Despite Apple hostility, director promises ‘impressionistic’ portrait of Steve Jobs

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What was it really like to work for Steve Jobs?
New documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine paints an "impressionistic" portrait of the late Apple chief. Photo: Jigsaw Productions
Photo: Jigsaw Productions

The director of a new documentary about Steve Jobs says his film won’t be a straightforward biography of the late Apple leader. Instead, Alex Gibney says he “set out to do an impressionistic film, structured in a way like Citizen Kane.

He also says his film, titled Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, will delve into Jobs’ character and whether he abandoned his counterculture values after turning Apple into a tech behemoth.

Gibney told Variety his film delivers a “far more complex interpretation” of Jobs’ life than previous projects about the iconic Apple chief.

“When I went into it, I thought that Jobs was an inventor,” Oscar-winning director Gibney says. “And I don’t really think he was an inventor now. I think he knew how to push people and he was a story teller, and he became a story teller for the computer age. But not all the stories that he told were true.”

Gibney interviewed dozens of people as he gathered footage for the 127-minute film.

Documentary director Alex Gibney promises a fresh perspective on Steve Jobs. Photo: Liane Enkelis
Documentary director Alex Gibney promises a fresh perspective on Steve Jobs. Photo: Liane Enkelis

The filmmaker’s Scientology documentary, Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, made waves at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and is in theaters now. The director claims his film about Jobs will be just as controversial.

Apple was ‘brutal’

It’s also far from an official documentary. Gibney says Apple gave him and his crew no help whatsoever.

“When we reached out to them, they were somewhat hostile,” he said. “They have a reputation for being that way. 
They are brutal. People love their products, but they can be a ruthless company.”

Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine premieres Saturday at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas, with an additional showing there next week. The documentary, which was financed by CNN Films, will air on the news network eventually, although a theatrical release is possible.

You can watch the first clip from the film, a brief interview with Bob Belleville, who worked on the original Macintosh, below. And you can get the rest of the interview with Gibney on Variety’s website.