So Michael Fassbender has been selected to play Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic. Which confuses me because Ashton Kutcher already did that and while the movie wasn’t great he looked pretty good so why do we need another one? I don’t hate Steve Jobs, but I do take issue with the fact that he so successfully cultivated this image of a visionary and genius.
I honestly don’t think Jobs was a genius, but I do think he was very good at recognizing the genius in others. Like his old friend Steve Wozniak. Did you know that Jobs used a game of Pong that Wozniak designed to get himself a job at Atari? It seems Nolan Bushnell, an Atari cofounder, was pretty aware of the fact that Steve Jobs didn’t know how to code or engineer anything and thus put him on the night shift since Wozniak worked days at HP. As Bushnell put it, “If I put Jobs on the night shift, I’d get two Steves for the price of one.” So even then it was pretty well known Jobs wasn’t any good at doing his own work, but could certainly capitalize on others’. Like when Jobs told Wozniak he would split the pay he received from Atari if Wozniak helped him design a game, but only told Wozniak it had to be done in four days (Jobs’ own timetable as he wanted to help pick apples at a farm) and with as little chips as possible. When Jobs turned in the game, Breakout, he kept the bonus worth about $5,000 for it having so few chips to himself. Apparently Steve Wozniak cried when he learned of that from a book, saying, “I just wish he had been honest.”
An FBI report that was compiled when Jobs’ was up for a position in the government that has since been released shows that everyone around Jobs felt honesty was a stumbling block for him. An interesting quote one of the interviewees said about Jobs1: “A visionary and charismatic individual who was at the same time shallow and callous to the people in his personal relationships.” The report itself says, “Several sources questioned Mr. Jobs’s honesty stating that Mr. Jobs will twist the truth and distort reality in order to achieve his goals.” And former Apple employees stated: “Jobs possesses integrity as long as he gets his way.” So yeah, smart guy but loose on the morals and determined to get his way. All the trappings of someone bound for glory.
Now I’m not saying Jobs was a terrible person. Like I said, I’ve never hated him. I just wish people would appreciate him for his true talents, such as the ability to see great things where others see nothing. Take Pixar for example. In 1986 Jobs bought the Graphics Group from Lucasfilm, which eventually became the amazingly successful Pixar. Pixar’s early years were rocky but it hit big with Toy Story in 1995. While most people wouldn’t have bothered with a sinking ship that George Lucas was trying to get out from under, and they probably wouldn’t have had the fortitude to stay course for a decade while things worsened, Jobs knew he was onto something, and that’s a pretty great talent to have.
They’ve also got Seth Rogen playing Steve Wozniak, which personally I think Josh Gad was pretty well cast in the already done biopic.
But that’s what got me thinking about an old engineering professor who used to always tell us, “be a Woz not a Jobs.” Occasionally tacking on the refrain, “unless you’re a business major.” No, Steve Jobs couldn’t program anything, but he could sell water to a drowning man and market pretty much anything so well everyone felt like it was the first time they’d seen it.
So while I don’t understand why we need another Steve Jobs biopic, I’m assuming this go around will take a more clear-eyed look at the late innovator. Especially considering the screenplay is written by Aaron Sorkin, based on former TIME managing editor Walter Isaacson’s biography, and directed by Danny Boyle.
All names were redacted in the report. ↩