“The Farnsworth Invention”

A friend is raving about a Broadway preview performance he just saw of Aaron Sorkin‘s The Farnsworth Invention, a play about how RCA’s David Sarnoff (Hank Azaria) more or less ripped off the patent rights to an amazing new invention called “electronic television” from young inventor Philo T. Farnsworth (Jimmi Simpson).

Apart from calling the play brilliant and immensely satisfying with superb perform- ances (especially by Simpson), my friend is saying it will translate beautifully into a film, and that Steven Spielberg, one of the play’s producers, is certain to either produce or direct it.

Directed by Des McAnuff, The Farnsworth Invention has been previewing at the Music Box theatre since 10.15, and will open 13 days from now — on Wednesday, 11.14.

The Farnsworth Invention, says a press release, “centers around the bitter conflict that pitted Philo T. Farnsworth, a boy genius who invented television as a high school student in 1927, against David Sarnoff, the head of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA). The legal battle between Farnsworth and RCA would later become known as one of the great, tragic examples of legal and industrial force combining to crush a rightful patent owner. In a race that would change humanity forever, two men battle one another for honor, glory and a place in the history books.”

Spielberg became a producer of the show after seeing a workshop performance at the La Jolla Playhouse sometime between 2.20.07 and 3.25.07, or the span of its run.

Simpson is making his Broadway debut with the play. He played the kid who got shot along with his blonde married girlfriend in the very beginning of Zodiac. His other films credits include Herbie Fully Loaded, Loser, D.E.B.S. and Seraphim Falls.

My friend says Sorkin was at the performance he attended and was signing autographs after the show.

  • Mike Schaefer

    If Spielberg films this, then I guess “Carter Beats the Devil” will never get out of development hell…

  • Cineasta

    Ummm. . . don’t mean to nitpick. But, Jimmi Simpson played the older version of Mike Mageau at the end of “Zodiac”, not at the beginning.

  • Breedlove

    I saw it last week. It was good, entertaining, if not Earth-shattering. The irony of any talk of a film adaptation, of course, is that Sorkin originally wrote it as a screenplay and tried to get the movie made for a while. Eventually he got frustrated, apparently, and turned it into a play.

    Will it win a bunch of Tonys and be a smash hit? Will Spielberg direct the movie? My guess would be no on both counts.

  • GKLondon

    Nitpick all you want homeboy, but he played both the younger and older parts.

    Hollywood magic.

  • p.Vice

    Herbie Fully Loaded, D.E.B.S., AND Loser? This guy is going places.

  • alynch

    He’s hilarious as inbred Liam McPoyle on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

  • MilkMan

    The Final Scene of The Farnsworth Invention as per Speilberg’s shooting script.


    A long black limousine pulls up to the curb in front of Farnsworth’s house, an AMERICAN FLAG rippling in the wind. The sky behind the house is blue, the trees are sun-dappled. The smell of a freshly baked apple pie fills the air with it’s buttery, cinnamon-y goodness.

    DAVID SARNOFF steps out of the limousine. He’s weraing a grey, pinstriped suit and a long black overcoat. He looks around the neighborhood, squints his eyes and smiles to himself. He places a velvet black fedora on his head and walks towards the Farnsworth’s front door.

    He knocks on the door.

    The door opens. MA FARNSWORTH stands in front of him. She’s wearing a flowery dress and a yellow apron. She wipes he hands with a towel.


    Is Philo here?

    Yes. And might I ask who you are?

    My name is Richard Sarnoff. I’m the man who stole your son’s invention.

    Hold on a minute.

    MA FARNSWORTH turns towards the staircase.

    Philo! Someone’s here to see you!

    PHILO FARNSWORTH comes running down the stairs. He’s wearing overalls, a striped shirt and a beanie with a propeller.

    Ah, Ma, I was listening to the game. Joe D was just about to…

    PHILO looks at SARNOFF. SARNOFF takes off his hat and puts it to his chest.

    Ma’am, I don’t mean to be rude, but could you please excuse us for a minute? I’d like to have a word with Philo here.

    I’ll just go check on supper.

    MA FARNSWORTH kisses PHILO on the cheek and walks away.

    What do you want?

    You’re mother loves you.

    I know.

    There’s nothing more important than that. A mother’s love for her son.

    I’m going to invent something even better than television. You just wait and see.

    You could probably use some money.

    I’ll find some. I don’t know where, but I’ll find what I need and when I do you better watch out.

    SARNOFF reaches into his coat pocket and takes out an envelope.

    Maybe this will help.

    SARNOFF hands the envelope to PHILO. PHILO opens it and takes out what looks to be a check.

    Do you think that’s enough to get you started?


    Don’t give up on your dreams, son. This is a cruel world sometimes, but in the end, everyone gets what they deserve.

    And what do you figure I deserve?

    Everything. You changed the world. You’ve also made me realize that there are more important things in life than making money.

    Like what?

    Like how wonderful apple pie smells on a summer evening.

    My mom makes the best apple pie I’ve ever tasted.

    I never got a chance to taste my mother’s apple pie.

    Well…do you want to stay and have some with us? We were just about to sit down and eat.

    I would love that.

    I’m sure if you asked my mom she would give you here recipe.

    No, son, I don’t need to know her recipe. There are some things that aren’t yours to know.

    SARNOFF smiles. So does PHILO.

    SARNOFF steps into the house. The front door shuts. The CAMERA dollys back until we are back at the curb.

    The sun is setting. The flag is waving. Through the kitchen window we see SARNOFF, PHILO and MA FARNSWORTH sitting at the kitchen table.


  • lazespud

    Jesus MilkMan… you are really, really good. Seriously, that was frickin funny and very clever; and just damn spot on.

    Now you need to tackle the talky Sorkin version, before Speilberg got his paws on it…

  • alan

    I’m guessing that Spielberg’s shooting script wouldn’t have misspellings of “your,” “its,” and others. Just sayin’.

  • MilkMan

    Yeah, sorry Alan, I forgot to spell check while trying to write my comment and working on the stuff I’m supposed to be working on here at my job. Next time I’ll peruse it with a fine tooth comb. Whatever that means.

  • Monty

    GKLondon – now it’s my turn to nitpick with you: Jimmi Simpson didn’t play both the young and old Mike Mageau in Zodiac. Lee Norris played him as a young’un.

  • D.Z.

    They already did something similar called “The Pirates of Silicon Valley”.

  • Hash

    Wow, Im really looking forward to Jeff taking this movie down.

  • While I haven’t seen the play, from reading the Broadway boards of those at the previews, it has been getting respectful but mixed reviews.

    Since the Broadway print reviewers are normally even harsher than internet reviews, I don’t know if they will be as positive.

  • gruver1

    Wells to Milkman: That’s very, VERY good. That’s a Spielberg ending, all right.

  • BurmaShave

    It doesn’t fucking matter who Jimmi played, because we all know it’s going to be Shia in the movie.

  • GKLondon


    Touche’. I was convinced that they were the same actor. I had an argument with a friend about it a few weeks ago.

    Hollywood magic indeed.

  • Dave Polands Gut

    Milkman loves the ending for AI.