No one writes genius better than Aaron Sorkin. So it’s no surprise that, earlier this summer, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Sorkin signed on to adapt Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography detailing the life of Steve Jobs, the visionary behind Apple who died one year ago today. Based on more than forty interviews held over the span of two years, Isaacson’s work reveals Jobs as a man haunted by demons but propelled by a singular vision: a revolutionary, an idealist, a pioneer. Sorkin, who brought us The Social Network, A Few Good Men, The West Wing, The American President, and most recently, The Newsroom, is notorious for a shrewdly dense and aspirational writing style. Whether it’s President Shepherd or Bartlet, Josh Lyman or Will McAvoy, Sorkin characteristically, and most finely, portrays the fiercely intellectual and the quixotic. Steve Jobs’ legacy couldn’t be in more capable hands.
Still, Sorkin has his own hesitations. His modus operandi, as a writer, issues from his expectation. He demands more from his characters and more from his audience. On Steve Jobs, Sorkin has noted, “He has to, for me, be a hero. I have to find the parts of him that are like me. I have to be able to defend this character. With someone like Steve Jobs, to put it as simply as possible, you want to write the character as if they are writing their letter to God on why they should be allowed into heaven."
It’ll be interesting to see how Sorkin chooses to approach Jobs. Though Isaacson’s biography covers the scope of Jobs’ life, Sorkin intends to start on a smaller scale by identifying a "point of friction" and working from there, as he told the crowd at last spring's D10 media and technology conference. The move from Mark Zuckerberg, who more or less stumbled into his great alteration of our social landscape, to Steve Jobs, who demanded it, is certainly a moment of consequence in Sorkin’s own career trajectory. A younger Sorkin showed us an idealized White House and contended that we couldn’t handle the truth, but more recently, in The Newsroom, he held up a mirror to our current reality by way of our recent past, and demanded that we try harder, and if we must fail, fail better; most of all, urging us to rail against what we see. The Newsroom points a finger at an industry that has lost its moral compass. The reinvention of Will McAvoy, the show’s protagonist, from a journalist who stayed safe by dancing around issues to a hard-hitting newsman who wades right into them, puts him on a conscience-driven mission to civilize. After his own pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, Jobs also changed course and set out to enlighten us all. What Sorkin sees, and what Jobs saw, is not our current reality, but rather a better version of it. When asked at D10 who might play Jobs, Sorkin responded, “I don't know … but it'll have to be a very good actor. Someone who is smart.”