There’s no doubt Sorkin has a tough job ahead of him as he writes a biopic about an iconic cultural figure who really died at the height of his powers and influence, and apparently the screenwriter has only just begun. Still, he’s let loose a few of his guiding principles in a conversation with Walt Mossberg, key among them being his reluctance to paint Jobs a a Zuckerbergian anti-hero. When specifically asked about that point, he responded:
“He is an extremely complicated guy, I know that for sure… He has to, for me, be a hero. I have to find the parts of him that are like me. I have to be able to defend this character. With someone like Steve Jobs, to put it as simply as possible, you want to write the character as if they are writing their letter to God on why they should be allowed into heaven.”
I can’t imagine that will make some folks groan, but this seems less weird as it’s a perfect way to describe his treatment of Billy Bean in Moneyball. I can’t imagine Sorkin’s goal will be painting Sainthood for the tech icon, so much as really figuring what the driving heroism of his story really was. Still, if you’re on that “just a great salesman” crap, you’re still likely in for a film full of teeth-grinding.
The difference between this film and Sorkin’s two previous Sony biopics comes when you consider that both Zuckerberg and Bean are most famous for what are, at least right now, very specific, centralized endeavors: the creation and implementation of Facebook and Sabermetrics. Bean had a career that was certainly covered in Moneyball, but the focus was still on a single, very remarkable season of Baseball. Jobs on the other hand, has a long career full of notable stories and events- I somehow doubt this is all going to revolve around the development of just the iPhone, for example. That said, Sorkin also makes it clear that he will be looking for another way to focus and centralize this story, as he has with the other scripts.
“I’m at the earliest possible stage with the Steve Jobs movie adaptation. It’ll look more like watching ESPN. Which seems, to the untrained eye, it’ll look a lot like watching college football. It’s a process of procrastination, where you try to figure out what the movie is about. Walter Isaacson wrote a terrific biography — but in making movies about these kinds of things, it’s difficult to shake the cradle-to-grave structure, so I’m probably not going to write one. Instead, I’ll probably identify the point of friction that appeals to me and then approach that.”
He also mentioned that whoever takes the Jobs role in his film will have to be genuinely smart, as the kind of intelligence the Apple-founder possessed is not something that can be faked. As for The Beatles comment? Here Sorkin described his protracted hesitation to take the gig as a desire to avoid getting blown up by the pressure of characterizing such a well known and revered figure.
“To be honest with you, one of the hesitations I had was that this was a little like writing about The Beatles. There are so many people out there that know him and revere him; I saw a minefield of disappointment…”
Obviously the screenwriter is absolutely right, but I’m glad it’s him out there, stomping around in the field.
The conversation can be seen below.