Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs doesn’t fit into the typical biopic mold for a number of reasons, starting with the casting of Michael Fassbender as Jobs. The 38-year-old actor, who plays Jobs from his late 20s to his mid-40s, looks very little like the Apple co-founder until the movie’s third act. That’s when Fassbender-as-Jobs dons a gray wig and rimless glasses to go with the familiar black turtleneck that was Jobs’ sartorial calling card.
“Obviously, I don’t look anything like Steve Jobs,” Fassbender said following a screening of Steve Jobs at the New York Film Festival on Saturday. “That was the first thing I said to Danny. Christian Bale looks a lot more like Steve Jobs.” (Bale was attached to the role before Fassbender.) But looks weren’t what Boyle was interested in; he cared more about energy and spirit. So with that in mind, how did Fassbender prepare for the role?
“I studied Ashton Kutcher,” Fassbender joked. (Kutcher played Jobs in the 2013 film Jobs.)
What did happen, however, was that the production team kept wigs and makeup on hand throughout the process of making Steve Jobs. If Fassbender and Boyle changed their minds and wanted to move closer to Jobs’ look, beyond the brown contacts the actor wore, they had the option. The pair finally decided to embrace Jobs’ wardrobe for the final third because, according to Fassbender, “the audience would want that.”
But the disinterest in surface verisimilitude began all the way back with Sorkin’s script, which is a theatrical portrait of a man in three acts, each structured around a product launch. “I knew what I didn’t want to write, and that was a biopic with the traditional cradle-to-grave structure where you land on all the greatest hits,” Sorkin said of his screenplay, which is based on Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs. “I wondered if I could take all of the work that Walter had done and dramatize the points of friction in Steve’s life with just three real-time scenes.”
Also starring Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, and Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, Steve Jobs screens as the New York Film Festival’s centerpiece gala selection on Saturday night. The film arrives in theaters on Oct. 9.