Because I have been very busy with my studies in the past months, I haven’t been able to write a proper lowdown about the two Steve Jobs biopics that are currently being prepared for release in the coming months. Yes, for those of you who haven’t paid close attention to the news, there are really two Steve Jobs movies in the works.
1. jOBS: Get Inspired (official site)
The first project that was started is more commonly known as “the Kutcher movie” because the part of Steve Jobs will be played by Ashton Kutcher, as we learned in April. Being a Parisian snob, I had no idea who that Kutcher character was so I looked him up. Apparently he owes more his fame to his good looks than his acting skills. He is a former model and was Demi Moore’s husband for (only) six years. From his filmography I have only seen The Butterfly Effect (if you omit Robot Chicken episodes, that is). Since I have no preconception on the guy, I have yet to see the movie to judge him. I do find that physically speaking, he does bear a resemblance with Jobs.
The movie will be directed by Joshua Michael Stern, who appears to be a debuting director… Other members of the cast include Matthew Modine, who will play John Sculley, Josh Gad who will play Woz (via The Verge), and Ahna O’Reilly who will play Steve’s girlfriend, Lisa’s mother Chris-Ann Brennan (via Variety). These are all no-names to me.
According to the producer of the movie who was interviewed by Neowin, the movie “will focus on the early years of Apple, its founding and the up and down years: 1971 – 2000”. Those of you who follow this website closely know that I am hugely interested in Jobs’s NeXT years, which spanned from 1985 to 1996 — that’s almost 40% of the time period that jOBS will cover. However, if past books/documentaries/movies (Pirates of Silicon Valley) are any indication, NeXT should barely be touched upon in the movie, if even mentioned. The fact that the producer only talks about Apple to describe the 1971-2000 period is another indication. I also wonder if Pixar will be talked about — it wasn’t in Pirates. But Hollywood being so self-centered, we can hope that the movie will at least evoke Pixar.
The fact that NeXT is so often left out when telling the story of Steve is quite revealing. First, despite all the talk about the Silicon Valley/US entrepreneurship culture being not afraid of failure, it seems that failure does not appeal to the masses. It is also probably too difficult for journalists and screenwriters to explain that Steve’s failures at NeXT were the foundations for Apple’s success in the 2000s. Not to mention the absolutely crucial family events that happened to Steve during those years (his meeting with his sister Mona, then his marriage with Laurene and the birth of his son Reed).
I will write a detailed review of the movie when it comes out in the fall, but I start with low expectations, to say the least. For example, here is a picture that was taken on the set:
The anachronism of this image is painful. Kutcher is confusing all genres, sporting the same beard as Steve in his 20s… and the turtleneck/jeans/running shoes from this 40s and 50s. Duh.
The title of the movie is no stunner either. It is using the over-used, not-creative pun on capitalization to evoke the iProducts. It reminds me of the bad title of Fake Steve Jobs’s good book, oPtion$.
2. The Sorkin picture
The second movie has been discussed since the release of Walter Isaacson’s biography, only three weeks after Steve’s passing. Sony Pictures lost no time in buying the rights of the book with the intention to make a movie. In late November, rumors started to appear regarding the lead role: would it be Noah Wyle, who played Steve in Pirates of Silicon Valley (my personal choice), or George Clooney of Nespresso fame? Then on November 22, E!Online broke the news that Aaron Sorkin had been pitched the script, and was seriously considering it. His involvement was later confirmed.
Sorkin has a history with Steve Jobs because he was asked by Steve Jobs himself to write a screenplay for a Pixar feature. He declined that offer, unfortunately — perhaps that would have saved us from Cars 2. But I am digressing.
Sorkin is the brilliant writer behind the script of The Social Network, which tells the story of Mark Zuckerberg and his building of Facebook. I am very fond of that movie, which made the masses (re-)discover the meaning of tech entrepreneurship, in a compelling though dramatized fashion. That the same man (and same studio) will take over the adaption of Isaacson’s bio is encouraging.
However, Sorkin tried to downplay my and many others’s enthusiasm at the All Things D conference where he was speaking last week:
On his turn on stage, Aaron Sorkin talks about his concerns that he’s entering “a minefield of disappointment” as he undertakes the task of writing the movie adaptation of Walter Issacson’s Steve Jobs bio. It’s like writing about the Beatles—there’s a huge contingent of people who are emotionally attached. The screenwriter admits that he still doesn’t have a handle on Jobs—whether he should be, like most Sorkin characters, an aspirational hero or, like the fictionalized Mark Zuckerberg in the Social Network, somewhat of an antihero. (Wired)
That’s the mystery of Steve Jobs. He is both an antihero and a hero. I’m not saying this is an easy paradox to depict on screen. Will Sorkin be able to write a masterpiece out of the 700-page long press article that was the Isaacson bio? That we will see.
As for myself, I have been thinking that Steve Jobs’s life would make an amazing movie to make for several years — perhaps since 2007. Having closely studied Steve’s life for so long, I am convinced that his unique personality and the remarkable turn of events of his life would make for outstanding movie material. However, I’ve always thought to myself that not one, but at least three, if not four movies would be necessary to appropriately depict his tumultuous life. They could be titled the same as the three-part eulogy that BusinessWeek published after Steve’s passing: I. The Beginning II. The Wilderness & III. The Return.