Lincoln, Life of Pi, Argo, Anna Karenina — the number of Oscar-caliber movies on the silver screen right now is burning a hole in this filmophile’s pocket (and this and this haven’t even come out yet), but all the hubbub about these deserving releases has caused a piece of slightly electrifying cinematic news to fly under the radar. Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter extraordinaire at the helm of Sony Pictures’ Steve Jobs biopic, recently revealed his grand plan for the film. At a news conference for the Daily Beast, Sorkin explained that the film will be split into three distinct scenes, all of which will focus on the precise 30 minutes before three major product launches – the Mac, NeXT, and the iPod.
To catch Windows people and other such folk up to speed: Steve Jobs was one of the original founders of Apple, and he passed away from pancreatic cancer a year ago October, only 56 years old. An enigmatic, and reportedly temperamental, genius and visionary, he helped launch and build one of the most recognizable and successful tech companies in the world. His story (adopted West Coast kid, drops out of college, founds Apple, gets fired from Apple, gets rehired by Apple, becomes a billionaire, succumbs to illness) has Hollywood written all over it. Not long after his death, it had been announced that not one but two Steve Jobs biopics were on the production line.
The first, an indie film, began shooting last May, and features Ashton Kutcher as Jobs. Kutcher’s repertoire – That ‘70s Show, Punk’d, Dude, Where’s My Car?, and the quite possibly even more atrocious Just Married – does not exude the qualities of an American luminary, and Apple fans were not pleased at the announcement of Kutcher’s role. Finding little solace in the fact that Kutcher at least looks the part, Mac geeks have taken issue with the fact that Kutcher seems to be sporting the signature Jobs look – black turtleneck, jeans, and New Balance sneakers – in a film that takes place in the '80s when Jobs didn’t start wearing the (horrendous) uniform until the 2000s.
But hey, Kutcher does have some decent work to his name. (The Butterfly Effect, anyone?) And Matthew McConaughey’s recent turnaround (Magic Mike, anyone???!!) gives me faith that aging, hot-teen-crush Hollywood men have the potential to break out of mold and rejuvenate their careers. And at the very least, with his background, Ashton will be sure to nail the scenes where Jobs does LSD in India.
Yet should Kutcher flop, we will all have Sorkin’s film to fall back on. Sorkin – highly lauded for his whip-smart, edgy writing for The West Wing and The Social Network – is right in his niche writing a script on Jobs, which will be loosely based off of Walter Isaacson’s biography. Anyone who has seen The Social Network knows that Sorkin is a master when it comes to manipulating pace, timing, and chronology, and his announcement about the film’s unconventional format undoubtedly left many drooling. However, the cast has not yet been announced, and finding the right person to play Jobs may prove difficult because, for starters, his Hollywood doppelganger has already been snatched up.
Moreover, whoever plays Sorkin’s Jobs needs to be as whip-smart and edgy as Sorkin’s dialogue (sorry Ashton) – as if Jobs’ powerful, and some would say highly narcissistic, person wasn’t hard enough to play to begin with. Sony could go with a biopic vet, someone like Daniel Day-Lewis or Leo, but Day-Lewis has Lincoln going for him already and Leo doesn’t quite have the right feel. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is on top of everyone’s list these days, but he’s just too freakin' adorable to play the at times nasty and demanding Jobs. I think Sony would be best-served by choosing someone less well known, who doesn’t have a type yet and has a lot to prove, and I think Ezra Miller is the way to go. He proved his acting chops early in We Need to Talk about Kevin alongside Tilda Swinton, and he has a bit of a defiant Jobsean streak. Cut his hair, nerd-ify him a little, and Steve Jobs he will be.
In the end no matter who turns out to be, the Ashton v. Mystery Jobs Man battle will be endlessly entertaining for all. With any luck, the two films will be released around the same time, a la Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron’s Snow White blockbusters (Roberts beat Theron by 1% on Rotten Tomatoes, but Theron brought in more money at the box office). Or like the Windows Surface and the iPad mini… except not.