“Steve Jobs” came out of Telluride with a good head of steam, and received a boost at the New York Film Festival. I spoke to Kate Winslet at Telluride, where she told me how her makeup artist turned her on to the movie, and how she chased down director Danny Boyle at just the right time, telling him “I will be the person you never have to worry about.” After winning the Golden Globe Sunday night, following a Screen Actors Guild nomination, Winslet should easily score her seventh Oscar nomination (she won Best Actress for “The Reader” in 2009) for her crucial role as Macintosh marketing chief Joanna Hoffman, who helps to show Jobs (and us) his humanity. She told Boyle, “Joanna had to have Steve’s back the whole time.”
Winslet admits that she and co-star Michael Fassbender had to use all their combined wisdom and acting chops to maneuver with an extraordinary text by Golden Globe winner for Best Screenplay Aaron Sorkin, who structures a dense, dialogue-driven narrative around three “ten-minute” run-ups to Apple co-founder Jobs’ unveilings of the original Macintosh computer in 1984, his NeXt black cube in 1988, and the iMac in 1998. She and Fassbender thanked God “we have film experience,” Winslet said.
It was a smart move to marry sensual visualist Boyle with Sorkin’s 182-page screenplay (most are 100), largely set inside the bowels of three auditoriums, where the actors rehearsed before each of the three segments. The movie rides the flow of Sorkin’s dialogue with propulsive movement and varied settings. “The pace is like an action movie with people talking,” Seth Rogen told Winslet.
At Telluride, Boyle praised Fassbender for somehow absorbing into himself Sorkin’s massive pages of dialogue, never checking a script or sides on set. Winslet reports that they did run lines together every morning in the makeup trailer. “He set the bar so high,” Winslet says of Fassbender.
“The film you are going to see tonight has some of the best acting in it I’ve ever seen,” Boyle told the Telluride crowd. “It was the challenge of my career, without a doubt.” I can’t disagree. Fassbender as the driven Apple co-founder and Winslet as his Eastern European work wife both dazzle with their fleet-tongued performances, unlike anything they have done before. Fassbender is playing a monster, in many ways, who is also a genius who believed his computer would change the world. Boyle describes Part One, shot in gritty 16 mm with flashbacks to the famous garage where Apple was born, as an origin myth. It is thrilling.
The filmmaker compares Sorkin’s fictionalized portrait to a flawed but compelling protagonist from Shakespeare. Sorkin takes quite a few liberties—and was able to interview both Hoffman (as did Winslet) and Jobs’ daughter Lisa, who did not participate in the biography.
Boyle shot each section of the movie separately, mostly in two-shots along with long Steadicam sequences, insisting on filming in the (expensive) San Francisco Bay area. The second section was shot in 35 mm, the third in hi-res digital. “I tried to create a space for these actors to act these extraordinary scenes as written,” he said. Sorkin jams the most dramatic moments in Jobs’ life into highly stressed pre-show encounters with his principal antagonists, masterfully managed by his personal timekeeper Hoffman with a Moliere-like efficiency as she shuttles her boss from one backstage location to another. “He needed her and knew she would always be honest with him,” she says of Hoffman, who was legendary for standing up to her boss.
Somehow, this gifted filmmaking ensemble brings to life this complex man, who past his death still fascinates the billions of people around the world who are in love with Apple products. The filmmakers seek to redeem him via the adoring gaze of Hoffman and his daughter Lisa. Will the Academy and audiences warm up to this? It’s must-see one-of-a-kind cinema that cannot be ignored.