One of the most, if not the most, anticipated World Premieres at the 42nd Telluride Film Festival, Universal’s Steve Jobs screened Saturday night to strong response from the Rocky Mountain Labor Day weekend cinema gathering. And it was well deserved. Steve Jobs is a riveting tale well told by director Danny Boyle and writer Aaron Sorkin. It’s a companion piece to Sorkin’s Oscar-winning The Social Network screenplay — but even more effective. Boyle said the script is 200 pages and it is densely filled with the kind of dialogue only Sorkin seems to specialize in these days. It’s actually thrilling to listen to, an action movie driven almost exclusively by words, a rare thing for sure in today’s visually driven cinema. Boyle told me at the 221 South Oak dinner after-party that it was unlike anything he had ever done before, and a bear to edit due to Sorkin’s precise style of writing. His direction is flawless and really keeps this thing moving, avoiding the static pace it might have been in lesser hands. The result is well worth it, and those magical words provided lots of opportunity for great acting performances led by Michael Fassbender’s spot-on and relentless portrayal of the not-very-likable computer genius. Kate Winslet as his trusted confidante and associate, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak are also standouts.
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When I caught up with him Wozniak told me that, unlike the Jobs biopic with Ashton Kutcher, this one is totally authentic. “I saw a rough cut and I felt like I was actually watching Steve Jobs and the others (including Rogen’s dead-on portrayal of Wozniak), not actors playing them, I give full credit to Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin for getting it so right,” he enthusiastically told me. Of all the actors in the film he thinks Winslet might be the most likely to garner awards attention. I would add Fassbender to that list for sure. It’s a dazzling display of acting and he is almost never off the screen.
Also at the 221 South Oak party I caught up with Winslet and told her I had already seen the Toronto Film Festival-bound acquisition title, The Dressmaker, in which she is also terrific opposite an Oscar-worthy Judy Davis as her wacko mother and Liam Hemsworth as a love interest. Kate is very excited about this one, she told me even though it is quite quirky, veering from broad comedy to tragedy on a dime. I really was entertained. Boyle, who is enjoying his third trip to Telluride with a new movie in tow, says he is still working on tweaking little bits of Steve Jobs, so it was billed officially as a work in progress. At that same party Boyle revealed to me his next planned movie, a long-awaited sequel to 1996’s Trainspotting. “All the four main actors want to come back and do it, and so now it is only a matter of getting all their schedules together which is complicated by two of them doing American TV series,” he said. It’s rare that an Oscar winning director would want to go back 2o years earlier to finally do a follow-up to an early triumph. Boyle was showing off his Telluride Medallion, which he got during his special tribute before Steve Jobs had its first anywhere unveiling at Telluride’s Palm Theatre. After the clip reel recounting his career to date (including the hilarious toilet scene from the aforementioned Trainspotting) and on-stage interview with critic Todd McCarthy, Boyle introduced some of his cast here in Telluride including Winslet, Stuhlbarg and Rogen. Stuhlbarg told me he was at the Festival for the first time and loved it. In addition to Steve Jobs, this busy actor is in three other upcoming biopics including Trumbo (in which he brilliantly plays Edward G. Robinson), the Miles Davis story, Miles Ahead, as well as Pawn Sacrifice which deals with the famous 1974 chess match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.
Several producers from Steve Jobs were also present including Mark Gordon, Guymon Casady and long time associate and Slumdog Millionaire producer Christian Colson. Scott Rudin, another producer on the film, did not make the trek to Telluride. I find it hard to imagine that there won’t be serious Oscar consideration in several categories including Picture, Director, Adapted Screenplay (from Walter Isaacson’s book), Fassbender, Winslet and maybe even others from the cast. Universal opens the film October 9th. In addition to Telluride it will also play the New York Film Festival. As was widely reported at the time Universal got this one in turnaround from Sony Pictures where it was originally being developed which originally made perfect sense as that studio had released The Social Network.
As for Sorkin, making his first trip here, I asked him a little earlier after we arrived on the same plane to Colorado, about those just-announced plans to do a Lucille Ball biopic. He told me all of that is premature because he hasn’t decided whether or not he will write the script. He did say he wants to make it a biopic that is nothing like a biopic, something he so successfully has achieved with the clever structure of Steve Jobs. A large Universal contingent accompanied the film to Telluride and Boyle will get a second tribute moderated by Leonard Maltin Sunday morning before the film’s next scheduled screening.
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