Successfully chronicling the emotional and professional highs and lows of an esteemed entrepreneur who invigoratingly helped shape modern technology can be a daunting task for actors and filmmakers alike. The expectations were set even higher for actor Ashton Kutcher and director Joshua Michael Stern, who are both known more for their comedy than intense drama. But through dedicated research and commitment, the two showcased the eccentricities and creativeness of computer engineer Steve Jobs in the new biopic, Jobs.
The biographical drama chronicles Steve Jobs’ (Kutcher) life as he creates and runs Apple, starting in the early 1970s at Reed College. Steve cuts his education short to partake in meditation, LSD and a trip to India, before landing a job with video game manufacturer Atari in Silicon Valley.
After having difficulties in working with his colleagues at Atari, Steve forms a business relationship with his friend and self-taught computer engineer, Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad). The two co-found Apple Computer to manufacture the Apple I computer in Steve’s parents’ Los Altos garage. They soon follow it up with the Apple II, one of the first personal computers to include a video display.
With the success of Apple’s early computers, Steve focuses on evolving the company, and eventually launches the Mac in 1984. The two co-founders instantly become multi-millionaires, though Steve begins experiencing trouble with the company’s shareholders. He sees further trouble when he enters into a feud with Apple CEO John Scully (Matthew Modine), which leads to Steve leaving the company in 1985 and starting computer hardware and software manufacturer NeXT. Through unsuccessful research and manufacturing projects in the years following Steve’s departure, Apple is forced to re-evaluate their position without their innovative co-founder.
Kutcher and Stern generously took the time to participate in a press conference recently at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Among other things, the two discussed some of the surprising things they discovered about Jobs during their research period, including the fact that he encouraged students not to assume that receiving a college education was the only way to land a successful career; and how Kutcher was so motivated in accurately portraying the Apple co-founder that he ended up in the emergency room.
Check out the interview below.
Steve Jobs is someone who we know all about for his creations at Apple, but not so much for his personal life. Was there anything that you were surprised to learn about him as you were making this film?
Joshua Michael Stern: As I was interviewing the people on the early Mac team, I was surprised to learn that the man who gave all these keynote speeches, and who we’ve associated with being an elegant speaker, found it difficult to explain things. He had a frustration with explaining things, because he was trying to tell them things that hadn’t existed yet, and there was no point of reference.
He had an image, and he was trying to find the words to articulate something that wasn’t there. So I was fascinated with the young Steve, who had trouble explaining things.
Ashton Kutcher: I think I had a similar experience of understanding Steve. We see this guy who gives these keynotes, and he’s always very collected and business-like. He was so good at explaining and simplifying things. He was the master of the topic sentence; he could take any complicated entity and simplify it.
The thing that I least expected to find was his perspective on education. I found a speech that he gave when he was about 25. He was speaking to a bunch of high school kids who were about to graduate.
Steve got up in front of them and said, “A lot of successful people that I know didn’t go to school and get a degree. They had a broad set of life experiences that enabled them to bring something valuable that people with a standardized education couldn’t bring.”
So he encouraged these kids to go to Paris and try to write poetry, or fall in love with two people at one time, or try LSD, like Walt Disney when he came up with the idea for Fantasia. He suggested that maybe this standard education wasn’t the greatest means to creative solutions, but rather a diverse set of experiences could be the greatest education.
I found it very surprising that that would be his opinion. I think it was an opinion that he carried and reiterated throughout his life, and I think it’s a valuable one.
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