A visual idea of Apple mastermind Steve Jobs is easy to access: there's the tech genius's silver hair, his thin-framed glasses, his signature black turtleneck and spotless white tennis shoes. Anyone can don those items and put together a serviceable Halloween costume, but a likeness isn't tantamount to a successful performance. In Steve Jobs , Michael Fassbender is moving towards another Oscar nomination with his portrayal of the man who made Apple a way of life. And if you're thinking that the X-Men star looks nothing like Steve Jobs, you're not alone. But for the actor and the filmmakers, that dissimilarity was just a tertiary problem when it came to Fassbender's transformation into Jobs.
At the New York Film Festival screening of the movie, the actor recounted his initial worries about the exterior differences between him and the character. Director Danny Boyle, however, reassured him that appearance wasn't of much concern to him anyway. Esquire reported that Fassbender said, "So from the beginning, the approach was to not try to emulate that look. The only thing I did was put in brown contacts." Later in filming, the standard wardrobe and hair color did come into play (it would be silly if they hadn't), but by that time, Fassbender was already comfortable in the character.
Resemblance issues addressed, the actor turned his attention to digging into the inner life of Steve Jobs. Unlike co-star Seth Rogen, who was able to meet and talk with his alter-ego, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, Fassbender didn't have the luxury of spending face time with his character (Jobs passed away in 2011 from complications of pancreatic cancer). Being that he was and is the international poster child for dreaming and innovation, there is an archive of footage available for analysis. Esquire reported:
Like the audience, Fassbender could only watch Jobs from afar, studying footage of presentations, reading the many profiles written over the years, and absorbing the complicated reverence his coworkers continued to have for him. Each public appearance complicated Fassbender's understanding of someone who was both a cutthroat bully and once-in-a-lifetime visionary.
"I lived with him for those months we weren't filming," Fassbender said at the press conference. "I thought about him a lot." He also threw some (joking) praise towards another actor's performance in an earlier Jobs biopic. "I studied Ashton Kutcher," he said, referring to Kutcher's role in the 2013 drama Jobs. He was kidding, but if it were true, it'd be an interesting strategy, since some actors avoid taking in another take on the same role to keep from accidentally aping another's style. But Kutcher and Fassbender are markedly different kinds of actors, and neither one of them is a dead-ringer for Jobs. The chance of repetition is slim to none. Besides, everyone involved keeps stressing that Steve Jobs isn't a biopic at all.
Fassbender's work has already gained him one fan from the inner circle of Steve Jobs. Steve Wozniack had nothing but commendation for the film when he was asked for his response by Deadline. “I saw a rough cut and I felt like I was actually watching Steve Jobs and the others, not actors playing them," the programmer said. "I give full credit to Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin for getting it so right." This is good news for Seth Rogen too, especially after he decided to prioritize the impact of the movie over catering to the real person behind his character. "I'm happy Steve Wozniak doesn't hate me," he said at the conference.
The buzz on Fassbender's performance is red-hot, and I expect he'll be making the red carpet rounds come awards season. And just think: he could have passed it all up just because he's not a Steve Jobs lookalike.
Image: Universal Pictures