Steve Jobs was a corporate rock star with few equals.
He made Apple the most successful technology company in the world, but his influence went beyond balance sheets. The phones, computers and tablets he helped revolutionise gave him an outsized influence on people’s daily lives, making the public feel like it had a personal connection to the Apple co-founder.
His tempestuous life and hard-driving persona are front and centre in Steve Jobs, a warts-and-all biopic that had its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival recently.
“He changed the way we all live,” said Michael Fassbender, who plays Jobs in a bravura performance that defies Oscar voters to look away. “He changed the way we communicate, changed the way we buy things, changed the way we listen to music. Instead of having technology just be a tool for us, it became more than that,” he added.
“We develop a relationship with it. Before, computers were scary things and they were only there for hobbyists and computer geeks, and he was like, ‘No, these are for everybody’.”
Not everyone is happy to have Hollywood turn the spotlight on the prickly Jobs. Director Danny Boyle acknowledged that the blowback from Apple has been intense with company leaders like Tim Cook slamming the picture.
“These corporations, and they’re so vast now, will be unhappy, because they’re all about total control,” said Boyle. “It’s not been the easiest passage.”
Yet Boyle argues that with companies like Facebook, Apple, Google and others transforming the way we share information, find out about events and engage in commerce, artists have a duty to investigate the technological revolution unfolding around us.
“These people have changed our world,” said Boyle. “Whether we like that or not, we are in the midst of that change. It’s impossible to see where it will end, so you need to be able to hold them up to the microscope. These people are having an enormous influence on our lives and sometimes they’re so powerful that governments, or the law, is unable to hold them to account.”
Steve Jobs doesn’t unfold like a conventional biopic. Instead of following the Apple tycoon from birth to death, it focuses on three seminal product launches, using them as jumping off points to investigate Jobs’ web of personal and professional relationships.
Then there’s the dialogue, which in true Aaron Sorkin form overflows with arias of erudition. Kate Winslet, who plays Jobs’ confidant Joanna Hoffman, said Sorkin’s language was one of the main reasons she wanted to be involved with the project.
“It’s extremely natural,” said Winslet. “The rhythms are incredibly realistic and when it fires, it’s like an orchestra. As actors, you struggle to make characters work and sometimes you might fiddle with the dialogue to make something fit a bit better. With Aaron’s dialogue you don’t need to touch a thing.” – Reuters