Michael Fassbender On Playing Steve Jobs: "I Studied Ashton Kutcher"

Photo: Robert Perry/REX USA.
Michael Fassbender, who plays Steve Jobs in the new biopic directed by Danny Boyle, drew inspiration from an unlikely source. “I studied Ashton Kutcher,” Fassbender joked at the press conference following a New York Film Festival screening of Steve Jobs Saturday. The reference to that other, less-acclaimed film about Jobs, which featured the Two and a Half Men star in the lead role, was met with loud laughter from the audience. “I did too, weirdly,” co-star Seth Rogen, who plays Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, added.

Fassbender, of course, does not look like Steve Jobs, but, as was made clear at the conference, strict mimicry was not the point of the the film. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who worked from Walter Isaacson’s biography, said that even before he found his structure, he knew he didn’t want to make a typical biopic. And, indeed, the movie eschews origin story tropes and assumes its audience knows some of Apple's mythology.

The film is divided into three acts, each focusing on a different product launch. As Jobs prepares to introduce the Macintosh in 1984, the NeXT computer in 1988, and the iMac in 1998, the people in his professional and personal life orbit him, and the audience gets a portrait of a man who, for all of his inspired creativity, could be ruthless and callous. It especially digs into Jobs' relationship with his daughter, whose paternity he initially denied.

“We were always very insistent with everyone from the beginning that it wasn’t about being a lookalike and it wasn’t about physical mannerisms. They weren’t the driving force behind it,” Boyle said. “It’s Shakespearean, really.” Rogen invoked Andy Warhol's interpretation of Marilyn Monroe to make his point that, "in the end, accuracy isn’t necessarily, creatively, the thing that portrays someone the best."

Outside of brown contacts, Fassbender said he didn’t initially do anything to change his appearance to look like Jobs. Jobs’ famous black turtleneck and jeans doesn’t emerge until the end of the film. “Obviously, I don’t look anything like Steve Jobs. That was the first thing that I said to Danny. I said, 'Well, Christian Bale looks a lot more like Steve Jobs,” Fassbender said. “He was like, I’m not interested in that. I just want to sort of get the energy and the essence of the man and go with that.” (Bale, at one point, was going to play the role.)

And, while the production wasn't aiming for extreme accuracy, members of the cast did have access to some of the people in Jobs' life, like Wozniak and Andy Hertzfeld. Those people were the "thing that really stuck with" Fassbender, who was not a Jobs aficionado before the film.

“I’m not very interested in technology," Fassbender said. "I use it pretty poorly. So everything was new to me, to be honest."

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