The movie scene

Ashton Kutcher’s tough Job(s)

Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images

In the spring of 2011, actor Ashton Kutcher had a chance to meet Apple’s Steve Jobs. But the meeting never took place because Kutcher was working, and on Oct. 5, Jobs died at the age of 56, setting off memorials around the world.

“I think things work out the way they do for a reason,” says Kutcher, who plays the high tech icon in the new film Jobs, in theaters now. “He may well have been one of the great innovators of my lifetime. But I don’t know what I could have gotten from that meeting.”

For one thing, Kutcher says he might have gotten an impression of Jobs that was only temporarily valid, something that would have affected his portrayal of him in the wrong way.

“There might have been one thing that he only did on that day, but I would have just married myself to it,” he adds. “So maybe — just maybe — it was lucky that I didn’t meet him.”

Kutcher is talking Jobs for an invited audience of high tech executives and journalists in San Francisco. Sitting in a conference room at the Ritz Carlton with the movie’s director, Joshua Michael Stern, the 35-year-old actor seems far removed from the TV comedies for which he is best known: Walden Schmidt in CBS’s Two and a Half Men and Michael Kelso on Fox’s That ‘70s Show.

Perhaps because of the goofy persona he has projected on television, the notion of the actor morphing into Jobs on screen was initially met with a significant amount of skepticism. But the fact remains that Kutcher has long been a player in the tech world with a passion for social media and a role as venture capital investor in startups.

“I have had the good fortune of being consistently underestimated,” says Kutcher with a sigh. “I think there is value in that.”

Work on the film actually began well before Jobs’ death. First-time script writer Matt Whiteley began the screenplay around the time Jobs took medical leave from Apple to battle a rare form of pancreatic cancer. The process accelerated after Jobs died.

Kutcher says that part of the shoot was not easy because he was still struggling with the part.

“To this day, I don’t know if I fully understand Steve Jobs. I don’t know if anyone ever fully did,” he says. “You can only really seek an approximation of who he was. I was working really hard to become that guy.”

What he came to understand was that Jobs was most misunderstood by people who didn’t know him and didn’t get how passionate he was about what he was creating.

“He cared so much that sometimes he ignored the feelings of the people who were right around him. … Every moment was a moment for Steve to further the agenda, to create (an) amazing product for his company that people loved, cared about and was useful to them. To me, that was the backbone.”

In one scene, a barefoot and hygienically challenged Jobs works at Nolan Bushnell’s Atari. At one point, a manager turns to Jobs and says, “You’re good, damn good, but you’re an a--hole.”

“There are people who don’t give a damn so they’re an a--hole. … And then there are (others) who just can’t help being an a–hole because they’re really gifted,” Kutcher says. “And that is what Steve was. He was that way when he could get away with it.”

Charlie McCollum

San Jose Mercury News

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