In 1995, Steve Jobs was running the niche software company NeXT, Apple Computers was on the verge of bankruptcy and filmmaker Robert Cringely was working on a documentary for Channel 4 called “ The Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires.” Cringely spent some time with Jobs, interviewing him for part of the documentary mini-series, and subsequently lost all but the section of the Q & A that made it into the film when he shipped it off to the network.
A few years ago, director Paul Sen found the VHS tape of the full interview amongst the piles of clutter in his garage and today, Magnolia Pictures has turned that elusive hour-and-a-half conversation into a feature film called, “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” and it is making its rounds in a limited run in theaters across America.
The film opens with Cringely explaining the history of the lost interview and giving a bit of background as to Jobs’ position in the tech world at that time. It was 1995. Jobs had been ousted from his own company, Apple Computers, 10 years prior but had managed to keep his name in the industry spotlight by starting NeXT and then acquiring what would later become Pixar. This interview took place a year before Apple would purchase NeXT and reluctantly bring Jobs back into the fold. Cringely explains that the upcoming footage was the unedited, rare interview with the world’s most beloved CEO.
Even in 1995, Jobs was decked out in his familiar mock turtleneck and sported a shaggy do that failed to hide the beginnings of his eventual hair loss. He was 40 years old at the time and looked like the sparkly-eyed imp that he always did.
The interview itself is nothing reveling. Much of what is talked about in the interview has already been published in Walter Isaacson’s biography, “Steve Jobs.” That’s not to say that this interview isn’t interesting. Even the, now well-known, story of how Jobs and co-founder Steve Wozniak built their own blue box and called the Pope is better when heard straight from the prankster’s mouth. When describing the long-distance telephone hacking device, Jobs says, “We built the best blue box in the world.”
This movie is different than traditional documentaries or interview films because there is no music, no cut-ins of other people talking about the subject and no inserted obligatory video clips of things being mentioned. The entire film is shot tight with constant close-ups of Jobs and lulls in conversations are not edited out. For example, when Cringely asks Jobs a question, he would often stare downward, express his thoughts as “hmmm” or “uh” before answering. There were times when it was obvious that a question irked the CEO and his response would border on rude, while still remaining emotionless.
When Cringely poses the question to Jobs, “What does it mean when you tell someone, ‘Your work is shit’?” his eyes betray a subtle hint of surprise, anger and irritation, but he answers with arrogant honesty that he means just that. However, Jobs is quick to point out that, sometimes he is wrong about his assumptions about someone’s work. “Sometimes I’m wrong,” he says. “I don’t mind being wrong and I’ll admit it easily.”
The most emotional part of the interview is when the discussion turns to the events that led to Jobs’ removal from Apple. He comments, more than once, that if he keeps talking about it, he will get emotional. When asked about his relationship with the CEO who ultimately turned out to be the man who led the charge against him, John Scully, Jobs says, “I hired the wrong guy and he destroyed everything I’d worked 10 years for.”
This movie is not going to shed light on an elusive character, or give us any insight into the mind of Apple’s former CEO, but avid fans of Steve Jobs will enjoy watching the iconic man talk about his love of computers, his work with Apple and his predictions for the future of the Internet and social media.
To find where “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” is playing in your area, visit the film’s official website. If you are having trouble watching the trailer below, click here for a direct link to it on YouTube.