Director Alex Gibney Compares Steve Jobs to James Brown

Documaker says Apple head was a bit of a performer at Q&A

Four years after his death, the fascination with Steve Jobs continues, this time through the lens of Academy Award-winning director Alex Gibney in his latest documentary for Magnolia Pictures, “Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine.”

“He was a little bit like James Brown in the sense that he was a great performer, but also a pretty good band leader,” Gibney said Thursday at an intimate screening of the film at New York’s Crosby Street Hotel. “He understood that he had to have a lot of talented people around him who really designed and engineered the products. That wasn’t Steve’s thing. Steve’s thing was to sell the products and also tell great stories about them. I think over time we imagine that he was the grand inventor. He wasn’t that at all.”

“There’s a darker side to Steve Jobs that we can’t forget about. The values of his company I think sometimes were ruthless and sometimes as cruel as he could be as a person, and it’s important that, as we reckon with these powerful companies, that we take that into account.”

During the Q&A session, many people were curious about what was left on the cutting room floor and whom he was unable to interview. For instance, Laurene Powell Jobs.

“It seemed like she was going to talk or engage in conversation and then it shut down. I learned later she reached out to a lot of people and asked them not to talk to me, which created a certain number of problems,” he told the audience.

He was also queried about any discussions with Jobs’ authorized biography author, Walter Isaacson. Gibney confirmed that there were conversations, but felt it was important to go his own way in telling the story.

Gibney also acknowledged the 2013 “Jobs” feature film, starring Ashton Kutcher, and the upcoming Michael Fassbender-toplined “Steve Jobs” from Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin, based on Isaacson’s book.

“Aaron Sorkin’s a very talented guy. So is Danny Boyle. So is Michael Fassbender. But I would say this: When it comes to playing Steve Jobs, nobody could play Steve Jobs better than Steve Jobs,” Gibney said.

Spotted at the reception post-film were actors John Leguizamo, Fisher Stevens and Josh Pais.

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