Aaron Sorkin: Why the ‘Steve Jobs’ Movie is Not a Biopic


The latest movie about Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is staged as three distinct acts, each taking us backstage to a major product launch. Now that the movie will hit theatres on October 9Wired sat down with Aaron Sorkin to take us “backstage” and learn how the Oscar-winning playwright (Sorkin says he is a playwright who pretends to be a screenwriter) adapted Walter Isaacson’s biography into a screenplay.

His involvement in the Steve Jobs film began with a phone call from Amy Pascal – then co-chairperson at Sony – who said they wanted him to adapt Isaacson’s book.

Amy Pascal, who at the time was the co-chairperson at Sony, called and said, “We want you to adapt Walter Isaacson’s book.” I sort of immediately began shaking. Scott is very good at talking me into things when I’m nervous about doing them, and I said yes.

I’m nervous before I do anything. It’s just standing at the bottom of a mountain and looking up with no clear path of how you’re going to get to the top. But in this case, it was particularly daunting for me as I didn’t know that much about Steve Jobs, and the idea of doing a biopic was daunting.

Sorkin emphasizes that what we’ll see is not a Steve Jobs biopic. He wanted to avoid writing a biopic screenplay, because “it’s very hard to shake the cradle-to-grave structure that audiences are so familiar with.” Instead, after many months of documentation, he identified several conflict cases and started working on them.

In reading about the trouble they were having getting the Mac to say “Hello” at the 1984 launch, I got this idea, and I wrote an email to Scott saying, “If I had no one to answer to, I would write this entire movie in three real-time scenes, and each one would take place backstage before a particular product launch. I would identify five or six conflicts in Steve’s life and have those conflicts play themselves out in these scenes backstage—in places where they didn’t take place.”

Conversations with Steve Wozniak, John Sculley, Steve Jobs’ daughter, Lisa, and others followed. The result will be on show to the public starting October 9. If you want to read the lengthy Wired interview – it is well worth your time – just click on this link.

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