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Jony Ive: Steve Jobs film hijacking his life story


Jony Ive

Apple design chief Jony Ive has criticised the recent Steve Jobs film for having "hijacked" his late friend's life story.

There has been as much criticism for the new film's portrayal of the Apple founder from those who knew him as there has been praise from critics. Now one of the people who knew Steve Jobs best has had his say on the matter.

Jony Ive is arguably second only to Jobs himself in terms of the imprint he has made on Apple's current identity. He has led design on all of Apple's major products since Jobs returned to the company in 1997, and he counted Jobs as both a friend and mentor.

All of which is why Jony Ive's view on the current Steve Jobs film hoo-hah is of much interest.

Talking at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco (via Yahoo), Ive expressed his concern that such films and books have "hijacked" Jobs's life story.

Ive said that he didn't recognise the person being portrayed by those who didn't really know him. "He had these triumphs and tragedies, like most of us, and he's having his identity defined and described by a whole bunch of other people," he said.

Just because someone like Jobs could be exacting and blunt, said Ive, "it doesn't mean you're an asshole."

Rather, Ive put Jobs's often abrasive style down to a "very simple focus on trying to make something beautiful and great."

"And it really was simple," he continued. "There wasn't this grand plan of winning or a very complicated agenda. The simplicity seemed almost childlike in its purity and its truth. That stands in such stark contrast in how he's frequently discussed at the moment."

Related: ‘Steve Jobs’ screenwriter slams Apple’s Tim Cook over ‘opportunistic’ snub

Of course, Ive's argument is undermined somewhat by the fact that he hasn't actually seen the film, which was directed by Danny Boyle from an Aaron Sorkin screenplay based loosely on Walter Isaacson's biography. However, he knows some who have.

"There are sons and daughters and widows and very close friends that are completely bemused and completely upset," Ive said.

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October 8, 2015, 3:37 pm

Look at those puppy dog eyes. How could he be wrong?

Just because someone like Jobs could be exacting and blunt, said Ive, "it doesn't mean you're an asshole."

Well, no. But it's a pretty good indicator.

I find it interesting that Ive felt the need to say anything at all about Jobs character, rather than let his legacy speak for itself. I'm reminded about what Andrew Parker, the head of MI5 said about the new James Bond film: "I love the James Bond films because they are so distant from reality, we can all enjoy the fiction".

The Jobs film is also a work of fiction. I can only assume that the trailers and publicity, playing up the controversial aspects of Jobs' life, have touched a nerve with Ive et al. He sounds awfully defensive. Its slightly different to the James Bond example because, of course, the James Bond films tend to show MI5 in only a positive light, but a better comparison might be with The Social Network. That was a fantastic film, also written by Aaron Sorkin, also based on a book about the protagonist's life, in this case, Mark Zuckerberg.

The film wasn't quite a character assassination, but it wasn't far off, and certainly didn't portray Zuckerberg particularly sympathetically. Here's what Zuckerberg said about it in interview:

“I think the reality is that writing code and then building a product and building a company is not a glamorous enough thing to make a movie about, so you can imagine that a lot of this stuff they had to embellish or make up,” he said.

“They went out of their way in the movie to try to get some interesting details correct like the design of the office, but on the overarching plot … they just kind of made up a bunch of stuff that I found kind of hurtful.”

Zuckerberg said that he met Eisenberg and tried to be nice. “There were pretty glaring things that were just made up about the movie that made it pretty hard to take seriously.”

It seems that Zuck has correctly identified that Hollywood's interest is in making a story that sells, rather than representing the truth. That may be "hurtful," but he calls it out for what it is. Ive is responding as if Hollywood were seriously attempting to depict history objectively, which I find almost laughable.


October 8, 2015, 10:54 pm

I care more about movies like this misportraying steve jobs because there are wanna be people out there who think they need to be jerks to succeed. It doesn't help that the only other billionaire people in people minds is the egotistical and vicious coward Donald Trump. True of not, there's never an excuse to be an asshole.

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