When writer and producer Aaron Sorkin met with Molly Bloom, the 'poker princess' who ran high-stakes games with Hollywood's top celebrities, he did not expect to be impressed.
"I thought the person that I was going to be meeting was someone who was cashing in on their brush with famous people, which is not something I'm a huge fan of," Sorkin said.
"But I was stupid and that's not the person that I met ... This was an incredibly compelling woman."
Sorkin, best known for creating the political TV series "The West Wing," makes his directorial debut with "Molly's Game," adapted from Bloom's book of the same name. The film is out in U.S. theaters on Dec. 25.
Bloom's book chronicles poker games she ran from 2002 to 2011 that drew celebrities such as Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ben Affleck and helped her rake in $4 million a year at her peak. Bloom, now 39, was once charged with running an illegal gambling business and was sentenced in 2014 to a year of probation and 200 hours of community service.
Sorkin said he was impressed that Bloom refused to divulge names and secrets of her high-profile clients other than those already named in court documents.
"I think that her character resonates in a remarkable way that frankly I don't think any of us could have really seen coming. She is a feminist icon, but it is her own brand of feminism," he said.
An accident prevents Bloom, played by Jessica Chastain, from qualifying for the U.S. Olympic skiing team in 1999. She heads to Los Angeles, where she meets a man who runs a celebrity-filled high-stakes poker game.
Bloom takes over running the private game, curating the players, the environment, being the bank and keeping powerful men in line under her rules. But her luck runs out and the FBI come for her, so she recruits the help of a lawyer, played by Idris Elba.
"I just had this feeling that there is a unique movie heroine here and that this isn't a poker movie," Sorkin said.
Chastain said she also "completely misjudged" Bloom before she got to know her, but understands her better now that she's walked in her shoes on screen.
"I didn't understand that she was playing a part that she thought she had to play to find success in that industry," Chastain said.