Has Danny Boyle got the Apple founder right in Steve Jobs?

  • AFP, San Francisco
  • Updated: Sep 13, 2015 22:04 IST
Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs. (Universal Pictures)

Nearly four years after the death of Steve Jobs, the legacy of the iconic Apple co-founder continues to be debated in books and on film. Jobs so touched the world that many around the globe were struck with grief when he died in his Silicon Valley home on October 5, 2011.

A growing list of films delve into his controversial character and his stunning accomplishments, but only now has a Jobs movie won over his famed partner in founding Apple, Steve "The Woz" Wozniak.

After the recent world premier of Universal film Steve Jobs at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, Wozniak praised director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin for "getting it so right."

The film is based on a biography with the same title written by author Walter Isaacson, who was granted access to Jobs as well as family, friends, colleagues and adversaries.

Entertainment news outlet Deadline Hollywood quoted Wozniak as saying that he felt as though he was "actually watching Steve Jobs and others." Wozniak was a consultant on the film. Sorkin also wrote the screenplay for Oscar-winning 2010 movie The Social Network, about Mark Zuckerberg and the birth of Facebook.

Actor Michael Fassbender plays Jobs in the film, set for release in October.

Wozniak's part is played by Seth Rogen, and Kate Winslet is credited with a powerful performance as a confidant to Jobs.


The mind of Jobs

The film has won early praise from critics in a sign that it may deliver compelling insights into Jobs that were lacking in earlier efforts to portray him on the big screen.

And while Fassbender doesn't look like Jobs, he captured what it was like to be inside the mind of the man lauded for transforming culture with Apple innovations, Wozniak said in an interview with the BBC. Actor Ashton Kutcher, who does look more like Jobs, played him in a 2013 film that was a modest box office success. Critics however felt that the movie did not fully portray the complexities of the Apple co-founder.

The coming drama-packed Hollywood addition to the Steve Jobs legend will be in theaters about a month after the release of a documentary on Jobs by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney.

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine was released on the Internet and in a limited number of theaters this month. Some see it as an unflattering look at the man.

"The motivation to make the film was why so many people who didn't know Steve Jobs were weeping when he left," Gibney was quoted by Business Insider as telling an audience at a screening.

Watch: Steve Jobs trailer

Master of illusion

The documentary begins by showing people in tears and makeshift memorials in tribute to the man credited with changing modern life with iPods, iPhones and iPads. "He is the man who fought for his individual preference to be realized, and for order to prevail over chaos in the world; so he is a hero," said Greg Niemeyer, director of the Center for New Media at the University of California, Berkeley.

"He operated like a magician who could conjure up a reality that was more clean, glorious, and organized than the world we live in." Jobs was a master at selling the illusion of empowerment and order, and Apple innovations made computing appear more accessible and personal, according to Niemeyer.

While Jobs has been portrayed as an unforgiving perfectionist who was hard on those who fell short of his high expectations, Apple the company and its devices came across like people's friends.

"He reflected the desire of individuals to relate to machines as friends," said Niemeyer, whose son works at Apple and whose research is funded by Craig's List. "This illusion of friendship and closeness gives us the illusion of a personal connection to him. It would be surprising if people didn't care that he died."

Gibney did not turn his lens from blemishes, and some see the documentary as suggesting that Jobs shortcomings as well as his genius may have gone into Apple creations. "Steve Jobs was a wonderfully ambiguous figure," said Stanford University communication department professor Fred Turner.

"He presented himself as a renegade, a rebel, and a hippie. He was a brutal domineering CEO in the classic manner."

The balance between those poles likely plays into people's fascination with Jobs, Turner said.

Gibney's directorial works include Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

Read: Steve Jobs - A good film, but with Apple-sponsored iWorship

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