Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin offered some early thoughts today on the movie adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs, which he has signed on to write.
Sorkin was speaking at the D10 conference, and it sounds like he hasn’t actually written any of the screenplay yet — he said the initial stages of the process will look at lot more “like watching ESPN.”
“It’s a process of procrastination, where you’re trying to figure out where the movie is going,” he said.
So before Sorkin has gone through this process (and before the screenplay goes through the rewriting that’s endemic to Hollywood) it’s hard to know exactly what the film will be about. He did say that he probably won’t follow the “cradle-to-grave structure” that’s common to most biographies. Instead, he’s “going to identify the point of friction that appeals to me and dramatize that.” (It doesn’t sound like Sorkin has chosen that “point of friction” yet, though I’d imagine that it will either be the founding of Apple and/or Jobs’ return in the 1990s.)
Sorkin also said that he hesitated before taking on the project, because it’s “a little like writing about the Beatles.” In other words, Jobs is admired by so many people that they will end up questioning every choice that Sorkin makes: “I just saw a minefield of disappointment.” (He didn’t bring up The Social Network as a point of comparison, but that certainly drew its own share of critics who questioned its accuracy.)
So he cautioned viewers: When they watch any movie that claims to be based on a true story, they should think of it as “a painting, not a photograph.” In other words, “you’re going to get an authorial point of view.”
Sorkin noted that there’s already another Jobs biopic in the work, and he suggested that’s probably not a bad thing.
“One thing I know for sure: Steve Jobs is a big enough person and led a big enough life that there’s room for more than one movie,” he said.
Sorkin also wasn’t sure which actor would play Jobs, but asserted that whoever it was it had to be someone intelligent, as “Intelligence is something that actors can’t fake.” Later in the talk he revealed that the way he wrote “extremely complicated” characters like Jobs or Zuckerberg, was viewing the writing as defending them, “as if he were making the case to God for why [the character] should be let into heaven.”
Sorkin also said that if he could ask Steve Jobs one question, it would be, “What’s that magic trick?” as in, how did Jobs work it so that you could put a computer in the hands of a three-year old and have them intuitively understand it.
“I’m mostly computer illiterate and that’s not something I am proud of,” Sorkin said.
Makes me wish Steve Jobs were around to answer.