Critical Mass: Truth, fiction, and the art of being Steve Jobs

24 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »


Actor Seth Rogen, who plays Apple (AAPL) co-founder Steve Wozniak in the film ‘Steve Jobs’, spoke with FOX Business Network’s Deirdre Bolton about his role in the movie. “Honestly, I was skeptical that I would want to do it when I first heard about it,” he said. “Then I read the script and it really blew my mind. It’s one of the best, if not the best written scripts I’ve ever read in my entire life.” He added: “As a writer it pains me greatly to say that and it fills me with both rage and jealousy.

He told Danny Boyle as much when the director approached him to play the charismatic Apple co-founder in Steve Jobs. “The first thing I said to Danny when I met him was like, ‘Well you know, I don’t look anything like this guy,’” Fassbender recalled in an interview with EW at the recent New York Film Festival. “And Danny was like, ‘Well, that’s not what I’m interested in. They’ve been etched on our public consciousness with an endless stream of books, movies, TV specials, magazine articles. jumps right into establishing these genius and asshole personalities right from the start: It’s 1984, and there’s Steve Jobs fretting about the fine points of the Macintosh unveiling event. We knew that we were never going to try and resemble aesthetically what he looked like, other than putting in brown contact lenses.” Written by Aaron Sorkin and loosely based on Walter Isaacson’s authorized biography, Steve Jobs is more of an impressionistic portrait, one that takes some artistic license while trying to convey greater truths about its subject and the world he helped shape. “This is a dramatization; it’s not a biopic,” Fassbender said. “I just tried to represent a human being. Rather than follow the conventional blueprint of the Great Man biopic, the Oscar-winning screenwriter (The Social Network) eschewed huge portions of Jobs’ history and built a narrative that views his life through the prism of three monumental product launches, set in 1984, 1988, and 1998. It was just the work itself was incredible to me and so I wanted to be a part of it.” “I think that it’s [the pay gap] real and I don’t want to tell people what their responsibility is, but I personally view it as my responsibility to try to make that gap disappear as much as humanly possible,” Rogen said. “I think Hollywood has a lot of problems… I would advocate for trying to not have there be a massive gap between how much men and women get paid to do the same thing, and how many people of color are represented in films and television.”

At one point, David Fincher was poised to reunite with Sorkin and direct, but when he dropped out, Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) stepped up and embraced the concept. “For the most part, this structure works,” writes EW’s Chris Nashawaty, in his B review. “Each chapter symbolizes a critical crossroads in Jobs’ career. I can’t sit through this again.” Then five minutes later, I was saddled in my seat barely blinking, my brain chewing every word of Aaron Sorkin’s delicious script. Michael Fassbender plays Jobs, Kate Winslet is his trusted assistant Joanna Hoffman, and Seth Rogen and Michael Stuhlbarg play Apple co-founders Steve Wozniak and Andy Hertzfeld. And Boyle, who’s always been one of our most playful visual stylists, shoots each section using different film stocks (16mm, 35mm, and digital) to subliminally reboot the audience’s expectations.

Every section crackles with exquisite rat-a-tat dialogue (Sorkin has no peer in this regard, with the possible exception of Preston Sturges 70 years ago)…” Mastering that rat-a-tat is Michael Fassbender, who stepped into the giant role only after Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale backed away — reportedly under pressure from Jobs’ partisans — but he makes the producers look smart. We start in 1984 with the launch of the McIntosh, which lost big money and ended up with the Apple board firing Jobs–then it’s on to 1988 with Jobs introducing a cube-computer called “Next”.

No one in reality talks like this, but listening to the dramatic portrayals of Steve Jobs and Joanna Hoffman (deftly played by Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet) when they’re written like conflicted heroes in a Shakespeare play is great fun. Finally it’s 1988 and Jobs is about to introduce the iMac, which finally met and even exceeded expectations and opened to door for some of the biggest changes in technology that the world has ever seen. I had the chance to chat this week with Jeff Daniels who plays former Apple CEO John Sculley and he told me that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin came to him during filming of the HBO show “The Newsroom” (also written by Sorkin) and said he had heard Daniels was interested in playing Scully. Apple and some Jobs loyalists — especially his wife, Laurene — have expressed their dissaproval of the film. (Jobs’ widow recently called it “fiction.”) The filmmakers concede that they’ve stretched the facts to get at some greater truth.

His audition for the role and the Sorkin trademark fast-talking dialogue was being on “The Newsroom” for three years. “Steve Jobs” the movie is not based on a play, but it easily could have been. It’s shot more like a stage production than a movie, and that’s a gutsy and risky move for director Danny Boyle (“Slumdog Millionaire”, “127 Hours”).

As Daniels told me this week “It’s a dark portrait and character study of a creative genius who is one of those handful of people who changed the world–Henry Ford, Thomas Edison…people like that. Unburdened by the distraction of spot-on impersonation and conventional Great Man milestones, Fassbender and his fascinating, often off-putting character steer clear of the dreaded biopic shallows to explore murkier psychological depths.” “What Sorkin and Boyle have to offer is not a warts-and-all portrait but the suggestion that there is something heroic about a wart. As a result, despite the lunging modernity of the products on display, Steve Jobs comes across as strangely old-fashioned in this romantic insistence on its hero.” “Steve Jobs is a rich and potent document of the times, an expression of both the awe that attends sophisticated new consumer goods and the unease that trails in the wake of their arrival. … Mostly, though, it is a formally audacious, intellectually energized entertainment, a powerful challenge to the lazy conventions of Hollywood storytelling and a feast for connoisseurs of contemporary screen acting.” “Little of this happened in the exact way it does onscreen, but it’s generally accurate and performed at such a rollicking tempo that as you watch you hardly care.

Boyle doesn’t bring his own point of view — the way David Fincher chilled down and distanced Sorkin’s script for The Social Network — but you can’t fault his palette. He’s the deftest superficial director alive.” “It’s interesting to imagine what Fincher, with his eagle eye for vanity and other human follies, might have made of Sorkin’s genially misanthropic script. The movie argues that a big part of Jobs’ genius was his sense of showmanship, and that his enormous ego was both hindrance and boon: He simply refused to be wrong, even when he was.” Just before Jobs takes the stage to announce the iMac—the first Jobs product to really change things—he shares a tender moment of light mutual understanding with his then-19-year old daughter. When Alex Gibney’s critical documentary about Jobs was released last month, I noted that it’s important to acknowledge what a shitfuck Jobs was to everyone around him.

It does try to explain it away a little bit with a portrayal that says that he was damaged by a sense of rejection from having been put up for adoption by his parents. But a question I’ve been pondering with all of the Jobs media that’s been released in the years since his death is whether or not we absolve Jobs for his assholishness, just because he was a genius who had a huge positive impact on the world.

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