Sony hack reveals dirty secrets behind Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs movie

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New leaks reveal the dramatic backroom details behind Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs screenplay, including his top choice to play the leading role. (Photo courtesy of MGM)
New leaks reveal the dramatic backroom details behind Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs screenplay, including his top choice to play the leading role. (Photo: MGM)

If Aaron Sorkin had his way, Tom Cruise would be Steve Jobs.

That’s one of the juicy details to have surfaced from leaked emails between Sorkin and Sony, the studio Sorkin had originally partnered with to make the film. The leaks also reveal the controversial casting decision that ultimately caused Sony to give up the film to Universal.

Several A-list actors have been courted for the role of Jobs in Sorkin’s screenplay, most notably Christian Bale. After Bale parted ways with the project, Michael Fassbender stepped in to take on the part at the suggestion of director Danny Bole.

Sorkin seemed to desperately want Cruise for the part from the beginning, calling him “an actor who can really handle language” and “a movie star who feels comfortable owning the stage.”
In email exchanges unearthed by Ars Technica, Sorkin went back and forth with the studio over potentially casting Cruise. An excerpt from October 31:

“I think it would be dazzling performance.”

I just got off the phone with Danny [Boyle] who’s concerned about the age but I think I got him thinking about it and he’s going to look at some scenes from Lions for Lambs where Tom’s basically auditioning for Jobs. He’s also concerned that the choice will be met with derision because it’s such a commercial choice but I honestly think that ends up working for us. Tom’s going to surprise some people and they’ll want to reward that. I don’t think we’d have to recast Woz. Seth’s the right age in the first act and Tom’s the right age in the third. And the movie announces itself pretty quickly as not being literal–as being a painting rather than a photograph. Look, I wouldn’t cast Clint Eastwood but if I saw Tom Cruise flying around the backstage corridors of Symphony Hall I wouldn’t think he was too old. I think it would be dazzling performance.

Unfortunately for Sorkin, the head honchos never seemed too keen on Cruise for the part. Bale was liked because of his star power, but when he dropped Sony couldn’t get enough funding with Fassbender attached as the lead. So Universal picked up the project.

“I don’t know who Michael Fassbender is and the rest of the world isn’t going to care,” Sorkin initially said of the decision. “This is insane.” But later Sorkin warmed up to the choice. He called Fassbender a “great actor” and conceded that “if the movie’s good, he’ll be on the cover of everything and get nominated for everything.”

Other interesting casting details from the leaked exchanges reveal that Tobey McGuire and Matthew McConaughey looked into playing Jobs, and Tom Hanks was interested in playing the role of former Apple CEO Jon Sculley. Earlier today it was reported that The Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels (coincidentally another Sorkin project) is slated to play the role. Seth Rogan as Steve Wozniak seems to be the only casting decision that hasn’t been in a state of flux.

Not only did Sorkin not get his way with casting, but he wanted David Fincher to direct. Sorkin saw teaming up with Fincher again after The Social Network as a great idea — so much so that he was willing to cut his own pay. But Fincher ended up walking over a $5 million discrepancy in budget negotiations.

All of this leaked information only confirms what we’ve already known: that this project has been a mess for months. Just yesterday it was reported that Natalie Portman had backed out of talks over playing the film’s leading lady. Although a full cast has yet to be named, shooting is scheduled to start in the spring.