A self-proclaimed gadget geek, Kutcher has been a long-time admirer of Jobs, and went to great lengths to get the loping gate and the thoughtful demeanor down just right. (In fact, he even went on a fruitarian diet that landed him a brief stay in the hospital. Eek.) Not only does Kutcher feel a close kinship with Jobs, but he reveals a thoughtful sensitivity about playing such a visionary role — even though his pancreas nearly exploded in the process.
You were hospitalized during the shoot. What happened?
“I went on this fruitarian diet and I read a book by this guy, Arnold Ehret, which was a book that Steve read called ‘The Mucus Free Diet Healing System,’ and it was kind of his dietary bible, if you will. It just talked about the value of grape sugar and that that was probably the only pure sugar that you could have in your body. And I think the guy who wrote that book was pretty misinformed. My insulin levels got pretty messed up. My pancreas went into some crazy...I don’t know. The levels were really off and it was really painful. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong and we figured out my insulin levels were off.”
Did you ever meet Steve Jobs? They say he could be a jerk.
“I never met him. I have a lot of colleagues and close friend who did. There were some things [about] Steve Jobs’ approach [that] seemed very blunt and unkind, however it was that same blunt discernment that allowed him to create the amazing products he created. That simplicity and ease, we take it for granted, but it takes blunt honesty and focus and determination to actually create that. So, I actually think some of the things that Steve Jobs gets criticized for were the very gifts that allowed him to create what he did.”
What drew you to this role?
“I wanted to make this film to inspire young people to create the world that they live in, and I think that was an ethos of Steve Jobs. Kids are graduating college and entering into a workforce where there are no jobs that they feel are equivalent to their level of education. Maybe you need to provide for the world, and maybe it just takes that little bit of confidence to say, you know what, this guy came from very meager beginnings and didn’t have a college education, and he was able to build the most powerful company in the world. I watch schools today and education programs dumping art programs for these business programs. And remember the most powerful company in the world was run by an artist, and that’s Steve Jobs.”
He’s a hero to you, isn’t he?
“This character was a great opportunity for me. It was kind of a perfect convergence of my personal interests and my craft, and also a really complicated person to play. He’s an antihero, a flawed hero, and it’s fun to play flawed heroes because they feel more real and they’re relatable and it makes you feel better about your flaws.”
What would you say the two of you have in common?
“I have a passion for technology. I went to school to become a biochemical engineer, so I know a little bit about engineering. And I have a passion for art and creativity. And I think that Steve understood and appreciated both of those things.”
What was the most surprising thing you found in researching Jobs?
“I found this speech that he made when he was probably 25, and he was talking to the high school kids – and all of these kids were preparing to go to really great schools. Steve said, ‘A lot of the really successful people that I know in the world, they didn’t go to school and they didn’t get a degree. They had a broad set of life experiences that enables them to bring something valuable that people with a standardized education couldn’t bring.’ So, he encouraged these kids to go to Paris and try to write poetry for a while, or fall in love with two people at one time, or try LSD like Walt Disney did when he came up with the idea for ‘Fantasia.’ And maybe a diverse set of experience in life could be the greatest education you can have.”