Aaron Sorkin's Steve Jobs film will be a play in three scenesNovember 16, 2012: 6:26 AM ET
The creator of The West Wing and Newsroom cracks the structure of Jobs' complex life
FORTUNE -- "I hope I don't get killed by the studio for giving too much away," Sorkin says to Tina Brown toward the end of a half-hour interview at her Newsweek/Daily Beast "Hero Summit."
Then he proceeds to reveal way too much: His basic plan for capturing the sprawling, larger-than-life story of Steve Jobs as revealed in Walter Isaacson's biography -- to which Sorkin via Sony Pictures Entertainment (SNE) has the movie rights -- in a 90-minute film.
"This entire movie is going to be three scenes and three scenes only," Sorkin says, "that all take place in real time."
Real time, he explains, means a half-hour for the audience is the same as a half-hour for the character on the screen, with no time cuts.
Each of the three scenes, he continues, will take place back stage before a product launch:
- The original Mac in 1984
- NeXT, the widely admired but commercially unsuccessful computer Jobs built after being booted out of Apple (AAPL)
- The iPod -- the transformative product that marked his triumphant return
It is, in retrospect, the perfect Sorkin solution to a difficult screenwriting problem.
He'd already indicated at AllThingsD last summer that he had no interest in writing a biopic with the classic cradle-to-grave structure. (See A minefield of disappointment.)
Sorkin's strength is writing smart, over-caffinated dialogue for brilliant but tragically flawed characters in moments of high stress: a deadline (The Newsroom), an international crisis (The West Wing), a $140-million lawsuit (The Social Network) and now, a product launch that will mean the difference between undreamed-of success and total, humiliating failure.
"You want to write the character as if they are making the case to God why they should be allowed into heaven," Sorkin said last summer.
On Thursday, he concluded his interview by evoking Apple's 1997 Think Different advertising campaign:
"If I can end the movie with that text, with that voice over, 'here's to the crazy ones.' If I can earn that ending, then I will have written the movie that I want to write."
You can watch the 4-minute excerpt about the Jobs movie here: Aaron Sorkin spills secrets about Jobs biopic.
For a taste of Sorkin's favorite dialog tropes, see "Sorkinisms" Homage or hatchet job?