'Jobs' is a mix of work and personal interests for star Ashton Kutcher
The sound system was on the fritz in billionaire Yuri Milner's enormous house in California's Silicon Valley, the heart of the global technology industry. The guests had taken their seats in Milner's home theater. And Ashton Kutcher was ready to screen "Jobs," the new film (out Sept. 27 in Taiwan) in which he plays the late chief executive and co-founder of Apple.
The audience was a who's who of the technology world. Tesla Motors and SpaceX founder Elon Musk was the one who rolled up his sleeves and fixed the audio. On the screen, Kutcher appeared as a young Steve Jobs in the early years of his journey from university to the formation of Apple, his ouster and victorious return.
"I can't think of a more skeptical audience than Silicon Valley tech people when it comes to a movie about Steve Jobs," said Nirav Tolia, chief executive of the social network Nextdoor. Film critics were skeptical, too. But when the lights came up at Milner's house, Kutcher found himself before an appreciative audience. At one point, as he and co-star Josh Gad took questions, Kutcher fought back tears as he spoke about how personal the role was for him. "Of all people," Tolia said, "Ashton could do it because he is one of us."
Hollywood star Kutcher is also the co-founder of the venture capital fund A-Grade Investments. Therefore, in taking on the role of Jobs, Kutcher didn't have to "learn how to think like an entrepreneur," said Tolia, whose Nextdoor network is one of A-Grade's investments. "Acting is his job. Technology is his hobby." "The role was the perfect mix of my job and my interests," Kutcher said.
As soon as he heard about the part — even before he met with director Joshua Michael Stern — Kutcher started preparing to play Jobs. "When I read the script, the idea of someone playing him who maybe didn't care made me want to do the role," Kutcher said. "I knew it was going to take a while to figure out who Jobs was. I figured if I started studying him, the worst thing that could happen is that I would learn a lot about Steve Jobs."
By the time Stern walked into Kutcher's Los Angeles home for their first meeting, the actor had already begun to master Jobs' speech patterns and hand gestures, even the way he walked by bouncing on his toes. "He was already becoming the man," Stern said.