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'Steve Jobs' Is Not A Standard Biopic


The movie about Steve Jobs opens today. It is inspired by a best-selling biography of the Apple cofounder that came out in 2011, right around the time of Steve Jobs' death. Now, you notice we say the movie was inspired by - not based on - the biography. There's a difference. And our film critic Kenneth Turan is here tells about it. Hi, Ken.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: Hey, Steve, how are you doing?

INSKEEP: So this is not a straight-up, factual retelling?

TURAN: No, this is kind of a fictionalized version of Steve Jobs. I thought of it kind of almost like "Macbeth." You know, when you watch "Macbeth," you don't really think you're seeing exactly what went on in Scotland. The filmmakers themselves say it's kind of more of a portrait than a photograph. And it's got this great structure. It's got a three-act structure, where each act takes you behind the scenes at an Apple launch 40 minutes before the launch.

INSKEEP: An Apple launch, we should mention these are huge media events where they're, like, getting the entire world interested in their products. OK.

TURAN: Yeah, and you're behind the scenes. And all the key people in Steve Jobs' life kind of want to talk to him. And we get to eavesdrop. There's a great clip of Seth Rogen, who plays Steve Wozniak, Apple's cofounder, going toe-to-toe with Jobs. And Michael Fassbender plays Jobs.


SETH ROGEN: (As Steve Wozniak) You can't write code. You're not an engineer. You're not a designer. You can't put a hammer to a nail. I built the circuit board. The graphical interface was stolen from Xerox PARC. Jef Raskin was the leader of the Mac team before you threw him off his own project. Everything - someone else designed the box. So how come 10 times in a day, I read Steve Jobs is a genius? What do you do?

MICHAEL FASSBENDER: (As Steve Jobs) I play the orchestra.

INSKEEP: That is the most dramatic dialogue I've ever heard about a circuit board.

TURAN: (Laughter) It's true. Well, Aaron Sorkin writes great dialogue. And, you know, you've got great actors here who really make it come alive. Besides Seth Rogen and Michael Fassbender, you've got Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels. And you've got Danny Boyle, who's a very energetic director. He did "Slumdog Millionaire." He did "127 Hours," which he made a whole film about a guy trapped in a cave. So he knows how to make things come alive.

INSKEEP: And I've got to just ask. "Slumdog Millionaire," about a guy on the bottom in rising India. How does his style transfer to this guy who's on the absolute top of the world?

TURAN: It's the same energy. That's - you know, that's the key thing. He makes things come alive. He just - he's like a walking kind of, you know, nuclear reactor. He just energizes things, and it's great to see.

INSKEEP: So help us compare something here, Ken Turan. We have the fictionalized version of Steve Jobs that you're just describing. And you've also recently seen a documentary about Steve Jobs. Do you come away with an oppression of the same person from these two very different approaches?

TURAN: You know, you see it's the same person, but you see that the focus and the style is very different. I mean, for instance, there's a thing that they talk about in the film, that Steve Jobs had this reality distortion field. He believed things so intensely, he made you think that his reality was real. And in the dramatic film - in the film that we're talking about now - you can actually see how that works. So stuff that is just conceptual, you actually see come alive.

INSKEEP: Come alive better when they make stuff up. It's a reality distortion field.

TURAN: (Laughter) It's not that it's better. It just gives you an idea of how it might have been. Again, it's not a documentary. But in a larger sense, it makes you think about things in a different way.

INSKEEP: Ken, always a pleasure talking with you.

TURAN: Same, Steve.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan of MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. The movie is "Steve Jobs." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.

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