Waiting for Ashton Kutcher to talk about playing Steve Jobs in the indie film “jOBS,” I start to get a feeling of dread. What am I doing here?
I’m at Macworld | iWorld in San Francisco, a shadow of its former self when Apple actually used to attend the event. Those were the days when a packed house of Apple fanatics would rise to their feet, some people in tears, as the real Steve Jobs sauntered to the center of the stage.
Today, we have to settle for a comedic actor espousing his insights about the man to kick off the three-day-long Macworld | iWorld event.
Nevertheless, I’m here to report what I saw (although we’re banned from taking pictures and video). My expectations for actors Kutcher and Josh Gad, who plays sidekick Steve Wozniak, were admittedly low.
After all, the real Wozniak watched a 20-second clip and criticized it on Good Morning America: “What I saw was just so far from anything that really happened or said in those days.” The movie, which opens April 19, has so far received lackluster reviews from movie critics.
I was surprised to learn just how much research Kutcher put into the role. He’d spent months talking to people who knew Jobs and listened to and watched hours of sound and video clips of Jobs.
“For me, Steve Jobs is an iconic hero,” he says, even though he’d never met the man.
Kutcher even tried a fruit-only diet that Jobs espoused, which landed the actor in the hospital, doubled-over in pain, with pancreatitus — made especially more frightening given that Jobs died from pancreatic cancer.
When asked how playing Steve Jobs and what he learned about him would change his life, Kutcher offered up his most thoughtful insights.
For Kutcher, Jobs embodies three key qualities.
The first is a laser-like focus, which partly is the ability to say no to hard things, whereas it’s easy to say no to easy things. “It’s the other shiny object … saying no is really hard,” Kutcher says. “I think Steve understood that.”
The second is a compassion for the consumer. Kutcher, who is an angel investor in tech startups and this generation’s geeknik, feels many companies have gotten away from this ideal, instead eyeing sales and profit margins.
Lastly, Kutcher admires Jobs’ willingness to not settle for the status quo, not settle for what life gives you. “It’s really the essence of the film,” says an emotional Kutcher. “That deeply affected me.”
Tom Kaneshige has been covering business and technology in Silicon Valley for two decades. As senior online writer at CIO.com, Tom covers Silicon Valley culture, BYOD and consumer tech in the enterprise.