JobsDirected by Joshua Michael Stern
We met with actor Josh Gad and director Joshua Michael Stern
at a fancy-pants hotel in Georgetown, a semi-fancy-pants neighborhood in Washington, D.C., which is where we end up shlepping to do interviews with people who have movies coming out because they (the Movie People) won't ever bring anybody up to Baltimore, where they could have a good time. Mssrs. Gad and Stern were in Our Nation's Capital to talk with assorted media freaks about their new movie,
, which is all about Steve Jobs, the late founder of the Apple computer company. (Joe MacLeod)
LOCATION: THE CHIMNEY ROOM
City Paper: Gentlemen.
Josh Gad: How are ya.
Movie Guy: This is Joe. Baltimore
Joshua Michael Stern: Hi Joe.
CP: Mr. Josh-
Joshua Michael Stern: -Josh and Joshua-
CP: -Mr. Joshua.
JMS: [Incredulously, perhaps patronizingly, but in a fun way] You're having your lunch.
CP: Josh and Joshua.
JMS: You're eating a lovely lunch.
JG: I'm very jealous.
CP: Just toppin' off the blood sugar, you know.
JG: Very jealous.
JMS: A nice beautiful peanut butter and jelly sandwich?
CP: My lovely fiance prepared a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
JG: Oh, that's a good one.
JMS: She made you a-she gave you a tiny little lemon pie in a
CP: No, that, I provided that for myself, she would prefer-
JG: What is that?
CP: -that I did not enjoy the tiny [answering Mr. Gad]- the Table Talk Pie.
JMS: It's so delicious.
CP: It's the tiny pie, it's the mini pie.
JG: Of course it is.
CP: [Possibly already completely lost, 51 seconds into the interview, drifting off, describing pie] Variety of flavors, blueberry, apple, of course I went for the one that's the most like pudding.
JMS, a trim man: [laughs]
CP: [babbling] I am, I, I'm gettin' my elaborate, redundant array of amateur recording devices prepared so that we will be recorded.
CP: And, uh, I saw the movie, last week.
JMS: Oh, OK.
CP: And I was pleasantly surprised because I didn't have high expectations.
JMS: That's the game! That's the game, baby!
JG: [laughs] Set the expectations low.
CP: I didn't know which way this movie was gonna go, if it was gonna be a fuckin' commercial for Apple-
CP: Or if it was gonna be, I dunno what, I have a really, uh, since I'm completely outside of your world, I get to think whatever I want about what you guys do.
CP: And I get to think whatever I want about Ashton Kutcher [conspiracy theory tone], he's like, hyper-intelligent, some sort of math whiz, he's got internet businesses, it's like, this movie's all part of his agenda, this is like, he's casting himself in this role, this revolutionary thinker-guy, for a reason, you know, it's like what's his agenda? But it's like, I couldn't figure out what his agenda was.
I just thought he did a good job, you know, in the part, and then I thought, Oh, well, obviously, he did this, because he wanted to get a serious role in, where he could be a serious movie star, instead of the guy from, the TV show and whatever else he's done, romantic comedies.
JMS: See, you're a pip, in the relationship, with all that thinking. You're a big thinker.
CP: I overthink.
CP: That's part of why it's entertaining, though, right? I mean, we get to think whatever we want.
JMS: I love that you're dissecting.
JG: [puts legs up on chair] I'm gettin' comfortable for this interview, I'm puttin' my feet up, and just gonna lay back.
CP: [to Josh Gad] I haven't even talked about you yet.
JMS: Pretend he's not in the room.
CP: [to Josh Gad] Well, you're a big surprise, again, don't know you, there's no personal thing going on here, you're one of the millions of people that come up in front of me, in front of America, the world, on a TV screen or a video screen or something like that, and I'm like, "What is it about this guy?"
JG, JMS: [laughs]
CP: "Is he gettin', is he like Jack Black point two?"
JG: [less laughter]
CP: Is he the wacky guy, he's OK, the "buddy," but you're not, you're better than that.
JG: Thank you.
CP: This movie, you were way better than that, you made the movie, as far as I was concerned. And it's like, I dunno, what do you know about Woz [Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak]?
JG: Going into it I didn't know much, to be honest, I wasn't very knowledgeable about the early years of Apple, to be honest, so I kind of did a crash course in two months, because there are a lot of skeptics, a lot of people who have readily available to them all of this footage, so I made it incumbent upon myself to watch all of that footage, I literally pored through 200-plus hours of Wozniak dating back to the '60s and '70s-
CP: Did you catch him on the Kathy Griffin reality show?
JG: I did, I got him on
Dancing with the Stars
as well, and then I pored through his book, and other things, and at a certain point, you've just gotta let it go and do your job, and kind of, you know, you can't be a slave to the way somebody speaks, the way somebody moves, you have to tell the story. He and I talked early on about him serving almost as Jobs' conscience, like a Jiminy Cricket of sorts, in the film.
JMS: It's sort of like the Fool in
; in this movie, even though he's not saying something, he's often watching, slightly observing, as a reminder of Steve's past and where he began, and also a reminder of the original creator of the technology itself, sort of keeping check, and then at one point realizing-we know this isn't exactly how it occurred-but realizing he had to get out of there, you know, for whatever reasons, and so, I think Josh embodied that.
JG: Just in the nick of time, we're gettin' our asses handed to us.
JMS: Would you like a cup of coffee, [saucily] with your lemon pie?
CP: No, I have some nice day-old iced coffee.
[Cross-talk involving who gets what coffees and how many]
CP: Are you guys just off the airplane, or have you been here?
JG: No, we got in last night, we traveled in from Dallas, the national tour.
CP: So they got TV and camera guys here, in rooms, and you're goin' room to room? I love this [looking up and around The Chimney].
JG: [wearily] Yeah. I love it, [looks up through the hazy oculus of The Chimney] this is where Bane made his escape in
Dark Knight Rises
JMS: You know how many people were hung, by a noose, and just dangled . . .
JG: It's such a weird fuckin' room, I'm not sure I understand the history of it.
JMS: It's a chimney-
CP: It's a chimney.
JMS: -that's all that it is.
JG: That's what they tell you. This is where they enslaved early witches.
JMS: [World War II-era Nazi German voice] The jungen will go into the "Chimney Room" for ze interview, and in there vill be a guy vith a pie, they always go where there's a pie.
[general self-congratulatory laughter all round at the improv-comedy break]
CP: I kept calling it the silo, and I asked the movie people, "can we do it in the silo, can we interview in the silo," because it's good, it's not like when you're sittin' in the stupid, you know, one of you's on the couch and one of you's on the chair . . .
JMS: The whole couch thing, I'm usually reclining, and he's usually in a head stand in any other room. He hates it, he hates the head stand!
JG, JMS: [laughter]
CP: I like two people at once, though.
JMS: That's what my wife said.
CP: It's just very relaxing, I get all knotted up if I have to talk to one person. You guys are used to talking to people all the time, I don't do this all the time, so it's a little stressful for me.
JMS: Well, anything we can do to alleviate . . .
CP: I didn't wanna like Steve Jobs, because I heard he parks in the handicapped.
JMS: He does.
CP: There's all these stories about how he fucked everybody over, and the movie shows him, you know, maybe not the guy who makes the thing, but the guy who is smart enough to realize how hard you gotta push to make that thing into something, and you see what he does.
JG: A lot of people don't know that about Jobs, and don't want to know that about Jobs. There's a weird cult of Steve Jobs that I think people are just like,
He's godly, I don't wanna know that he was a piece of shit to people at times
. He's a man of many contradictions. He disowned his daughter, who was clearly his biological daughter, and then named a fucking computer after her. There's a lot to bridge that we don't yet have the full account for.
JMS: Yeah, it's true, and in deciding what to choose to show and what not to show, so many different people have something individually invested in his story, at some point, and when you tell a story like this, you're gonna have to-by the nature of it-leave something out.
JG: My brother has the same exact feeling that he [
] has. When I took this film, he
Jobs, thinks he's the biggest piece of shit. . . . But it's funny because people have-one way or another-you love him or you hate him, but you have an opinion about him.
CP: Right, and it's a referendum either on him as a human being or the product that you use.
JMS: But that's only in-
JG: But you use it! You use that product.
CP: Oh yeah. [Everybody now looking at various Apple products on the table] I do, I use one at my house, I use one at my office, I have the phone-
JMS: That's all in contrast to how big he became and that can galvanize opinions to such an extreme. Jobs was very aware of cult mentality and organizational cult hierarchy.
CP: And that was a great time-that time of history, with the [Bhagwan Shree] Rajneesh dude-
JMS: He knew all the Rajneesh, he studied all that stuff.
CP: [interrupting, for no good reason] Visually, you really got that look, I'm old enough to remember what that felt like, and it was really, the flavor of that visually, was there.
JG: It was really very weird, going back and feeling those '70s things.
JMS: It was.
JG: We felt like, just the way, the cars on the street, we-
CP: A lot of that stuff sucked.
JG: Driving around in a Pinto is not fun.
JMS: Computers in the late '70s, early '80s, not sexy, let me just say, visually, as a storyteller. [laughs]
CP: [to Josh Gad] Did it get weird, when you were playing against, Ashton Kutcher, did it get, how?
CP: No, I mean, you're a certain kinda actor, you're a Laurence Olivier guy who's like "just act," and then you're like Dustin Hoffman, you know [puffing heavily] "I gotta run nine blocks to, to-"
reference, I love it.
JG: Ashton definitely took the role on the more serious side of the spectrum.
JMS: When we did the Hawaii moment, with the reveal of the "1984" commercial-
JG: The podium.
JMS: -he gets there, and it looks pretty good, except the podium originally was wrapped in like a white, felt-like thing, and our podium was brown, and we went out and found a tablecloth and wrapped it in white, so that it would be more accurate, there was a lotta that going on.
CP: He was a big pain in the ass, is what you're trying to say.
JG: A pain in the ass, but in service of the greater good. I think that it really set the tone for us as the actors because you couldn't fuck around. When I was in a scene with him, I was genuinely intimidated by him, and that's the greatest compliment I can give him portraying that character.
CP: But like were you thinking about it in terms of as you, or were you like, being Woz?
JG: Both, both. I certainly don't know that Woz-
CP: That guy's an outsider
JG: He's an outsider, I don't know that intimidated's the right word, I think that Woz [laughing] orbits his own kind of sphere, I don't think he ever looked at Steve Jobs as an antagonist
JMS: I think we overanalyze some of this, because we all have friends from when we're kids, and we have one or two friends, we realize, you know, "I will never be friends with this guy now, but I love him, I would do anything for him," you accept them like they are family.
JG: There's an amazing piece of visual history on YouTube that kind of informed my entire performance, especially toward the end, which is this, it's literally a 10-second clip that I've shown him [JMS] like 10,000 times which I was fascinated by, of Steve Wozniak at an Apple convention maybe five years ago, and he goes "Hey! Hey Steve! It's me." And they don't actually touch, Steve is like "Oh! Hey! Woz, how are you?" And the two of them, Jobs says something to the effect of "Let's get lunch sometime," but it's literally like a fan, you know, shouting down a rock star.
CP: "You stay over there . . ."
JG Yeah, and it's very weird and they kind of, like, have a shallow embrace, and it's done. To my knowledge that's probably one of the last times they saw each other.
JMS: Well, Daniel Kottke [Apple Employee Number One, friends with Jobs since college, original member of the Macintosh development team, portrayed in the film by Lukas Haas] was a friend of Steve's, and he hadn't spoken to him for many, many, many years, and the last time he saw him was at an Apple store when the iPad had come out, and he hadn't seen him for so long, he had just happened to go in to get his, and Steve would go to the Palo Alto Apple store once in a while.
CP: Just to see what was doin'.
JMS: Just because it was his local one, and he goes there, Steve is there-I think they got it on camera-and Daniel Kottke goes "Steve, how are you?" And he goes "Daniel, how's it going?" and Daniel goes "Great, great." And they hadn't spoken for 20 to 30 years, and Steve says, "Daniel, come here, I got a really hot tip for you"-he's talking about the iPad-and he goes [whispers] "get the magnetic cover, it's really cool!" and then he walks on.
JG: I never heard that story.
JMS: That's what Daniel said, the only thing he said to him, totally just like a child, "Hey, how are you, get the cover for the iPad, it's really cool."
CP: A customer.
JMS: It's interesting, there was no malice in Steve, he didn't connect that way, he didn't have that sentimental callback.
[Movie Person enters The Chimney Room]
CP: Is that the preliminary approach? Or is that the "we're done?"
JMS: Five minutes.
CP: [completely out of questions, forgetting everything] We got five minutes. Awesome. I read through some of the press materials, I don't like to do that, because I like to have my own bad theories to entertain myself, and you [Josh Gad] are a stage actor.
CP: You are an acclaimed stage actor.
JG: I don't know about acclaimed, but yeah.
JMS: He is acclaimed.
CP: Yeah! It says right in the PDF!
JG: [laughs] Well then it must be true.
CP: You're a big deal! I didn't know that. I guess that has a lot to do with how you look at it, it's "play."
JG: It is, I went to college, Carnegie Mellon Drama, I studied it, I studied theater for four years, devoted my life to it, and it's a rewarding thing to walk down the street and be recognized for doing
Book of Mormon
, and essentially be performing for 1,200 people a night in a dark theater where only 150 to 200 people can actually make out your face. To have such a profound influence on pop culture, for a stage show-which has a much more limited demographic, obviously, than TV and film-is immensely rewarding.
CP: I went to school for art, and I was an English minor and there was this one class I really had a lot of fun with, it was a Shakespeare class where you had to learn a part and say it, and so everybody was petrified, but half the class was theater arts majors, so they knew exactly what they were doing.
JMS: Yeah, exactly.
CP: The rest of us were like, "What? 'Mill and Seethe?' 'Blocking?' What are you talking about?" So half of us didn't know what the fuck was going on and the other half did, so we actually learned from them, we watched them, but it's like, you seem like an OK guy, most theater arts people? Big pain in the ass. They suck up all the air on the goddamn room, I could not stand them when it wasn't class time.
JG: It's funny because we had to keep a journal in our acting class, and I would literally write rants about that, "Why is everybody
JMS: I think those theater conservatories take a lot of teens who are barely able to put their thoughts together, who come from such an emotional place, you know, most theater and acting theory tends to strip you down, and it's sort of emotional manipulation, and these people are so dramatic anyway, and it's like-
what I remember, we had to walk around the room, and stop, and turn to the person who was the closest, and look directly into their fucking eyes, and just say our name, and then they would say their name back to us. The teacher was trying to break the room down, so we would just be relaxed and not give a fuck what anybody thought about anything, you know, it was a good exercise, because the class was really tight, we all partied together and stuff like that, just because of all this weird shit that we had to do. Which was really unpleasant.
CP: But yeah, this movie, I didn't walk in expecting something that would be interesting, and it was.
JMS: I'm glad, thank you.
CP: And like all of it, the sets, just the, the color of the air, if that even makes sense.
JMS: I'm glad you say that. That is one of the best things as a director you can hear. "The color of the air," that's gonna be the name of my autobiography.
The Color of the Air: A Life
CP: You'll wear a black turtleneck.
JMS: Enormous Swifty Lazar glasses.
[tentative pushing-away of chairs around the table]
JG: Well, thank you so much.
CP: Thank you.
JG: I'm very, uh, intrigued, by your pie.
CP: If you don't have any dietary restrictions, I'll give it to you as a gift.
JG: I have every dietary restriction.
CP: I know you movie stars. It's probably just rude that I put that out there.
CP: That was like, a little "mind game" I decided to play with Josh Gad, to put this Table Talk-are you sure?
JG: Lemme see it though, I'm very curious. [inspects the tiny Table Talk Pie box, scrutinizing the "Nutrition Facts" information]
CP: It's just a pie, wouldn't hurt. One bite. You could have one bite.
JG: [laughing] It's only got 330 milligrams of sodium.
JMS: How many calories though? Seriously.
JG: The calories are not terrib-oh, no, 380 calories.
JMS: That's a lot.
CP: For a whole pie?
JMS: 400 calories, man, that's a lot for just a little snack.
JG: 20 grams of fat. Only 50 grams of total carbohydrate.
CP: [to movie people entering room to clear it of City Paper] I'm trying to like, ruin his career by giving him this pie.
JG: Yeah. Pies.
CP: But he's strong.
JMS: Stronger than ever. [To
] Thank you so much.
JG: [pushing pie back across table] I'm gonna stay firm. Until my fish arrives. What's next?