017 film of the same name, he kept the narrative fairly faithful to the life of Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain in the film).
Even though the movie didn't stray too far from Bloom's own experiences, that doesn't mean it didn't alter or leave out a few key details. When adapting a book to film, there's always going to be things that get changed, and in the case of Bloom's celebrity filled poker games, a few of those details were written about in much more scandalous detail in her memoir. Let's take a look at what Molly's Game left out in the transition from real life to blockbuster movie.
At the beginning of Molly's Game, we see Bloom getting ready to ski in the trials for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. In a voiceover, Bloom says that she currently ranks third in her event in North America, despite the fact that at age 12 she suffered a severe back injury that almost ended her career. Then, she straps on her skis, takes off down the mountain, hits a twig just big enough to dislodge one of her boots, and has an epic crash landing that ends her sports career.
This is a spectacular and tense opening to the film, but it embellished the real story of the end of Molly Bloom's skiing career. Bloom did recover from a serious back injury, and went on to join the US Ski Team and place third nationally. She even had a nasty fall on an Olympic qualifying run in 1998 — but according to Tiebreaker, that fall was just one circumstance of many that led her to give up on her Olympic hopes. While it certainly makes for a more dramatic opening to portray her career ending in one terrifying accident, as with most athletes, it was more of a culmination of injuries and other factors that caused her to hang up her skis.
When Bloom eventually sets herself up as the organizer of underground poker games in Los Angeles, she attracts a number of high-powered Hollywood professionals. In the film, one regular, identified only as Player X (Michael Cera), becomes an integral part of her game. However, the unidentified power player quickly proves himself to be untrustworthy and cruel to his fellow players, often relishing more in their bitter defeats than his own wins. Top ten online casino sites. Eventually, he betrays Bloom by moving her game to another location and encouraging her other regulars to abandon her.
The details of Player X's petty actions are fairly accurate to Bloom's memoir, except for one detail: the film never reveals the identity of who exactly Player X is. In the book Molly's Game, it's never a secret that this nefarious gambler is none other than Spider-Man actor Tobey Maguire. Although Bloom kept the identities of many of her regulars a secret, by the time she wrote Molly's Game, Maguire had already been publicly identified as a member of Bloom's underground poker circuit thanks to a lawsuit.
Although Maguire's bad behavior made him one of the most notable figures in Bloom's memoir, he wasn't the only celeb to get mentioned by name in the book, but not the film.
A litany of celebrity encounters may have provided a certain amount of entertainment to Molly's Game, but that was clearly not the focus of Sorkin's film. One major thing that he decided to leave out were the many famous faces that posted up at the table while Bloom was running the show.
In addition to Leonardo DiCaprio, Maguire convinced Ben Affleck to stop by for a few hands. He may have regretted it almost instantly, as Bloom reported that he was joined at the table by notorious poker player and serial celebrity dater Rick Salomon. After Salomon asked Affleck a rather personal question about his ex Jennifer Lopez's backside, the table allegedly went silent before the actor responded: 'It was nice,' he said, and pushed into a huge pot.'
When she began running games in New York City, another one of J-Lo's exes, baseball player Alex Rodriguez, joined the game. 'Men, no matter what age, ilk, or net worth, idolize a professional athlete,' Bloom wrote. 'As they recognized him, they turned into excitable little boys.'
As Bloom explained in an interview with Vice, these celebrity players weren't just frivolous thrills for her. Having people like DiCaprio and Rodriguez at her games drew players willing to make big buy ins just to sit next to their favorite celebs. 'People want to sit at a table with them, be close to them,' she said, 'and this was a big draw to the game.'