Highlights 2012

11.15.12

Aaron Sorkin on Steve Jobs Biopic: Three Real-Time Scenes From Backstage

Aaron Sorkin has given the first details about Sony’s hotly anticipated Steve Jobs biopic, which will unfold in ‘real time’ and depict Jobs backstage at three product launches. Jace Lacob reports.
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Sony’s upcoming Steve Jobs biopic will not be offering another twisty, non-linear perspective like 2010’s Oscar-nominated Mark Zuckerberg film, The Social Network, according to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

Speaking at Newsweek & The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit earlier on Thursday, Sorkin—who also created HBO’s media-skewering drama The Newsroom —offered some details about the upcoming film, which is based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography of the Apple founder and late visionary.

“I hope I don't get killed by the studio for giving too much away,” Sorkin said, “but this entire movie is going to be three scenes, and three scenes only, that all take place in real time.”

Real time, Sorkin said, "is when a half hour for you in the audience is the same as a half hour for the character on the screen. There will be no time cuts. Each of these three scenes is going to take place before a product launch—backstage before a product launch. The first one being the Mac, the second one being NeXT (after he had left Apple), and the third one being the iPod."

Jobs’s launch of the Macintosh computer in 1984 effectively began Jobs’s meteoric climb; NeXT, in 1990, showed his efforts to begin anew after leaving the company he founded, and in 2001 the iPod singlehandedly changed the way that audiences consume media. 

Yes, that’s the entire film, according to Sorkin, who is currently writing a draft of the script, which he hopes to end with the quote, "Here's to the crazy ones,” a reference to an ad campaign that Jobs had created.

"If I can earn that ending, than I'll have written the movie I want to write,” said Sorkin.

Sorkin’s comments today were the first details emerging about the planned biopic, which is executive produced by Scott Rudin, Mark Gordon, and Guymon Casady. Previously, Sorkin had been tight-lipped about the film, and expressed concern about how to dramatize Jobs’s life for the screen.

"Walter Isaacson wrote a terrific biography, but biographies when they're turned into movies—and there have been some terrific ones—it's very difficult to shake the cradle-to-grave structure of a biography," Sorkin said when he appeared at the D10 Conference earlier this year. "I'm instead probably going to identify the point of friction that appeals to me, and dramatize that."

"One of the hesitations I had in taking on the movie was that it's a little like writing about The Beatles," Sorkin continued. "There are so many people out there who know so much about him and who revere him. I saw a minefield of disappointment, frankly, that I was going to do something [wrong] and—hopefully when I'm done with my research I'll be in the same ballpark of knowledge about Steve Jobs as so many people in this room are."

Sorkin said he spoke to Jobs on the phone occasionally. "We knew each other over the phone. He would call me from time to time out of the blue ... The second to last time I spoke to him, he asked if I would help him with the Stanford commencement address."

Sorkin’s comments about Jobs are in keeping with the message behind Thursday’s Hero Summit.

"With as little as I know about the Steve Jobs movie—I know this for sure—that I can't judge the character,” Sorkin said earlier this year, “he has to, for me, be a hero.”

Earlier today at the Hero Summit, Sorkin defined a hero as "the difference between a good man and a great man."

But that doesn’t mean that Sorkin’s portrait of Jobs will be that devoid of rough edges. "There's no point in writing about someone unless they are flawed,” said Sorkin.