Interview: Danny Boyle on Steve Jobs and Trainspotting 2

Have your say

DANNY Boyle is back in the director’s chair with a film depicting the life and work of Apple founder, Steve Jobs. Susan Griffin finds out all about working with Michael Fassbender and keeping on track with the Trainspotting sequel

Steve Jobs is already receiving critical acclaim from those lucky enough to have watched early previews, but the movie’s director, Danny Boyle, makes no secret of the fact he “wouldn’t have normally jumped” at the chance to make a film about the pioneering founder of Apple.

Steve Jobs director Danny Boyle. Picture: PA

Steve Jobs director Danny Boyle. Picture: PA

That was before he was handed the script by Academy-Award winner Aaron Sorkin who penned The Social Network.

“I read it and I thought, ‘That’s just amazing’,” reveals 59-year-old Boyle, who’s helmed the likes of Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire, which received eight Academy Awards, including Best Director, in 2008.

“These are really important people and we have to make films about them, because these are the world changers, the world shapers,” he continues.

“They’re much more important than many of the other people you think might be significant in the world, like world leaders. They’re literally altering the way that humans work in the blink of an eye.”

Reading the script, it made the father-of-three realise how important it is to reveal “what was involved in creating this world, in forging this world” and to also humanise the man behind the invention.

“These people are so iconic, they’re mythical in a way, they’re out of reach. Their success is so fast and so enormous, they’ve got to be dragged back down to earth. And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way, I mean humanised again.”

Jobs, who died of cancer in 2011, doesn’t come across as a particularly likeable man - he didn’t even acknowledge his daughter for many years - but Boyle explains it was never the intention to make him more appealing, “because he wasn’t - and you’d be doing him no service by trying to make him appear like that”.

“That’s what he hated - the safe ground. As you see from the film, he was always about pushing forward and not settling or being complacent.”

Set backstage in the minutes before three iconic product launches, beginning with the Macintosh in 1984 and ending with the unveiling of the iMac in 1998, it’s a unique approach, painting the man at the epicentre of a digital revolution.

But this wasn’t the biggest challenge for Boyle and his team, it was dealing with the divergent opinions that people have on Jobs.

“Some regard him as both a brutal, terrible man to work for, and others, that he was almost divine inspiration and truly devotional.”

They needed an actor who would be able to make it comprehensible that these two extremes existed in the same person.

Step forward Michael Fassbender, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his part in 12 Years A Slave in 2013.

“It’s weird, [Michael] likes to be so relaxed in the moment. He doesn’t want ‘Action!’ called or any of the fuss building up to a scene, and he wants you to shoot the rehearsal. He feels it will have the quality of improvisation in a way, even though it’s not, it’s highly scripted and he’d learned or absorbed the script, word for word,” reveals Boyle.

“He’s also uncompromising and ferociously focused. That’s the Jobsian thing about him. A lot of the real people came in to talk to us and I remember they said, basically, ‘Make sure you get the stare right’. Michael’s got that as well.”

Fassbender’s co-stars include Sorkin’s long-time collaborator Jeff Daniels, as former Apple CEO John Sculley, and Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, who co-founded Apple.

The latter, known for his comedic work in the likes of Knocked Up, has confessed he thought people might think him a fraud.

“I think there’s a terrible disservice done to comedians, that in some way, we assume they can’t act,” says Boyle in response.

“Seth’s an amazing actor, he’s warm and generous and a funny guy, but boy is he on it when he’s on it.”

Kate Winslet also has a prominent role, as Joanna Hoffman, the former marketing chief of Macintosh - although it’s actually a composite character, as Hoffman only worked with Jobs to launch the NeXT, but the pair remained friends.

“Kate helped Michael in the way Joanna helped Steve - and she would help me as well,” admits Boyle.

“She would constantly solve problems on set. She’s a bit of a film-maker on the quiet. She can do it all, she understands all the business and I found her a wonderful partner to work with.”

He recalls how Scott Rudin, one of the producers who’d worked with Winslet before, had told him he’d end up wanting her on all his films.

“He said, ‘She’s very addictive’ - and she is.”

Are there plans to work together again?

“Get her in to Trainspotting 2,” he laughs. “That would get a few headlines!”

Back in September, Boyle confirmed that a sequel to the seminal 1996 film Trainspotting, which starred Ewan McGregor and remains one of the highest-grossing British independent films of all time, had the green light.

“A couple of the actors [Jonny Lee Miller, who stars in Elementary, and Robert Carlyle, who appears in Once Upon A Time] have ongoing television shows in America, but there’s a window we can shoot in May and June [next year] so we’re setting up to do that,” says Boyle.

He doesn’t deny they were all rather “tentative” about returning to their breakthrough roles.

“I think they were all worried about doing it for the wrong reasons and the test of that is partly the script, which I think they were all convinced by,” notes Boyle.

“You read scripts all the time, especially those guys, and they could see it’s a good script, and also, just the way we talked about it, how it would be set-up and shot.

“It’s not about trying to cash in on the original. It lives in the shadow of the original to a degree but in a really interesting way, which I can’t really tell you about.”

For now, it sounds like his hands are full, but perhaps he’d be interested in helming a Bond movie down the line?

“No, I’ve done a Bond movie,” he smiles. And he has - of sorts - when he wowed the world with his opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympic Games, which included a scene involving Daniel Craig’s 007 and the Queen.

“I admire what Sam Mendes has done with it very much, but it’s not really for me. Those huge films, I would never want to do them. I’d rather make the smaller ones as complex and pleasurable as possible.”

• Steve Jobs is released in cinemas on Friday, November 13