Aaron Sorkin received a phone call from Steve Jobs on three separate occasions, but never once did America’s most famous screenwriter actually meet the world’s most famous technology visionary.
“He called me out of the blue,” said Sorkin, who was in Dallas recently to promote his latest film, Steve Jobs.
The first phone call was to compliment Sorkin on an episode of The West Wing. The next call was an invite to tour Jobs’ Pixar facility with the hope Sorkin would write a Pixar movie. The last call was to ask for assistance on his commencement speech at Stanford.
But their paths never crossed.
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“On the phone, he was affable and a terribly nice guy,” Sorkin said. “It really blew me away.”
Jobs died in 2011. Two years later, the first bio movie about the Apple savior was released with Ashton Kutcher starring. Few noticed, other than to mock the casting of Kutcher.
Only when Sorkin started to write a script about Steve Jobs did people take it seriously. The eagerly anticipated film stars Michael Fassbender, is directed by Danny Boyle and contains all of the Sorkin trademarks.
This is his third movie script in a row that tries to encapsulate the lives of bright, visionary and highly successful men working in savagely difficult fields: Moneyball, which featured Brad Pitt as Oakland Athletics general manager Billy Beane; The Social Network, about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and for which Sorkin won an Oscar; and now Steve Jobs, with a script based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling book.
All of these movies champion men for their ability to do what Sorkin is so widely recognized — to think differently.
On first glance, Sorkin shares little in common with a baseball GM and a pair of technology wizards. After a deeper look, Sorkin exhibits many of the same characteristics.
He is bright, can’t necessarily explain what he is doing, only that it must be done. There is a level of myopia involved with his creative process that sometimes requires everybody else to just get out of the way, and to trust that he knows what he is doing.
“The ‘I have a vision and I don’t care that you can see it and I’ll get you to see it,’ (is) something I can identify with,” Sorkin said.
“I’ll come up with an idea for a movie that is vivid and it works. But I’m not very good at pitching [it]. I’m not very good at getting you to understand what is in my head.”
A singular style
Not that much different than Beane, Zuckerberg or Jobs, what Sorkin is good at being is successful at his job. They may not be the easiest people to work with, but those who do tend to be successful themselves, so they deal with it.
There is not a more in-demand screenwriter today, and one of the very few at his craft ever to establish himself as a household name with a distinguishable brand -- edgy, tense, rapid-fire dialogue that is almost always compelling.
“I write the way I write. I don’t know how any other way,” he said. “I wish that my writing style could get out of the way of what I had written. I think that they are locked together.
“First of all, my writing style is not everyone’s cup of tea. So there’s that. But of course that is to be expected.
“You are not going to get a unanimous response to anything,” he said. “To some people it’s seen as grandstanding, as kind of show-offy a little bit, and that might be true.”
The play’s the thing
Sorkin’s script for Steve Jobs is Sorkin doing what he was trained to do — be a playwright. He says he “fakes” his way through TV and movie scripts.
Steve Jobs is a three-act play that makes no attempt to be a conventional bio. Sorkin uses the product launches of three of Jobs’ creations, beginning in 1984, to cover the trajectory of one of technology’s most ambitious figures.
Unlike Moneyball or The Social Network, Sorkin’s script for Steve Jobs is not a true-to-life look at the man’s life, some of which has drawn criticism from people who knew Jobs well.
Sorkin said he spoke with all of the main characters in the movie, and that what he wrote is “a painting.” If Steve Jobs is indeed a painting, it is cinematic impressionism.
What Sorkin has created is another riveting look at a complicated, driven man in such a way that few others could.
As to whether Steve Jobs would like the movie …
“If the movie were about someone else he would like it. If he saw this movie and it’s about him, how could you possibly like a movie about yourself that is a painting and not a photograph?” he said.
“But the same movie about Bill Gates? I think that he would have appreciated the think-differentness of it.”