Sorkin at D10: “Jobs is an extremely complicated guy”

Aaron Sorkin just got interviewed by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher at the D10: All Things Digital conference. He responded to a bunch of questions concerning his thought process, including ongoing work on his adaption of Walter Isaacson’s authorized bio book for the silver screen, likening the job to “writing about The Beatles”

Perhaps in an attempt to somewhat dampen inflated expectations, Sorkin explains the difficulties of capturing all the key moments in Jobs’ rich and fulfilling career:

Steve Jobs is a big enough person and led a big enough life to make multiple movies.

The Sony movie, as you know, is due by the end of this year.

Fortunately for us, the prolific screenwriter, producer and playwright is tech literate. “I have a desktop, a couple of laptops, an iPad and an iPhone somewhere on my person”, he tells Mossberg.

He correctly pinpointed why so many people are fascinated by Steve Jobs and his personality:

I think that what captured the public’s attention about Steve Jobs is that he made things. I think nowadays that as Americans we see our future in service, that the days of making cars, railroads and big businesses is over. Steve Jobs said ‘no, they’re not. We still make things people want. We do that in Hollywood too.

Here’s Sorkin laying out his thought process:

I’m at the earliest possible stage with the Steve Jobs movie adaptation. It’ll look more like watching ESPN. Which seems, to the untrained eye, it’ll look a lot like watching college football. It’s a process of procrastination, where you try to figure out what the movie is about.

And this on the upcoming flick being a painting rather than a photograph.

Anytime you’re at the movies, and you see the words “the following is based on a true story”, you should think about it as a painting, not a photograph.

For more on the Sorkin way and a sneak peak of The Newsroom, a dramatic series premiering next month on HBO, check out an exhaustive profile over at Vanity Fair.

Then he launches into explaining the daunting task of adapting Isaacson’s bio book

Walter Isaacson wrote a terrific biography – but in making movies about these kinds of things, it’s difficult to shake the cradle-to-grave structure, so I’m probably not going to write one. Instead, I’ll probably identify the point of friction that appeals to me and then approach that.

A big part of why Isaacson’s official bio book is so challenging for adaptation lies in the intricate character of Apple’s late co-founder:

He’s a complicated guy. Zuckerberg was as well. But when I’m writing this movie, I cant judge this character. He has to be, for me, a hero.

To put is as simply as possible, you want to write the character like they are making their case to God, why they should be let into heaven.

Speaking of which, here’s Tim Cook sharing a thought with Mossberg and Swisher about Jobs being a master flip-flopper.

Sorkin happens to agree that being able to change one’s mind at a moment’s notice is a valuable treat.

You have to feel the freedom to have bad ideas. You’ve go to come back the next day and say ‘I was wrong about that. Here’s why.’ The here’s why is important. You have to be a diagnostician. You have to figure out why something works and doesn’t.

And who’s gonna play Jobs?

I don’t know who is playing Jobs in my movie, but it’ll have to be a very good actor. Someone who is smart.

As much as Kutcher perhaps doesn’t meet Sorkin’s requirement, he sure as hell looks like a spitting image of young Jobs in his early days, down to Jobs’ piercing brown palmetto eyes and a Hollywood movie star good looks.

The Beatles analogy:

To be honest with you, one of the hesitations I had was that this was a little like writing about The Beatles. There are so many people out there that know him and revere him; I saw a minefield of disappointment.

So, you’re saying?

Hopefully when I’m done with my research I’ll be in the same ballpark as some of the folks in here in terms of their knowledge about Jobs – I hope people don’t say ‘You really missed the big thing.’


But, that’s bound to happen.

“I certainly hope I’m able to do it justice with Steve Jobs”, Sorking added.

Other notable quotes are available in a nice summary over at the All Things D blog.

Honestly, I sure am keeping my fingers crossed that Sorkin does a much better job with this screenplay than his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network movie.

What’s your prediction, is the Sony movie going to flop?

What about the other one starring Ashton Kutcher?