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Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle on the controversy over 'Steve Jobs'

Caitlin McGarry | Oct. 8, 2015
The new film's writer and director also talk Tim Cook, Steve Wozniak, and why the world needs more movies about Apple.

steve jobs
Credit: Universal Studios

Steve Jobs was by all accounts a complicated man. Apple’s cofounder and former CEO was a technology genius who didn’t code and a visionary leader who commanded great respect from his employees despite a volatile temper. These traits have all been described in biographies, one of which Jobs authorized while he was alive, and in films, like the one opening this Friday in select cities.

Steve Jobs is the latest movie about the late icon. Penned by The Social Network screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and directed by Slumdog Millionaire Academy Award winner Danny Boyle, the film is based on Walter Isaacson’s biography of the same name. Jobs collaborated with Isaacson on the book before his death, but its depiction of the late CEO was considered by many to be less-than-kind. People who were close to Jobs have leveled the same criticism against this film that they lobbed at Isaacson’s biography, claiming that these portraits of Jobs paint him in a cruel light. Jobs’s widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, reportedly tried to block the film from being made at all.

Sorkin and Boyle sat down for a panel discussion about Steve Jobs after a screening of the film this week in Manhattan. They addressed the controversy surrounding the movie’s portrayal of Jobs, and why the world needs even more movies about Apple. (These quotes from that discussion have been edited for length and clarity.)

danny boyle steve jobs
Director Danny Boyle on set with Michael Fassbender, who plays Steve Jobs. Credit: Universal Studios

“You can be decent and gifted”

Boyle: One of the things that’s really interesting about the film is this idea that Woz actually says [in the movie]: “You can be decent and gifted at the same time. It’s not binary.” That idea hangs over the whole film in a way. Everybody knows how [Jobs] did behave, that he was a difficult guy, especially to some people. For reasons you see in the film, he explains why he’s like that: that he wants A players, and B players discourage the A players. He was brutal in explaining it, and also brutal on himself. It’s not like he was swanning off. He pushed himself, clearly.

Why Jobs was the way he was

Sorkin: When you’re writing a character like this, it’s important for the writer not to judge the character. I have to be able to defend the character. I like to write the character as if they’re making their case to God as to why they should be allowed into heaven. I think that for whatever reason, deep down Steve felt that he was irreparably damaged in some way and was not worthy of being liked or loved.


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