How’s this for an exercise in cinematic solipsism: At some point in the next few years, it will be possible to screen Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography followed by Gus Van Sant’s adaptation of Michael Gates Gill’s How Starbucks Saved My Life on your MacBook while sipping a Frappuccino.
This week’s branded movie bonanza had an unsettling hall of mirrors effect as news surfaced about the progression of both of these projects toward the big screen. First came word that the Weinstein Company had picked up the rights to Gill’s memoir about discovering the redemptive virtues of menial labor after his professional fall from grace and cancer diagnosis. No word yet on whether Tom Hanks will remain attached to star as the besieged lead character, but it will be interesting to see whether Gus Van Sant manages to scuff up Hanks’ can-do persona, casting the necessary doubt over whether everything will work out for him in the end (which, of course, it does).
In the below video from Deadline, Aaron Sorkin offers some insight into how he plans to solve the flipside of that narrative riddle in a film about a man who found his redemption once in his return to the seat of power. When Sorkin announced last May that he would follow his Oscar-nominated script for “The Social Network” (loosely based on Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich) with a second portrait of a Silicon Valley revolutionary, the screenwriter known for his expansive dialogue pyrotechnics seemed slightly miscast for the task of squeezing Isaacson’s 656-page opus about the Apple co-founder into a 120-page script. Apparently his solution to this conundrum was to go minimalist, capturing Jobs’ visionary spark and punishingly high expectations of himself and those around him in just three highly emblematic scenes. Each vignette will take place just prior to a pivotal product launch and play out in real time.
Talk about daring to be different. It’s a testament to Sorkin’s clout in Hollywood (and his own moxie) that he’s been given the latitude to experiment with the tried and true recipe for a biopic of a character as sacrosanct as Jobs. His approach sounds more like a challenge Lars Von Trier might have issued to his fellow Dogme 95 directors – only Von Trier’s version would stipulate it be shot with natural lighting, hand-held cameras, and non-professional actors.
It’s highly unlikely that Sony, the studio bankrolling the project, will extend that kind of creative carte blanche to the casting process. And in this case, there will be no shortage of big-name stars lining up for the opportunity to play one of the most influential minds of the modern age. However, it won’t be easy finding an actor who possesses the intellectual firepower, nerd credentials, and high-beam intensity to fill Jobs’ running shoes. Hanks will no doubt enter the conversation based on his age, physical likeness, and marquee value, but he’s totally wrong for the role. Either Edward Norton or Matt Damon could deliver solid Jobs performances. But because this part calls for an actor who is capable of sustaining an undercurrent of menace (along with a menacingly large mental capacity) through three real-time scenes, the role should go a performer with the emotional intensity of Sean Penn or Christian Bale.
Now it’s your turn to weigh in with your hire for the Jobs and which of these corporate fables you’re most eager to see projected onto the big screen.