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Jobs film biopic tells story well

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak says Steve Jobs the movie may not be accurate but it is the best depiction of the tech legend

SAN FRANCISCO • Even though the real-world events did not happen the way they do in the movie Steve Jobs, said Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, the latest biopic to tackle the Silicon Valley legend's life is the best depiction of Apple yet.

In the movie, Mr Wozniak serves as the film's conscience.

The Apple co-founder, played by Seth Rogen, is an awkward, but assertive counterbalance to Jobs, played by Michael Fassbender.

Mr Wozniak's on-screen confrontations are some of the movie's most memorable, but according to the real Woz, they are all fiction.

In his first in-depth interview since the release of Steve Jobs in some American theatres, Mr Wozniak said Rogen's character "said things I could never say".

"Everything in the movie didn't happen," Mr Wozniak said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. "Every scene that I'm in, I wasn't talking to Steve Jobs at those events."

Before seeing the movie, he said a scene in the trailer was invented. He consulted for the film, which entailed "hours and hours" of discussions with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and attending a magic show in Los Angeles with Rogen.

Mr Wozniak talked extensively with Walter Isaacson for his 2011 biography that the movie is based on.

Mr Wozniak said he never read the book. "I was there and I don't need to read all this stuff."

Sorkin described the movie as a "portrait", not a photograph, in an on-stage interview at an Oct 9 film screening in San Francisco. Mr Wozniak was in the audience.

The film is structured around the backstage preparation for three product-launch events hosted by Jobs, which Sorkin said he chose as a way to break from the traditional format of a biopic. The writer joked about the improbability of Jobs' most significant life moments happening immediately before announcing a new computer.

Mr Wozniak said he had seen it three times. He said Fassbender, whose performance has made him an Oscar favourite, showed the "brilliance" he loved about Jobs as well as the flaws. "But it is not how Jobs acted in any way," he said. "The movie is not about reality. It's about personalities."

Former Apple CEO John Sculley said he saw a glimmer of his old friend in the film. "There are many times in this movie where Woz and I said, 'Wow, this really did feel like Steve,'" Mr Sculley told Reuters.

Mr Sculley, who led Apple from 1983 to 1993, is one of the key characters in the movie. The film is the third one focused on the tech guru's life and, like its predecessors, has been met with protests from insiders who say it presents an unduly harsh portrait.

He echoed those concerns, saying that the film, which delves into Jobs' strained relationship with his daughter, shows just one side of a complicated man.

"I knew the young Steve Jobs really well and he was a much bigger, better person than one could come to the conclusion if they only saw the movie," he said.

The film devotes great attention to Jobs' relationship with Sculley, who is depicted as a father figure to the entrepreneur and a target of his famous temper. Some of the film's most heated scenes show the men feuding over Apple's advertising and Jobs' ouster.

The scenes were embellished, but the film-makers made an effort to capture Mr Sculley's experiences, inviting him on set to learn his mannerisms, he said.

Sorkin said he created an "impressionistic" portrait of Jobs and his depiction of the dynamic between Mr Sculley and Jobs largely rings true, said Mr Sculley.

"People loved working for Steve," Mr Sculley said. "He had a vision that excited all of us."

Decades after leaving Apple, Mr Sculley's path has converged with his old company's. Among his many ventures, he co-founded Obi Worldphone, which makes smartphones featuring Silicon Valley design at a lower price point for emerging markets. The company addresses a hole in the market, much as Jobs' Mac delivered a computer for everyday consumers, Sculley said.

"I've always looked for opportunities to fill design gaps," he said.

Mr Wozniak touches on other subjects in the interview, including his admiration for Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, innovation at Apple and a conversation with Jobs before his death about the possibility of Mr Wozniak's return to Apple.

"I said, 'No, I love the life I have,'" Mr Wozniak recalled. "I'm not the person for it." BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'Jobs film biopic tells story well'. Print Edition | Subscribe