Fassbender stars as Steve Jobs in a scene from the film "Steve Jobs,
which opened in U.S. theaters Oct. 9, 2015. (Universal Pictures via AP)
Valley's story has been recounted in countless biz bios, memoirs that
leaned in and even a few dot-com rom-coms. Those Tales from Nerdland
found an eager audience in the startup garages between 101 and 280, but
to the wider world, the story of technology's revolutionary rise has
been told by one man: Aaron Sorkin.
His screenplay for "The Social Network" -- about Mark Zuckerberg's
struggle to create Facebook, and to make sure he received sole credit
for doing it -- won an Oscar in 2011. On Friday, Sorkin unveils an even
more complex piece of portraiture while rounding out his dweeb diptych.
In the eagerly anticipated film "Steve Jobs," Sorkin dramatizes the
Apple co-founder's struggle to create technological wonders that changed
the world -- and make sure he received full credit for it.
Fassbender, left, as Steve Jobs, and Seth Rogen, as Steve Wozniak,
appear in a scene from the film "Steve Jobs." (Francois
Duhamel/Universal Pictures via AP)
With "Steve Jobs" already receiving rapturous reviews, whatever
keeps drawing the celebrated screenwriter back to tech titans seems
unlikely to lose its allure. So we asked people in Hollywood and Silicon
Valley to help handicap the field of possible subjects -- likely
suspects? -- who might next attract Sorkin's attention.
Hollywood loves franchises, which is what makes a Sorkin Silicon
Valley trilogy such a tantalizing possibility -- a microchip off the ol'
block. Will it be a search for the origins of Google Guys Larry Page or
Sergey Brin? A real-time romp through the maternity leave of Yahoo
chief Marissa Mayer? The story of Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk being
sent to Earth by his father, Jor-El? A bubble-wrapped biopic on Amazon
retailer-in-chief Jeff Bezos?
But first, a different question: What's the deal with Sorkin and
Silicon Valley? He disdains use of Twitter and Facebook, and he once
described the Internet as "a bronchial infection on the First
Amendment." That would seem to make him an unlikely decoder of boy
wonders such as Jobs and Zuckerberg. But in Hollywood, where he's viewed
as a no less formidable figure than his famous subjects, it's their
deep well of talent and ego with which Sorkin is thought to identify.
Fassbender, left, and Perla Haney-Jardine appear in a scene from "Steve
Jobs." (Francois Duhamel/Universal Pictures via AP)
The director of "Steve Jobs," Oscar winner Danny Boyle, has no
doubt that Sorkin is a man possessed by the new technology, and that
he's not yet ready to let go of Silicon Valley.
"Aaron swears it's coincidence," Boyle says of the Zuck and Jobs
pictures. "I think it's a lineage, it's a trilogy. This is part two.
There'll be another part coming along shortly. I don't know what it will
be, but I'm absolutely sure he'll write about it again."
Whatever Silicon Valley disrupter Sorkin writes about next will
not only have to be a tech genius, it should be someone who was denied
credit for that genius. That's the psychological template for "The
Social Network," in which Zuckerberg jousts with the Winklevoss twins to
be recognized as creator of Facebook, and "Steve Jobs," with the
movie's Mac-hiavellian antihero muscling aside Steve Wozniak, Apple's
co-founder, for the lion's share of the credit. Daniel Kottke was
Jobs' classmate at Reed College, and after becoming one of Apple's
first employees, he was also one of the first people Jobs pushed aside
-- refusing to grant Kottke stock when the company went public. In the
film's first half-hour, Kottke's name is taken in vain by Jobs (played
by Michael Fassbender) nearly a dozen times.
"Steve was a very
complicated factor in my life that I'm still trying to figure out,"
Kottke said. "He was paradoxical in so many ways. He had so much empathy
for his customers, and so little empathy for the people directly in his
life. Really, he was just a big disappointment as a human being."
Kottke were selecting Sorkin's next subject, it would be Musk, who
comes closest to equaling Jobs' polymathic perfectionism. "Elon's our
hero. Elon's a superstar," he says. "Elon is a brand unto himself."
Hollywood veteran who has observed Sorkin at close range -- and
requested anonymity for fear of offending him -- thinks Musk is hobbled
as a movie protagonist by the unbending arc of his own success, calling
him "a steadily rising curve with no jagged downdrafts."
brand could make him a box-office draw, and it may explain Sorkin's
attraction to the Apple and Facebook founders. "These days, successful
movies need something more important than good drama," says Judy
Reeves-Stevens, a veteran television writer. "They need brand
Fassbender, left, as Steve Jobs, and Makenzie Moss, as a young Lisa
Jobs, appear in a scene from the film "Steve Jobs." (Francois
Duhamel/Universal Pictures via AP)
million iPhones sold. A billion Facebook users," adds Garfield
Reeves-Stevens, her husband and writing partner. "Do the math. Those are
two enormous presold pools of potential audience goers. Saves big on
The couple's prime candidate to be Sorkin-cised
is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who could also anchor a sci-fi franchise set
in the near future, showing how Amazon's proposed delivery drones become
the first fleet of SkyNet's hunter-killer drones in the "Terminator"
"There is definitely a blockbuster movie to be made about the life of Jeff Bezos," Judy Reeves-Stevens says.
once told an interviewer that he kept his browser's homepage set to
Yahoo, which might indicate an interest in Mayer. But Sorkin, who wrote
about another Bay Area boy wonder, Billy Beane, in "Moneyball," and
about the Marine Corps in "A Few Good Men," has never written a movie
about a woman.
"Clearly, Sorkin enjoys spending time in the heads
of hugely successful male visionaries who may not be the nicest or most
mature guys on the planet," says a female screenwriter, who also asked
not to have her name used for fear of offending Sorkin, "but we forgive
them their faults because they're geniuses. Geniuses! With that
template, the next logical tech titan biopic would be Sergey Brin, who
left his wife and kids for an employee not long ago."
attempted to shape the legacy of its corporate lodestar, providing
uncharacteristic support for "Becoming Steve Jobs," by Brent Schlender
and Rick Tetzeli, viewed as a much friendlier book than Walter
Isaacson's best-selling biography, upon which the current film is based.
book so aggravated Jobs' widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, that she
"repeatedly tried to kill the film," according to hacked emails between a
producer and Sony Pictures that were leaked to the media. Wozniak, on
the other hand, has expressed admiration for the film, after reportedly
being paid $200,000 as a consultant.
Woz is represented in the
new film as a hectoring, though decidedly decent, voice from Jobs' past,
urging him to do the right thing, contrary to his natural instincts.
Boyle believes that without those insistent voices -- Woz's and Sorkin's
-- Silicon Valley could lose what remains of its soul.
it's absolutely critical to tackle these people and bring them to
account," Boyle says. "Because they are shaping our world. And because
they're able to operate out of sight, they've been mythologized and made
deities before they are actually answerable to us about what they're
doing to our lives."