Skip to main content

Mossberg says movie doesn’t show the Steve Jobs he knew [video], as leaked emails take us behind the scenes


Writing in his column in The Verge, Walt Mossberg – who says he spent “scores of hours” in conversation with Steve Jobs across 14 years – says that the man depicted in the Sorkin/Boyle movie is not the Steve Jobs he knew.

Steve Jobs wasn’t perfect. He was difficult. He was unnecessarily rude and brusque at times. He lied. But he also mellowed and grew as a person, and that mellowing coincided with the best part of his career. Mr. Sorkin opts to hide all of that from his audience. The best of the real Steve Jobs begins to unfold just as Steve Jobs ends.

A lengthy piece in Hollywood Reporter earlier this month – leaning heavily on emails leaked from the Sony hack – provides a lot of insight into what was going on behind the scenes in the run up to the making of the movie. This included the fact that Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures, knew from the start that the project was going to be challenging … 

“Fasten two seat belts,” she warned in a prescient early email. “Its [sic] gonna be more than bumpy.”

She later passed on the movie when the filmmakers wanted more money than Sony was prepared to spend, a decision she later described as a huge mistake.

We use numbers as an excuse not to make a movie to the outside world not between us. This is the second time in my career I let past performance of the current state of things corrupt my thinking and feeling about a movie. I have made other kinds of mistakes but not like this.

Producer Scott Rudin was apparently not a fan of Pascal’s handling of things.

“You’ve behaved abominably,” the producer emailed Pascal toward the end of their dealings on Steve Jobs, “and it will be a very, very long time before I forget what you did to this movie and what you’ve put all of us through.”

While Pascal may have had cold feet, both director Danny Boyle and leading star Michael Fassbender said they never had any doubts.

Said Boyle: “I was moved beyond belief by the script, in a way that really surprised me […] I read it, and that was it. I said, ‘I’m in.’ And Rudin said, ‘Are you serious?’ I could hear in his voice, thinking, ‘It can’t be this easy, can it?’ And I was like, ‘Oh, I’m as serious as I can get.’ “

Fassbender had initially planned to take some time off, but changed his mind when he saw the script.

Then he learned Rudin and Boyle were interested in having him play Jobs. He knew little about the icon. “I’m not a very techie person,” he says. “I use all the Apple products, but I had no real insight into him.” Still, the script was strong and the character compelling, and he decided to say yes, ditching his intended hiatus.

Sorkin expressed doubts in an email about Fassbender’s suitability for the role, but quickly changed his mind.

“At the time I wrote the email, I was the one person in the world unfamiliar with Michael Fassbender’s work,” he says today. “I hadn’t seen 12 Years a Slave. Hadn’t seen Inglourious Basterds. Hadn’t seen Shame. Hadn’t seen X-Men. I just managed to miss every single Michael Fassbender movie. So I said to Francine Maisler, our casting director, ‘Send me all the Fassbender movies.’ And as soon as I watched them, I was leading the Michael Fassbender parade.”

It was previously reported that Laurene Powell Jobs tried to block the movie. Director Danny Boyle wouldn’t be drawn on this, nor on Cook’s description of such movies as “opportunistic,” limiting his comments to three sentences.

“They haven’t helped,” says Boyle of her and Cook. “There’s been some tough moments. I’m not going to go into them.”

An unnamed Sony executive did, however, go further.

“She reached out; she had a strong desire not to have the movie made. But we said, ‘We’re going to move forward.’ My understanding is, she did call one or two of the actors.” Another source says that Laurene lobbied each major studio in an attempt to kill the project.

While Sorkin has taken some flack over the movie, Steve Jobs was reportedly a fan of the writer.

“First time, he called me because there was an episode of The West Wing that he particularly liked and he called to say so out of the blue,” Sorkin recalls. “The second time, he wanted me to come and tour Pixar in the hope that I would write a Pixar film. And the third time, he asked for my help on a Stanford commencement speech.” (Sorkin obliged, free of charge.)

Sorkin has recently been modest about his role in the latter, claiming that he had merely “fixed some typos.”

The full piece is a very interesting read. The film was released earlier this month in select theaters with a wider release set for this Friday.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

You’re reading 9to5Mac — experts who break news about Apple and its surrounding ecosystem, day after day. Be sure to check out our homepage for all the latest news, and follow 9to5Mac on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to stay in the loop. Don’t know where to start? Check out our exclusive stories, reviews, how-tos, and subscribe to our YouTube channel


  1. rogifan - 7 years ago

    Just read Mossberg’s piece and it confirms everything I’ve felt about this movie. I don’t need to see it to know it’s incredibly flawed. Sorkin chose to ignore 14 years of Jobs life because it didn’t fit the the narrative he was looking for. This movie should be nominated for a Razzie not an Oscar.

  2. krakowian - 7 years ago

    I don’t think it’s an accident that the movie ends right when, as Mossberg says, the best of Steve Jobs began to unfold. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a “Steve Jobs 2.0” movie sometime in the future…

  3. 89p13 - 7 years ago

    I still plan to see the movie – but going in with my eyes open and realizing that this isn’t necessarily fact – but somewhat fact-based. Having read the “Steve Jobs Authorized” biography my opinion is pretty much made up. This will just be a 2+ hour dramamentary in my knowledge. I will probably wait for the Netflix DVD and save the movie fees.

  4. In the years to come, Amy Pascal might be remembered in a good light for passing on this heaping pile of crap. This marks the low-point in Boyle’s career and as a big and long-time fan, I sincerely hope he doesn’t make this kind of mistake again.

    Sorkin is and always will be, a hack.

  5. PMZanetti - 7 years ago

    It’ll be on Netflix in two weeks, where I can watch it without feeling like I spent a dime supporting it.

  6. artist25 - 7 years ago

    Saw it last week, it’s actually really well made. The biggest critics seem to be those who didn’t know Steve in the ‘early years’ and only knew the Steve that the film’s ending alludes to (I don’t admit to having any more insight on the guy, I never met him so I don’t have that emotional involvement). If you can get past the fact that the movie doesn’t worship Jobs in every way, you can see that it does provide redemption and a change in character over time. In the same way that Fassbender does not look like Jobs but seems to capture the feel of Jobs’ character well, the story is not literal but seems to capture the tension and drama of Jobs’ relationships during these early years. While Ashton Kutcher’s version was arguably more literal, it was so static and linear and boring. Kutcher made a good effort, but his acting comes across as parody compared to Fassbender, only mimicking the movements and voice of Jobs and not the essence.

    I also feel that Jobs would have great appreciation for the subtle artistry that went into this film. Aside from strong screenwriting and acting, things like different types of film and music for each act and an intriguing format that cuts back and forth between time periods fluidly really help the film.

    Perhaps Tim, Laurene, and Mossberg would do well to wait for the sequel, where Jobs has already undergone his major character growth and we can just watch him release cool products for a couple hours.

    • The film could be a modern day Apocalypse Now/Godfather Part II/Citizen Kane and the people above would still not sing it’s praises because they worship Apple that much that any criticism, whether warranted or not, results in hysterical arm waving, faux rage and much throwing out of toys out of pram – acting surely worthy of an Oscar.

      Listen guys – Steve Jobs isn’t waiting in the wings to come down and give you a boat load of cash. Tim Cook isn’t going to land on your doorstep and reward you with armfuls of Apple tech just because you deny history and like to paint Apple in the best light possible. He was a genius and changed the world for the better. It doesn’t mean he had to be a nice person to do it. Get over yourselves and your pretend snivelling.

  7. srgmac - 7 years ago

    How is this movie any different from Pirates of Silicon Valley? That movie portrayed jobs as a psychopath — remember the scene where he totally decimates the guy who is interviewing at Apple? Steve accuses him of being a “virgin” and says he would be more comfortable at IBM. Also remember the scene where Jobs is pissed off, and he goes into the coder area and asks them why they’re producing garbage, and just yanks the plugs to their computers, losing all the work they just spent 48 hours straight on without any sleep?

  8. Paul Douglas - 7 years ago

    I think the problem here actually comes from the book. Isaacson glossed over the era after the iMac significantly compared to earlier parts of Jobs’s life and Sorkin was working from the book. I actually think the movie DOES portray Jobs as mellowing and growing as a person as it draws to a close, though the early end does sort of stunt it a bit.

  9. dysonlu - 7 years ago

    Yes, because you really know a person just because you interviewed him, had a few chats or having dinner with him. Pffft. There could be a different Steve Jobs when he’s actually working in his “war room”, in business meetings and in private moments with family.


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!

Ben Lovejoy's favorite gear