New York Times tech writer Nick Bilton has taken aim at Silicon Valley in his latest column — attacking it for helping to bring down Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs biopic, which so far has earned just $18 million at the box office in its first seven weeks.
Although Bilton doesn’t place all the blame for the box office bomb at the feet of the tech industry (he also suggests that Jobs overload and bad timing may have had something to do with it), he does take issue with the way that the tech industry, “relished in, and contributed to, the film’s demise.”
The article notes that, even before Steve Jobs had been released wide, tech investor Ron Conway had, “emailed prominent people in the industry and implored them not to support the film because he thought it portrayed Mr. Jobs in a disrespectful and unflattering light.” Conway reportedly suggested wording for tweets they could use to voice their displeasure.
Shortly after, superstar investor Marc Andreessen tweeted that, “The Steve Jobs ‘biopic’ is deliberately fabricated nonsense.” After this, others including Walt Mossberg, Steven Levy, and others wrote that the movie didn’t portray the Steve Jobs they were familiar with.
Bilton writes that:
“It felt like a contest among high school classmates vying to be the football captain’s best friend.
Here’s the thing: They didn’t know Steve Jobs. None of us did. I don’t care if you had a sleepover party at his house once a week while you watched rom-coms and did each other’s nails. Or if he granted you a 15-second interview after one of his product introductions. The reality is, Steve Jobs was trying to sell things, and he was an absolute master at using the media to do that.”
It’s tough to work out exactly why Bilton is so upset about the whole situation, unless it’s in some way related to Hollywood suddenly becoming reticent about adapting tech books — like his own Hatching Twitter — for the screen.
As a huge Sorkin fan I was sad to see one of his movies bomb as hard as it did — particularly considering how excited I was about this movie — but I have to question the degree to which a harsh review from Walt Mossberg can derail a movie, at a time when even professional film critics have less of an impact than arguably any other time in cinema history.
As far as criticizing writers like Steven Levy, there was (from everything I’ve heard, based on interviewing hundreds of people who worked with Steve Jobs over the years) a massive difference between the access one got to Steve early in his career, and the more controlled access he allowed during his last decade.
If Levy — who knew Jobs during the early days when he was far more accessible — felt that the Steve Jobs movie didn’t properly portray Jobs during this exact time, I think it’s worth taking the criticism seriously.
Why do you think the Steve Jobs movie ultimately failed to make money? Leave your comments below.