updated 09:53 pm EST, Thu November 15, 2012
Each half-hour take place backstage prior to key product rollout?
Calling Apple co-founder Steve Jobs "atypical, a genius and extremely difficult," screenwriter Aaron Sorkin on Thursday dropped the first hints about his approach to the forthcoming Sony Pictures biopic on Jobs, which is still currently in the writing and pre-production stage. Discussing his work at a "Hero Summit" put on by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, Sorkin said that the film may consists of three 30-minute "scenes" that are set backstage before pivotal Jobs product launches.
In the course of the conversation, Sorkin also revealed that while he mostly knew Jobs from phone conversations, he was involved in helping Jobs craft the well-known Stanford commencement address that embodied Jobs' outlook on life following his first brush with death over his pancreatic cancer, and that he had been asked by Jobs to write an unnamed Pixar movie. Sorkin said he had told Jobs that he "loved" Pixar, and that he "had never seen a studio make this kind of a difference in moviemaking," calling the company's output "tremendous accomplishments."
When Sorkin begged off the Pixar opportunity, saying he didn't think he could make inanimate objects talk, Jobs pointed out that "once you make them talk, they're not inanimate anymore." Sorkin added that Jobs' tone, rather than his words, suggested that he thought Sorkin was blowing a big opportunity, perhaps thinking "are you stupid?" but putting it in a "warmer" way, Sorkin related.
He said that he is currently talking to "all the people in Steve's life," specifically mentioning Steve Wozniak, the early Macintosh development team, and others who Sorkin notes "revere him ... even though he made all of them cry." For the movie, Sorkin said that he was inspired by the "manifesto" commercial Jobs ran (done originally with his own voice, but later using actor Richard Dreyfuss for the TV version) that kicked off the "Think Different" campaign, known widely from its opening lines "Here's to the crazy ones ...".
In what could well be a red herring, Sorkin described the movie as being "three scenes, and three scenes only, that all take place in real time ... with no time cuts ... and each takes place before a product launch." He said that the scenes take place backstage, the first before the original launch of the Macintosh, the second one before the launch of the NeXT computer (Jobs' company following his initial ouster from Apple in the late 80s) and the third one being the launch of the iPod. The last one would seem to be a curious choice, given that the product initially met with mixed reaction and took about three years to assert its dominance in the MP3 player market, but arguably it was Apple's first post-Jobs-return "crossover" success, since it was eventually adapted to work with both Macs and PCs.
Sorkin said that he hopes to deliver a film that could have no other ending but the recitation of the "Crazy Ones" speech, suggesting that the film will not attempt to cover the whole of Jobs' life. In his screenplay for The Social Network, Sorkin likewise zeroed in on a single key time period rather than try to encapsulate the entire evolution of Facebook. It's possible that Sorkin intends to use the backstage scenes as a framing device for flashbacks across Jobs' life, though the three moments in his career Sorkin has picked are pivotal moments, each of which could reveal the evolution of the man, both publicly and privately, as he went from wunderkind to pariah to prodigal son and savior of the company he helped create.
The Sony film, about which little else is known, is not expected for several years yet. An earlier, independent effort at a Jobs biopic called jOBS that examines his life from his childhood up to the founding of Apple, and starring Ashton Kutcher as a young Jobs, has been completed and had preliminary screenings at select film festivals, with an anticipated early 2013 release. Co-star Josh Gad, who plays Steve Wozniak in the film, praised Kutcher's performance and said he expects the film to be "pretty wonderful."