Andy Hertzfeld: Steve Jobs movie is ‘almost nothing’ like reality

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The Woz (left) and Andy Hertzfeld (center) at an original Apple Computer Users Group meeting in the 80s. Photo: Tony Wills
Andy Hertzfeld (center) at an original Apple Computer Users Group meeting in the 80s.
Photo: Tony Wills

Next to Steve Jobs, Andy Hertzfeld is the name I most associate with the original Macintosh project. For that reason, Hertzfeld is one of the characters portrayed in the new Aaron Sorkin Steve Jobs movie, as well as someone who got to see an early unfinished cut of the film.

His take on it? That it’s almost nothing like reality in terms of the events portrayed — but a great movie all the same.

Speaking with Re/code, Hertzfeld says he met with Sorkin early on in the writing process, then later answered some of his questions via email.

“[In one email, Sorkin] asked me how Steve would react to a specific situation, involving the speech demo failing,” Hertzfeld recalls. “I pointed out that it didn’t happen in reality, and we had a lengthy discussion about artistic license, about how okay it is to diverge from reality. Basically, he convinced me it was not a documentary, so veracity is secondary to artistic considerations, and ‘it’s a painting, not a photograph.'”

Despite this, Hertzfeld describes Steve Jobs as, “a fine movie, brilliantly written and performed and full of humor and feeling,” although he reiterates that it, “deviates from reality everywhere” and is “almost nothing in it is like it really happened.”

Hertzfeld concludes:

“[U]ltimately that doesn’t matter that much. The purpose of the film is to entertain, inspire and move the audience, not to portray reality. It is cavalier about the facts but aspires to explore and expose the deeper truths behind Steve’s unusual personality and behavior, and it often but not always succeeds at that.”

Hertzfeld’s comments are interesting, especially read alongside Steve Wozniak’s appraisal of the movie. In a previous interview with Deadline, Woz praised the movie’s accuracy, saying that, “I felt like I was actually watching Steve Jobs and the others (including Seth Rogen’s portrayal of Woz himself), not actors playing them.”

To be fair, it seemed pretty clear from the moment Michael Fassbender was cast (looking nothing like Steve Jobs), that this movie was not aiming for documentary realism.

While I think the facts of Jobs’ life are intriguing enough on their own, I also don’t have a problem with Aaron Sorkin aiming for a more impressionistic portrayal of events — so long as what comes out of it feels like a genuine portrayal of all involved.

Do Andy Hertzfeld’s comments sway your thoughts on the Steve Jobs movie? Leave your comments below.