It was supposed to be a "thank you" among friends. But then nowhere is the word "friend" used more loosely than in Hollywood and on Facebook.
Producer Scott Rudin went out of his way Sunday night to thank the folks at Facebook when his movie, "The Social Network," picked up top honors at the Golden Globes for drama picture, director, screenplay and score.
"I want to thank everybody at Facebook," said Rudin, " Mark Zuckerberg for his willingness to allow us to use his life and work as a metaphor for which to tell a story about communication and the way we relate to each other."
Rudin's comments would suggest that Zuckerberg and his associates at the popular social networking site had done an about-face after having earlier gone on a public campaign saying the film's portrayal of Facebook's founder as a soulless, hyper-ambitious entrepreneur who betrayed his Harvard classmates was "fiction."
But officials at Facebook refused to say Monday whether Rudin's words reflected a change in the relationship or a rapprochement with the filmmakers, with whom they refused to cooperate during the making of the movie.
"We appreciate the kind words and offer our congratulations," said a Facebook spokesman.
When asked after the award ceremony about whether relations with Facebook had improved by the time Sony Pictures released the movie in October, Rudin would only say, "We played fair with each other always — we tried hard to be completely transparent from start to finish about each of our individual needs — and I think it worked really well between us. They were generous and open and I hope they feel the same way about us."
Backstage at the Golden Globes ceremony, the producer told reporters that the relationship had gone from "cordial adversaries" to "really good friends" and that Facebook's chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, had even attended a party for the movie hosted by Sony. Facebook has a longstanding relationship with Sony that predates the movie.
A month before the film's release, Rudin said that the filmmakers had decided against having Facebook participate in the movie after company spokesman Elliot Schrage demanded in their first meeting that they change the names of Facebook and Harvard. "In the end, they would want too many controls and we would want too many liberties," the producer said at the time.
That said, when it came time for the movie's release, Zuckerberg rented out a movie theater and took his entire company to see it on opening day. Afterward, he treated everyone to appletinis — depicted as his signature drink in the movie although he'd never had one until the screening.
Zuckerberg said in interviews that he marveled at the details the movie got right (having his character dress in T-shirts identical to ones he owns, for example). But, he said, the film mischaracterized his motivation for building Facebook into a platform that connects people around the globe.
Zuckerberg already ran one of the most talked about companies on the planet. But the publicity surrounding the film, his philanthropic gift to aid schools in Newark, N.J., and his naming as Time magazine's Person of the Year have combined to elevate his profile in recent months.
Some expected Zuckerberg to squirm in the hot glare of the publicity for the movie that casts him in an unflattering light. Instead, he appears to have taken it in stride, appearing at ease in media interviews. At the industry conference Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco in November, he fielded no questions about "The Social Network" during a Q&A with the audience.
Nerves at Facebook may have also been calmed after the film was strongly embraced both by moviegoers and critics. It has grossed more than $200 million worldwide so far and garnered numerous accolades for its star Jesse Eisenberg, director David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, and is the odds-on favorite to win top awards at the Oscars Feb. 27.
Eller reported from Los Angeles. Guynn reported from San Francisco.