Hollywood actors Ashton Kutcher and Josh Gad went before the Apple faithful on Thursday, sharing the terror and elation of portraying the "two Steves" long revered by the cult of the Mac.
The stars were at the Macworld Expo discussing the biopic jOBS, set for release in June and recently screened at the Sundance Film Festival.
Playing that guy who everyone has a memory of is really scary.Ashton Kutcher
Kutcher, an internet technology entrepreneur and investor, plays the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs while Gad took on the role of Steve Wozniak, the engineering wizard of the duo whose accomplishments changed the way people live.
"I learned everything I could about Steve" ... Asthon Kutcher at the Sundance Film Festival. Photo: Getty Images
"I wanted this story told in a way that honours my hero," Kutcher said. "I had never played someone who had lived before and was somewhat terrified by the notion."
Steve Jobs' legacy is so great that movie-goers are likely to use their own memories to rate the actors, Kutcher reasoned.
"It's not like you are playing [Abraham] Lincoln," he said in reference to the former US president. "We don't have a lot of video of Lincoln, but we have a lot of video of Steve."
"And we have a lot of daily reminders of him at our fingertips," he continued in reference to iPod, iPhone and iPad gadgets introduced by Jobs prior to his death in late 2011.
"Playing that guy who everyone has a memory of is really scary."
Kutcher said his first Apple product was an Apple IIG S computer. His dad brought it home and he played games such as Number Munchers.
"My favourite thing was to go into the control settings and monkey around," Kutcher said.
Then he didn't touch a computer for years until he went to college to be a biochemical engineer and found himself programming Fortran on PCs. When the first iPod was released, Kutcher said it was a revelation that technology could be so elegant and easy to use.
Gad, meanwhile, admitted knowing little about either Jobs or Wozniak before taking on the project.
"I was as computer illiterate as Steve Wozniak was computer literate," Gad joked, saying he took programming classes to prepare for the role.
Gad said he was blown away by Kutcher's technical savvy when filming started. At one point, Kutcher told the props guys to remove some equipment in a scene because it wouldn't have been invented for another year.
"How do you know that?" Gad said. "I was just trying to learn my lines."
Kutcher has become a noted start-up investor in recent years. He tapped into his tech obsession to help him research the part of Jobs. Kutcher said he made a SoundCloud file filled with as many audio clips of Jobs as he could find, listening to them over and over to get the speech patterns down. His first conversation with Gad about joining the cast was held over Skype.
The film focuses on the life of Jobs from when he dropped out of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, in the early 1970s, to when he introduced the first iPod MP3 player in 2001.
To prepare, the actors met with people Wozniak and Jobs knew in those years and shot some of the movie in the Silicon Valley garage where the first Apple computer was created.
Kutcher and Gad told of immersing themselves in their respective roles for months, saying the movie is meant as a reverent interpretation of the story that captures the essence of who the men were and what they did.
Kutcher said he even went on a fruit-only diet Jobs had tried, only to wind up "doubled over in ridiculous pain" and hospitalised with pancreatitis.
"I learned everything I could about Steve," Kutcher said. "I walked around repeating everything he said to other people, because he said enough brilliant things that you sound like you really are brilliant."
Gad compared the story of Jobs and Wozniak to that of famed Beatles band members Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
"That these two would meet and it would be this perfect storm fascinated me," Gad said.
Kutcher told the packed auditorium that playing Jobs changed his life.
"Don't settle for what life gives you; make life better and build something," Kutcher said.
"That passion and dream and understanding that you can be part of something that makes people's lives greater was the essence of who the guy was and that really affected me."
In recent news reports, Wozniak trashed the film based on what he has seen of promotional clips and the script.
"I hope that when he sees the movie in its entirety he will understand we went to great lengths to capture the essence of his journey," Gad said when asked about the criticism. "It was done with the utmost love and respect."
Jobs had been a crowd-drawing headlining speaker at the annual Macworld gathering, expected to draw 25,000 people by the time it wraps up on Saturday, where he unveiled Apple innovations such as the iPhone with a trademark "one more thing" line.
Asked about whether he would have invested in Apple if Jobs had approached him in the 1970s, Kutcher paused for a long time. Gad tried to nudge him: "Say yes. It's Macworld."
Finally, Kutcher replied with a long answer describing his investment philosophy in which he tries to find people who are working on creative solutions to problems that many people are trying to solve. But the bottom line on whether he would have backed Jobs:
"I would hope I would have invested."
AFP/Los Angeles Times