What is the legacy of Steve Jobs?
The co-founder and former CEO of Apple became a cultural icon even while he was still alive, and that sentiment has only deepened in the years following his death in 2011 from pancreatic cancer. Since then, several documentaries and films have been made about his leadership of one of the biggest global companies in world history—many of which are not too flattering. And now, we’re getting another.
German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender will play Jobs in the appropriately titled Steve Jobs, set to release next month in the US. Unlike the 2013 Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher, this one—directed by Danny Boyle from an Aaron Sorkin script—is getting rave reviews. Critics are particularly enthusiastic about Fassbender’s portrayal of Jobs—a role that many are predicting will land the actor an Oscar nomination.
But one person who’s not so enthusiastic about the upcoming movie is current Apple CEO Tim Cook. Cook appeared on Stephen Colbert’s Late Show last night (Sept. 16) and covered several topics, from him coming out as gay last year to Apple’s charity work. When Colbert asked for his thoughts on the recent slew of Jobs films, including the one soon-to-be released, this was Cook’s response:
I haven’t seen them. But this Steve I knew was an amazing human being. He’s someone who you wanted to do your best work [for]. He invented things that I think other people could not, he saw things that other people could not. He had this uncanny ability to see around the corner, and to describe a future—not an evolutionary future, but a revolutionary future. He was a joy to work with and I love him dearly. I miss him everyday. I think a lot of people are trying to be opportunistic, and I hate this. It’s not a great part of our world.
(You can watch the entire interview here.)
Cook has only ever publicly said kind things about his former boss, so these thoughts aren’t too surprising. Film Freak Central calls Fassbender’s portrayal of Jobs “memorably monstrous” and “attractively, charmingly vile.” It probably wouldn’t be a good look for Cook to endorse a film that depicts his predecessor that way.
Steve Wozniak, on the other hand, has no problem doing so. “Woz,” who co-founded Apple with Jobs and designed the first two Apple computers, is played by Seth Rogen in the film. And, apparently, he loves it. Here’s Woz describing the film to BBC News:
I’ve actually seen two rough cuts. My impression was I was shocked and amazed at how good it was in the sense of professional filmmaking. I usually go to a movie not looking for “do I like the story” as much as: “What is the quality that came out of the heads of the people that made it?” In this case the filmmakers have done an award-winning job. The acting was just so realistic. In some prior movies, I saw [the actors] simulating Steve Jobs, but they didn’t really make me feel like I was in his head understanding what was going on inside of him – his personality. This movie absolutely accomplishes that, and it’s due to great acting, which obviously comes from great directing.
Woz told Deadline similar things, saying, “I give full credit to Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin for getting it so right.” Woz, by most accounts, had a complicated, up-and-down relationship with Jobs, though he says they stayed friendly until Jobs’ death. Woz officially left Apple in 1985.
Unless you were an Apple employee during Jobs’ reign, it may be impossible to know what he was really like. People who knew him well at that time can’t even agree—and perhaps that’s the point. Legacies are not finite or immutable. The “myth of Steve Jobs” is whatever you want it to be, and it seems likely his legacy will prove to be as tough to crack as the man was himself.