Steve Jobs, the Movie

From The Hollywood Reporter:

“Since the very beginning, Laurene Jobs has been trying to kill this movie, OK?” (Laurene’s character does not figure in the film, while Jobs’ daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, from another relationship, plays a prominent part.) “Laurene Jobs called Leo DiCaprio and said, ‘Don’t do it.’ Laurene Jobs called Christian Bale and said, ‘Don’t [do it].’ “

Reps for Bale and DiCaprio were unable to verify that, and Laurene Jobs did not return calls. A Sony executive confirms, however, that: “She reached out; she had a strong desire not to have the movie made. But we said, ‘We’re going to move forward.’ My understanding is, she did call one or two of the actors.” Another source says that Laurene lobbied each major studio in an attempt to kill the project.

I haven’t seen the film, but many who knew Jobs have said that it fails to capture what was most interesting about the man, and it’s understandable that Laurene Jobs would be pained by a project that seems to trade off her late husband’s fame while rejecting the principles that bind a biographer. It’s no secret that Sorkin has said that “Art is not about what happened”. This is a sentiment that I’m generally somewhat sympathetic to, though with deep reservations in this case.

While it is true that most of us approach most art with an understanding that the rhetorical mode on offer is not about “facts” but “Truth” — emotional or metaphorical — a film like Steve Jobs is different. The reason many (if not most) viewers are going to see this film is because they’re fascinated by the real Steve Jobs, and it seems odd to claim that the art on offer has no responsibility at all toward the facts.

Writers wrestle with this problem all the time — especially those of us who write fictionalized accounts of historical events. When I wrote “The Man Who Ended History,” I felt the heavy weight of responsibility to the victims of the mass atrocities. In that case, the art was definitely about what happened because it was the reason why I was interested in writing about it in the first place.

I don’t have a good answer for how much fictionalization is “too much.” Like most questions of this sort, the “right” answer(s) vary by subject, by the subject’s distance (temporal and physical) from the audience, by the politics of the real world, and so on. Personally, I hew to the principle that I should try to minimize suffering — I don’t always succeed, but I try.