Steve Jobs certainly had a sense of theatre. About to leave the stage at the end of another Apple presentation, he would turn back and utter the words that delighted fans: “There is one more thing…”
First used in 1998 to reveal his company’s return to profit, “One more thing…” was so synonymous with Jobs that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin planned to use the catchphrase when writing a big-screen version of the Apple co-founder’s life. “For a while I thought that would be the title of the movie,” he says in an interview with CNET, “but I couldn’t work a ‘one more thing’ into the screenplay!”
Click play on the video above for more from Sorkin on how he crafted the film’s unusual approach to telling Jobs’ story, and whether he thought Jobs was a genius.
Although it’s had a disappointing start at the US box office, the movie — ultimately titled just “Steve Jobs” — has some Hollywood heavyweights involved. Oscar winner Sorkin is joined by an Oscar-winning director, Danny Boyle, and Oscar-winning actor Kate Winslet. Meanwhile Oscar-nominated actor Michael Fassbender stars as Jobs, and his performance is already tipped by Variety for possible recognition at this year’s Academy Awards.
Sorkin is known to TV audiences for creating and writing “The West Wing” and “The Newsroom”. “Steve Jobs” gave Sorkin an opportunity to work once again with some of the people behind his previous two films: “Moneyball”, which saw him nominated for several awards, and “The Social Network”, for which his screenplay earned him an Oscar, a Bafta and a Golden Globe. For the new film, Sorkin adapted the in-depth biography written by Walter Isaacson — with a twist.
Steve Jobs in photos: 35 years of an American…
“Before I knew what I wanted to do, I knew what I didn’t want to do, and that was write a biopic,” says Sorkin. “I didn’t want to write a cradle-to-grave story where we land on the greatest hits of the protagonist along the way.”
Instead, Sorkin spotted “points of friction” between Jobs and the people in his life, and structured his screenplay around those interpersonal conflicts. Specifically, he structured the story as three acts playing out in near real-time and depicting events backstage at three key product launches from Jobs’ career.
The same characters meet up with Jobs in each of the three segments, and although they’re based on real people, the conversations and meetings are almost entirely imagined by the filmmakers. Sorkin has been repeatedly forced to defend that dramatic license while publicising the movie.
Sorkin chose the launches not because of the significance of the products themselves, but for the drama that was playing out in Jobs’ life at the time. At the heart of the film is the rocky relationship between Jobs and his young daughter Lisa. “I chose the Mac because Steve was still denying the paternity of Lisa in 1984,” says Sorkin, “and because the Macintosh was the first product that Steve felt complete ownership of. This was his baby…and it failed.”
The second act depicts Jobs launching the NeXT Computer after he had been ousted from Apple, a time Sorkin describes as “the king in exile.” The third act, in which Jobs has returned to Apple and triumphantly unveils the iMac, is “the king returns.”
Interestingly, the first two launches chosen by Sorkin see Jobs unveiling products that weren’t quite ready. Sorkin acknowledges the role of Jobs’ infamous “reality distortion field”, a trait that saw him willing things to be true by sheer force of personality. But he also believes that these premature launches show Jobs was someone who “dreams big” and “swings for the fences.”
And was Steve Jobs a genius? Sorkin believes the results speak for themselves. “He marshalled the forces that created not just the most successful company in the history of the world, but also these products and devices that so many people feel emotional about. My verdict is yes [he was a genius]. Would I like to have his brain and his imagination? You bet.”
“Steve Jobs” is in theatres in the US now, and hits UK cinemas on 13 November.