Of course it’s been impossible this week to visit any website without reading a tribute or two to Apple and Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs, who sadly passed away from pancreatic cancer at 56 years of age on Wednesday. I guess we all feel like we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the modern day genius, perhaps our version of a visionary like Thomas Edison, who made technology personable and just life so much easier. We all have iPods, iMacs, iPhones, etc – our consumption of movies, music and the way we create, distribute media and speak to one another would almost be unthinkable 15 years ago.
Of course when a figure as well known as Jobs passes away, it’s never long afterwards that we hear of a studio wanting to capitalise on his/her name for profitable gain. We heard the same thing immediately after Michael Jackson died but despite a rush to get scripts into development, no biopic has yet to be seen. This one however feels particularly crass as before Jobs is even buried, Deadline reports that Sony Pictures have made a $1 million against $3 million deal to acquire features rights to Jobs via former CNN Chairman and Time Magazine’s managing editor Walter Isaacson and his upcoming authorized biography.
Which by the way this week Simon & Schuster changed the release from November 21st to October 24th. I’m sure if they could they would release the damned thing on Monday.
The 448-page profile piece was put together after over 40 interviews with Jobs and hundreds more conversations with those who knew him, who worked with him, who were related to him, or his competitors. It is the first biography to ever get the entrepreneur’s blessing (though he hadn’t read it as of a few months ago) and was initially titled iSteve: The Book of Jobs but has since been changed to Steve Jobs. Would they be so bold to call the eventual film, iMovie? Unlikely.
Isaccson is the writer of works on Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein but Jobs’ life is no less interesting. The author had unprecedented access and got closer to him than any journalist since the 80s, so we can probably expect in-depth accounts of his infamous firing from Apple but more importantly how he came back to change the world as a ruthless perfectionist with the ego befitting the size of his company but also the vision, passion and products to his name to back that up.
Mark Gordon will produce via Management 360 but Sony have yet to comment (p.s. – yeah we had that same problem over Skyfall and James Bond 23′s supposed title this week!).
Despite perhaps inappropriate timing, there is a chance that Sony want to do this the right way. I guess I could have been a little cynical above. If you think about it, every studio in town was probably racing with them to get the feature rights to this biography and just because Sony have won them yesterday it doesn’t mean they are going to greenlight a film in the next three months. They may just sit on the property until the time is right to make it, giving respectful peace to the family, friends and colleagues of Jobs who are in mourning right now.
Sony are currently making a habit with doing biopics the right way. Think of The Social Network about the more recent Internet icon Mark Zuckerburg. Currently on release in the U.S. is Moneyball which again hits the right tone of what a biopic should be about. Both films are basically about successful businessman overcoming trials and tribulations.
Right now there is only one biopic (and it was really a light-hearted, only half-serious docudrama) about Jobs’ life and that’s the 1999 TNT telefilm Pirates of Silicon Valley that starred Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates and Noah Wayle as Jobs. It was a forgettable affair, though notable for Jobs’ liking of Wyle’s performance so much that he asked him to dress up like him at the 1999 Macworld NY keynote.
The ER actor is now 40 and hasn’t really led a movie before (though he is the lead of current show Falling Skies) but we at least know that Jobs liked him for it! Though he and also his former ER co-star Anthony Micheal Edwards (who looks a lot like a modern day Jobs) are simply too old. The movie is likely to touch on much of Jobs’ life in the 80′s, so expect a younger actor who can be make-up’d to look older.
The best we can hope for then is that Sony Pictures sit on this for a long while and make sure they tell the story of Jobs the right way. They really don’t need to go and hire a screenwriter until at least next year.