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Sorkin: Three-act structure for Steve Jobs movie took two months of pacing, three minutes to be approved


Aaron Sorkin, screenwriter of Steve Jobs, told Wired that he had no idea how he was going to turn the huge biography into a movie, and when he finally did come up with an idea for it, he didn’t think the studio would agree.

I didn’t know that much about Steve Jobs, and the idea of doing a biopic was daunting. I work very slowly, and the first couple of months are spent just pacing around, climbing the walls […]

[Finally,] I got this idea, and I wrote an email to Scott saying, “If I had no one to answer to, I would write this entire movie in three real-time scenes, and each one would take place backstage before a particular product launch” […]

Really, I was emailing Scott to get help: Take this thing that I really want to do and tell me what I’m allowed to do, because no studio is going to let me do this. Two or three minutes later, I got an email from Amy Pascal—Scott had forwarded my email to her—and she said, “I think this is a great idea.” I couldn’t believe it. They were going to let me do this thing. 

Sorkin said he’d been surprised at the ready agreement as audiences expect biopics to follow the standard cradle-to-grave structure, and what he wanted to do wasn’t that.

And so it turned into not a biopic. I’m not quite sure what to call it.

The movie is set backstage before three product launches: the original Macintosh, the NeXT Cube and the iMac.

The screenwriter said that he found it ironic that he had ended up as the go-to guy for movies about the tech industry as he was “technologically illiterate.”

Sorkin noted that he began to get an idea of Jobs’ genius through his conversations with people like Woz, Lee Clow and Andy Hertzfeld, but that the movie doesn’t put its subject on a pedestal.

I think there are people anticipating that the movie’s going to be just one big champagne toast to Steve Jobs. You saw it. It’s not.

He does, though, think it paints a fair picture.

There are going to be people who say we were rough on him, and there are going to be people who say we weren’t rough enough on him. But I think we made a good movie.

For the full interview, head over to Wired.

The movie, which got its debut screening earlier this month, has been praised by critics, with Steve Wozniak also giving it a thumbs-up – though Tim Cook was less keen. You’ll be able to judge for yourself when it goes on general release on October 9th. In the meantime, a two-minute trailer gives us a good idea what to expect.

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  1. tincan2012 - 7 years ago

    Sorkin would have been more credible if he had not made the now infamous ‘China factory’ comment to Cook. We now know his bias. We can also sense Sorkin’s sensitivity to criticism – he is not used to failure. Whether this is praised or panned by critics, he will be upset if it is now popular. And given that he alienated many Apple fans, it may indeed not get the crowds Sorkin is expecting.. or used to.

    • Abraham Song - 7 years ago

      @tincan2012 What is up with the internet and “bias?” Good lord. I’m seriously rolling my eyes.

      Tim hadn’t even SEEN the movie. So for COOK to make comments on how good/bad the movie is is HORSESH*T and COOK deserves equal blame in this.

      That said, you do know that they apologized to each other. right? Give it a break.


      • tincan2012 - 7 years ago

        Your comment actually isn’t worth a reply as the argument you have is with Apple, not this PR debacle for Sorkin. FYI Sorkin apologized on ‘behalf ‘ of Cook, saying ‘they both’ took it too far. Wrong. You are entitled to your opinion but get your facts straight. Cook did NOT apologize, nor should he have had to – Cook was responding as a friend of Steve Jobs, NOT as a CEO of Apple. He is clearly upset that anyone is making money off portraying someone else’s truth about his friend. Thus the reference to being ‘opporunistic’. And I stand by my comments about Sorkin – he is arrogant and has a thin skin. To openly lie about Apple in China so easily, does not bode well for any truth he is trying to convey about Jobs.

      • rwanderman - 7 years ago

        Agreed. Well said.

        Cook never apologized but it’s less important. He hasn’t seen the movie and may or may not be familiar with Sorkin’s other work. It just does not give him the best platform to comment at all. And, I’m a Tim Cook fan and have been since he was at Compaq. He’s the perfect CEO for Apple now. But, he probably should have held back on commenting until he or at least someone close to him had seen the movie.

        Sorkin made an ass out of himself with his comments for sure but the fact is, he’s an excellent screenwriter and I can’t think of anyone else I’d want handling this. The movie sounds great to me and I plan to see it.

      • rahhbriley - 7 years ago

        I with you….but…I watched the Colbert interview, the comment was on Steve Jobs films as a category. Soooo maybe his comment on Sorkin’s film wasn’t applicable, and yes, maybe he should see it. But I don’t think he needs to to categorically say what he said.

        I’d bet 100 internet dollars that each and every studio was excited about he potential profits in making their Steve Jobs’ films. Even in this article it mentions Sorkin didn’t have an interest in Jobs’, he was simply hired for his ability. It’s not like he altruistically made this movie. Tim said his piece very conversationally and genuinely about how he felt when asked and it was an opinion based question. Sorkins comments can’t be made into an opinion based answer.

        This is all quite dumb and I’m sad I spent time writing this…not saying anyone is right or wrong…just expressing some of the thoughts I’ve had on the issue.

      • tincan2012 - 7 years ago

        @rwanderman. I can’t reply to you directly, so sorry I have to do this way. I am not engaging in a long discussion on this, as we stand on two sides of the real issue. And that issue has nothing to do with seeing or not seeing the movie. I am a fan of Cook, and have always respected Sorkin’s creative genius. However I am not sure why Cook needed to see ‘any’ film about Jobs especially one that was based on Walter Isaacson’s flawed work. Cook was making a general comment about how he felt about all movies made about his friend. He does not like them as he sees them as opportunistic. That is his personal call. But then Sorkin has a ‘hissy fit rant’ and lashes out against Apple by citing abuse of Chinese workers extending to the use of child workers. All lies. I know you could not possibly support his comments which were no doubt based on Mike Daisey’s fabrications. You know that story. Would you not think that Sorkin of all people [finishing a movie about Steve Jobs] would be careful on facts about Apple.

        If you are ok with remarks about Apple rwanderman, fine – your choice. It was a cheap shot by Sorkin and brought my respect of him down more than a few notches

    • lkernan - 7 years ago

      “Whether this is praised or panned by critics, he will be upset ”

      This is the same man who once wrote a b plot into a West Wing episode just to get back at the people who disagreed with him on the Television Without Pity forum.

  2. PhilBoogie - 7 years ago

    Snorkin seems to be in the press quite often lately.

    • Typical Hollywood narcissist.

    • flaviosuave - 7 years ago

      I’m sure the fact that he is promoting a movie of his that’s about to come out is a complete coincidence. The same sort of coincidence that led Steve Jobs to be on television a lot right around the time of Apple product launches. So weird!

  3. Sorry,the two above look nothing alike and that takes me out of a movie faster than anything. Not that I would go see it anyway. This topic(Jobs) for movies has played out and non are really any good anyway. Tim’s comment is correct. Movies like this are just jumping on a bandwagon for dollars and making dollars on the death of a friend merits his comment. Give it a rest Hollywood, and let the MAN and his legacy rest.

    • rwanderman - 7 years ago

      Steve Jobs on the left, Aaron Sorkin (who wrote movie, does not play Jobs) on the right. Maybe you should do a bit of research before you comment.

  4. Paul Andrew Dixon - 7 years ago

    For someone to make a biopic of an iconic person, they should at least know about that person…

    It is clear that he woke up one morning and thought “i want to make a biopic…who can i make a biopic on that will make me money…ah ha, ive got it…steve jobs…he’ll be interesting still”

    Most directors who make biopics are either approached by someone who already knows a lot but just need help putting text to screen, or it is a very passionate director who was a ‘fan’ of the person and already knows a far bit…

    Whether you like steve or not…whether he was mean to you or not… the fact is he only died 4 years ago and for many they are still somewhat grieving … Many still say that Wazniak is still bitter, not as much, did kind of ‘forgive’ jobs, but is still a little bitter…
    But people that were closer to jobs and understood jobs more, those who actually liked jobs, are not ready to see jobs portrayed in a bad light… maybe in 10 years, but 4 years is still not quite long enough — the last movie was 2 years after his death and was more of appraisal…so this was ok…

    i think respect to friends and family need to be shown – they want to remember the good side of jobs – just like most of us do of our loved ones.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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