Aaron Sorkin calls stroke he had in November 'loud wake-up call'

The "Camelot" writer hopes his story serves as a cautionary tale for others.

March 22, 2023, 6:45 PM

Aaron Sorkin is opening up about a stroke he had in November.

The screenwriter and film director known for his work on "A Few Good Men" and "The Newsroom" told The New York Times in a recent interview that he had a stroke two months before rehearsals began for the upcoming Broadway show "Camelot," which he reimagined in a new book based off the Lerner and Loewe classic tale.

He said the experience made him fear that he "wasn't going to be able to continue writing 'Camelot.'"

'Loud wake-up call'

Sorkin said in November, he called his doctor after he noticed he was crashing into walls and corners.

When he met with his doctor, his doctor told him that his blood pressure was high and that "you're supposed to be dead."

PHOTO: Aaron Sorkin attends the premiere of "The First Lady" in Los Angeles, Apr. 14, 2022.
Aaron Sorkin attends the premiere of "The First Lady" in Los Angeles, Apr. 14, 2022.
Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

After the stroke, Sorkin was advised to avoid flying. He also said he was slurring his words and had trouble writing.

Sorkin has recovered now, but said he still "can't really taste food."

It's unclear whether smoking played a role in his stroke, but he told the Times he has smoked heavily since high school. Smoking was also part of his writing process.

Smoking can make blood sticky and more likely to clot, which can block blood flow to the heart and brain according to the CDC. According to a study published by the American Heart Association, the risk of stroke in men and women who smoked was 67% and 83% greater compared with nonsmoking individuals.

He said he quit smoking after the stroke and started to take care of his health more, which included exercise and a healthier diet.

"I thought I was one of those people who could eat whatever he wanted, smoke as much as he wanted, and it's not going to affect me. Boy, I was wrong," said Sorkin, who called his experience a "loud wake-up call."

What is a stroke?

A stroke happens when something blocks blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts and bleeds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Poor nutrition can increase the risk of stroke, according to the agency.

"Eating a high diet in saturated fats, trans fat and cholesterol has been linked to stroke and related conditions, such as heart disease," the agency notes.

A lack of physical activity, drinking and tobacco use can also lead to other health conditions that can raise the risk of stroke.

'I'm fine'

As Sorkin gears up for the premiere of "Camelot," he said he's continuing a healthier lifestyle and taking "a lot of medicine."

"You can hear the pills rattling around in me," he joked.

PHOTO: Aaron Sorkin attends the after party for "To Kill A Mockingbird," Mar. 31, 2022, in London.
Aaron Sorkin attends the after party for "To Kill A Mockingbird," Mar. 31, 2022, in London.
Dave Benett/Getty Images

He also wanted to assure others that he's doing well.

"I wouldn't want anyone to think I can't work," Sorkin said. "I'm fine."

At first Sorkin revealed he didn't want to share the details of his stroke, but said that "if it'll get one person to stop smoking … then it'll be helpful."

"Camelot" is slated to open on Broadway on April 13. It will star Andrew Burnap, Philippa Soo and Jordan Donica.

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