Friday, October 09, 2015

FastCompany: Why The Steve Jobs In Aaron Sorkin's Movie Could Never Have Saved Apple

Why The Steve Jobs In Aaron Sorkin's Movie Could Never Have Saved Apple

The movie is full of fictions. Many are minor details. One character accuses Jobs of having "multiple billions of dollars" — but the movie ends in 1998, and Jobs didn’t actually get that kind of money until 2006, when Disney bought Pixar (a company that isn’t even mentioned in the movie). Other fictions are major, including several invented confrontations between Jobs and Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak, Mac genius Andy Hertzfeld, and ex-CEO John Sculley. And then there’s the grand fiction of omission in the final act, which hinges on an imagined reconciliation between Jobs and Lisa—the daughter whose paternity he once denied—before his 1998 introduction of the iMac. Moviegoers have no way of knowing that by 1998 the real Steve Jobs had been married for seven years, was raising three children with his wife, had brought Lisa under their roof, and had been profoundly changed by his family life in the slow-yet-sudden way that is so common to so many people.

Steve Jobs screenwriter Sorkin has claimed his right to tinker with history for the sake of art. In the past few weeks, he has asserted that his goal was never to create a biopic. "Walter [Isaacson]’s biography had to be about what happened," Sorkin told Wired. "It had to be a piece of journalism. When I write something, there is actually a requirement to be subjective; it’s really the difference between a photograph and a painting." He also told the Wall Street Journal, when asked about some of the movie’s most memorable lines of dialogue, "If any of them are real, it’s a remarkable coincidence." And Sorkin has repeatedly cited something the late Mike Nichols told him during the creation of Charlie Wilson’s War: "Art isn’t about what happened."

h/t Daring Fireball

I wasn't planning on seeing this movie, and after reading this review (please read the whole thing) I really don't want to.

I understand that movies like this are not going to be a straight biography. You can't do that in a movie and keep the length down to reasonable sizes and keep it interesting the whole time. But that doesn't mean you've got license to present a completely fictional character so divorced from history that nobody actually involved would recognize the man.

If you want to know all about Steve Jobs, read the Walter Isaacson biography.

If you want to know more about Mac development and the great many people involved at the time, I would recommend reading Revolution In The Valley, by Andy Hertzfeld, based in great part on the anecdotes he has archived at

If you're interested in the incredible number of interesting personalities (not just from Apple) that created the personal computer age, I would strongly recommend reading Fire In The Valley by Michael Swaine and Paul Frieberger.

But I wouldn't bother watching a mostly-fictionalized movie. Especially when the reality is "insanely great" all by itself.

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