Five Steve Jobs movies that would actually be worth watching
3rd Nov 2012 | 12:00
Two movies about Steve Jobs are in production - but will they really do him justice? We have our own ideas
Steve Jobs: the movie
When Steve Jobs died last year, many of us heard the sound of Apple fans grieving - but as Jobs' authorised biography rocketed to the top of the book charts, the sound Hollywood heard was the sound of jingling cash registers.
It's hardly surprising, then, that old interviews have been quickly repackaged and sent to cinemas (Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview appeared in US cinemas in May) while studios are rushing to capture Jobs' story on film.
There are two biopics currently in production: jOBS, starring Ashton Kutcher, and Steve Jobs, adapted from Walter Isaacson's biography by The West Wing and The Social Network writer Aaron Sorkin.
The films will be very different. jOBS will concentrate on Jobs' life from leaving college to his triumphant return to Apple, while Steve Jobs is likely to be longer, wordier and interested in Jobs' entire life.
But they are both likely to encounter the same problem: while Jobs was an extraordinary man who created an extraordinary company, his story isn't particularly visual.
When he made computers in his garage this was world-changing, but watching him agonise over the perfect shade of beige for a computer case or demand the removal of floppy disc drives from the original iMac is hardly going to make for gripping cinema.
However, that got us thinking. How would the world's greatest film directors make the Steve Jobs story a must-see movie production? We started to wonder how differently the story would be told by Hollywood's different directors, and who would be best for the job.
After some heated discussions, we settled on a shortlist: the peerless, and some would say brainless, action movie director Michael Bay of Transformers and Pearl Harbor fame; David Fincher of Fight Club, Se7en and The Social Network; Pixar's John Lasseter, director of Cars and A Bug's Life as well as executive producer of Bolt, Finding Nemo and Brave; the inimitable Coen Brothers, who brought us Raising Arizona, Fargo and O Brother, Where Art Thou?; and last but definitely not least, the late, great Norah Ephron, writer of When Harry Met Sally and writer/director of You've Got Mail and Sleepless In Seattle.
What might they have done with the story of Steve - and would any self-respecting Apple fan actually want to see the results? Stock up on popcorn and pass the pick 'n' mix as we try to re-imagine 'Steve Jobs: The Movie'.
Steve Jobs: Android Killer
Director: Michael Bay
Starring: Shia LeBeouf (Steve Jobs), Megan Fox (Steve Wozniak), Mickey Rourke (Eric Schmidt), Jason Statham (Jonathan Ive)
Running time: 203 minutes
We suspect that if Michael Bay were to be given a screenplay about Steve Jobs, he'd speed-read it - and the only bit that would get his attention would be the word "Android" and Jobs' expletive-ridden rant about the "f***Ing stolen product" that he intended to "wage thermonuclear war" over.
Androids? Theft? Thermonuclear war? That's more than enough for Bay to make a movie - hell, make a trilogy! A quadrilogy!
But it's hard to imagine a realistic-looking Steve Wozniak making the final cut, so expect Woz to become a pretty lady with a tendency to bend over pumped-up muscle cars while wearing the skimpiest bikinis imaginable.
Similarly, Eric Schmidt is not muscular enough to be a Michael Bay baddie. In Bay's version, when Steve Jobs says "war" he means it, ordering design-guru Jonathan Ive to build him a robotic super-suit that he can use to smash Schmidt, Google and every Android device on Earth.
Character development taken care of, Steve Jobs: Android Killer would then spend the remaining three-quarters of its running time showing Jobs' and Schmidt's robot suits bashing seven shades of crap out of one another to a loud Linkin Park soundtrack, with the battle interspersed with gratuitous explosions, helicopters and shots of Megan Fox.
Director: David Fincher
Starring: Edward Norton (Steve Jobs), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Eric Schmidt), Christopher Lloyd (Steve Ballmer)
Running time: 120 minutes
Fincher would explore the friendship between Steve Jobs and Eric Schmidt, the ways in which Apple and Google's partnerships repeatedly out-manoeuvred Microsoft (Christopher Lloyd in his best bit of bald buffoonery since he played Uncle Fester in The Addams Family), and the subsequent fallout when Jobs discovered the extent of Schmidt's duplicity.
In lesser hands the role of Jobs in particular could easily become a scenery-munching Al Pacino shoutfest, but Edward Norton has the acting chops to deliver a nuanced portrayal that encompasses both Steve Jobs' legendary charm and his famous rages. Anybody can shout, but Norton can do cold fury like nobody else - remember American History X? - and he's got just the right amount of cheekiness to do a convincing Reality Distortion Field too.
When Norton as Jobs finally blows his top once he's discovered the truth about Schmidt you'll be shrinking back in your seat in fear.
Swipe wouldn't just be an opportunity for Norton to show his range, though: the talented Mr Hoffman would bring real gravitas to the Eric Schmidt role, and as we've seen in films such as Doubt and Capote, he can make even repellent people interesting and worth watching. To him, Android's imitation of iOS is just business - but to Jobs, it's a deep and personal betrayal.
Director: John Lasseter
Running time: 81 minutes
Pixar's great genius, like Walt Disney's, lies in its ability to invest non-human characters with real warmth and depth, and that genius would shine through this tale of a bad-tempered robot who only wants to make beautiful things.
Dialogue-free and with a restrained, barely there soundtrack largely consisting of obscure Bob Dylan tracks, Steve-E would follow the eponymous, anthropomorphic robot as each day his attempts to make something perfect in the sterile world of Infinite Loop end in frustration and fury.
Steve-E rages wordlessly and often, and his fellow bots become increasingly irritated by his perfectionism and rule-breaking; when Steve-E loses his temper at a meeting and attacks high-ranking bot Scull-E, he finds himself exiled to the snowy wastes of Siberia.
Exiled with only his pet bee, Woz, for company, Steve-E travels the icy climate, until one day he discovers a frozen robot of a strange and foreign design. Reactivating the bot, he discovers that it is iVE, an industrial design-bot, and the two robots form a fast friendship based on creating beautiful designs in the snow and ice.
As their friendship matures, iVE discovers the power of simplicity, while Steve-E discovers the power of friendship. Steve-E returns from exile with iVE in tow to save the world from poor design.
The penultimate scenes of Steve-E looking down on the world he's saved could move entire cinemas of grown men to tears.
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges (Steve Jobs), John Goodman (John Sculley), Steve Buscemi (William HB Gates)
Running time: 113 minutes
We can't imagine the Coen Brothers making a straight Steve Jobs biopic; they're much more likely to set it in an enormous art-deco skyscraper in a heavily fictionalised, 1950s New York casting Jeff Bridges in full-on Dude mode as a wise-cracking and permanently bombed innovator who doesn't smell so great.
Insanely Great would follow the story of Stephen P Jobs, Esq as he designs steampunk-inspired computers for his own company, Appler Industries. Jobs loves his work and business is booming - or so he thinks. However, Jobs' love of jazz cigarettes means he's missed important clues: while he's been taking care of the products, his right hand man, John Sculley, hasn't been taking care of business.
Under his watch Appler has hired a rogues' gallery of yes-men and no-hopers, Jobs' best designs mutilated and Appler's loyal customers treated with disdain in the name of maximising profits. There's only one way for Jobs to save his company: he must strike a deal with his arch-enemy, William HB Gates III.
Gates has the money Jobs needs to save Appler, and Gates knows it - so instead of just handing over the money, he makes Jobs humiliate himself for Gates' own amusement. That would give Insanely Great the dubious distinction of being one of the few films whose climactic scenes revolve around a high-stakes hula hoop battle.
Cranky in Cupertino
Director: Norah Ephron
Starring: Noah Wyle (Steve Jobs), Anthony Michael Hall (Bill Gates)
Running time: 96 minutes
The late, great Norah Ephron would have found plenty of material in the relationship between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, two men with very different worldviews who were bitter enemies but perhaps also became good friends.
Their intertwined stories have it all: humour, drama and a tear-jerking ending. Norah Ephron's best films had emotional depth and lots of humour, and the relationship between Gates and Jobs had both in spades.
Their enmity was almost cartoonish at times, Jobs taking great delight in mocking Gates and Microsoft at every opportunity, but there was a core of real respect there: Apple wouldn't be around today if it weren't for Microsoft's late-1990s $150 million investment, and, by 2007, the men were secure enough and mellow enough to be nice to each other at the All Things Digital 5 conference. Well, Gates was nice, anyway.
Who would deliver Ephron's trademarked, whip-smart wisecracks? The internet quite likes the idea of Keanu Reeves, but we think there'd be a lot of fun in reuniting the Jobs and Gates of 1999's Pirates of Silicon Valley, Noah Wyle and Anthony Michael Hall.
Wyle's the only actor whose portrayal of Jobs had Steve's grudging stamp of approval, and while Hall's resemblance to Gates has dimmed, his recent CV shows that he probably could do with the work.