LOS ANGELES • Michael Fassbender was not Hollywood's first choice to play Steve Jobs in a new film about his life. Or the second, for that matter. Sony Corp even went on to sell the project to Universal Pictures after Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale passed on the role.
So it is a bit surprising that even before the film Steve Jobs opens in some United States theatres on Friday, some gambling touts have made Fassbender, 38, the early favourite to win an Oscar for best actor.
His portrayal of the Apple co-founder has garnered plaudits despite some concern from critics and movie fans that the half- German, half-Irish red-head does not look like Jobs, who was of Syrian descent. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin initially backed Tom Cruise as an alternative.
"I don't know who Michael Fassbender is and the rest of the world isn't going to care. This is insane," he wrote to Ms Amy Pascal, then Sony Pictures Entertainment co-chairman, in a Nov 3, 2014, e-mail posted on the Internet after a massive hack of Sony's computers.
Steve Jobs director Danny Boyle wanted Fassbender, but faced opposition from Sorkin and Ms Pascal, who had concerns about finding financial backers with a less well-known star.
In a subsequent exchange, Sorkin folded. "F*** it. He's a great actor whose time has come," he wrote.
In response to e-mailed questions from Bloomberg, he said "the test was, 'Could this actor play the part on stage for two hours?' There are some things an actor can't fake and two of them are brains and charm. Michael has a great deal of both".
Early reviews of Fassbender's performance have been mostly positive, even though it has generated criticism on some fan message boards, including a "Terrible Casting" thread on IMDb. com. The film opens in limited release in Los Angeles and New York this weekend.
As of Sunday, Fassbender was first on awards tracker GoldDerby's best-actor Oscar prediction list with odds of 12-5. DiCaprio was No. 2 at 9-2 for The Revenant, for release from Dec 25. Eddie Redmayne was No. 3 at 5-1 for The Danish Girl.
Bookmaker Paddy Power had Fassbender at No. 2, with odds just over 2-1, behind DiCaprio at 13-8.
Fassbender's work impressed one viewer with special knowledge of his role: Apple's other co-founder, Mr Steve Wozniak, who consulted with Sorkin before the script was written and met the cast.
The actor "did an incredible job in my mind of creating the 'character' of the movie", Mr Wozniak said in an e-mailed reply to questions.