Sundance: Playing Steve Jobs terrified Ashton Kutcher
Park City • Ashton Kutcher found playing Steve Jobs to be a "terrifying" experience. Fortunately for him, he had the Sundance Film Festival to cushion his landing as he jumped into the lead role in "jOBS," a biopic that chronicles the life of the founder of Apple Computers from 1974-2002.
The sitcom star couldn't have found a more friendly place for the film to premiere. He got applause when he walked into the theater. He got applause when his name appeared in the opening credits. He got the typical, fawning plaudits in what is loosely known as the Q&A after the film.
(It's not hard to feel loved when questions from the audience are peppered with comments about the "fantastic" movie and the "amazing" cast.)
But Kutcher, nonetheless, seemed a bit nervous. He swayed back and forth onstage during the Q&A and barely cracked a smile.
"This was honestly one of the most terrifying things I've ever tried to do in my life," he said of the film, "because I admire this man so much. And I admire the way he built things.
"I admire the fact that you're filming this with an iPad right now," he said to one audience member.
Indeed, there was no small degree of serendipity that the theater was filled with people on their iPads and iPhones.
"This guy created the tool that we use every day in our lives," Kutcher said. "And he believed in it when no one else did."
Although the film has its moments of idol worship the soaring, heroic music that plays when Jobs introduces the iPod is more than a bit over the top "jOBS" doesn't shy away from his incomprehensibly bad behavior toward his oldest child or his abuse of colleagues.
And the star of "Two and a Half Men" acknowledged that it was tough to play an icon who remains "fresh in our minds."
"I've never seen Abraham Lincoln walk into a room," Kutcher said. "I've seen Steve Jobs walk into a room."
Playing Jobs was a bit "like throwing myself into this gantlet of massive amounts of criticism."
Steve Wozniak, Jobs' partner in the early days of Apple, has already said that the one scene of "jOBS" he has seen was "totally wrong." Director Joshua Michael Stern acknowledged that "these are really hard movies to enter because there's a lot of expectations."
And he said his goal was to give filmgoers "a feeling of what happened" and "finding the essence of who these people were."
Josh Gad ("Book of Mormon," "1600 Penn") pointed out that he clearly got one thing right when it came to portraying Wozniak. "We're similar in that we both have weight problems," he said.
When it came to casting Kutcher as Jobs, Stern said he "instantly knew that he was very invested in this role. I felt instantly that it was important to him on many levels."
And he knew at once that he wanted Kutcher for the role. "All I can say is that it was obvious."
Kutcher said he went out of his way to get Jobs right. Not only did he watch 100 hours of film footage and listen to speeches he delivered, he also lost "a tremendous amount of weight" to look more like the real Jobs.
He even tried Jobs' fruitarian diet which includes just fruits, nuts and seeds and that didn't work out well.
It "can lead to severe issues," Kutcher said. "I ended up in the hospital, like, two days before we started shooting the movie. I was doubled over in pain.
"And my pancreas levels were completely out of whack. Which was really terrifying, considering everything."
(Jobs died of pancreatic cancer in October 2011.)
"Steve Jobs is a hero to me," Kutcher said. "He's a guy who failed and got back up on the horse. And I think we can all relate to that someplace in our life."
"jOBS" will also be screened Saturday at 9 a.m. at the Eccles Theatre in Park City; and Sunday at 12:15 p.m. at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City.
Tickets for both screenings are wait-list only.