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Ashton Kutcher on portraying Steve Jobs: 'It terrified me'

Ashton Kutcher on portraying Steve Jobs: 'It terrified me'


The actor talks Twitter, protecting legacies, and more

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Ashton Kutcher interview
Ashton Kutcher interview

Ashton Kutcher's Steve Jobs biopic Jobs has had a long road to theaters, but after a four-month delay, it's set to arrive on August 16th. In advance of the release, Kutcher sat down with The Verge's Joshua Topolsky this month to talk about his passion project and his love-hate relationship with Twitter.

From On The Verge with Ashton Kutcher and Small Empires

According to Kutcher, the challenge of portraying Jobs on-screen was a personal one. "It terrified me, and most of the great things I've been able to accomplish in my life were things that terrified me." Many of Kutcher's friends had worked with Jobs, which he said gave him both a unique insight into the Apple founder's life and a protective streak regarding Jobs' portrayal onscreen. "I almost felt compelled to defensively play the role," Kutcher said. "I want to make sure it's protected. Even if I screw it up and totally bomb it, I love that guy. I love that guy. I'd rather have someone that cared about him screw it up than someone who didn't."

"I'd rather have someone that cared about him screw it up than someone who didn't."

To prepare for the role, Kutcher assembled a 15-hour SoundCloud compilation of Jobs' speaking voice, including both public presentations and more candid recordings that captured his habits outside of public life. "There were two versions of him, and I got this from a lot of friends of his that I talked to," Kutcher said. "There was the guy who went on stage and presented things, and then there was the guy who was in the boardroom, who was working on a product, who was having an intimate conversation. And I tried to find little snippets of stuff where he wasn't aware that he was being recorded or speeches that he didn't think anyone was going to hear, so I could get a little more of who he honestly was."

Beyond Jobs, Kutcher says he's running his own Twitter account again, although after earlier controversies, he now runs each tweet by a group of associates to make sure he's not saying anything he might regret. Kutcher explained, "Everybody wants forgiveness but people don't really want to give it to other people. And when you make mistakes publicly, you make them really loudly."

"Everybody wants forgiveness but people don't really want to give it to other people."

Kutcher was known in tech circles as an early booster of Twitter, but in recent years, the service has caused the actor an increasing amount of trouble — and not just from ill-advised tweets. Kutcher explained, "If I go to a restaurant anywhere in town, there'll be people outside the restaurant waiting for me. When I ask, 'How did you know I was here,' they say they saw it on Twitter."

But despite his tweet-related troubles, Kutcher was bullish on the possibilities of the startup world. He stayed mum on new investments, but talked about Jobs as a natural combination of his work as an actor and his passion for the startup world. For an actor who fashioned himself as a startup guru, playing the ultimate founder is too nice of a gig to leave to someone else. And as a bonus, it fits in with Kutcher's view on how we can make the world better. "I think people need to build things," he said. "I think that's what the world needs. I wanted to tell a story about a guy who did that."

Disclosure: Kutcher is also on the board of advisors of Vox Media, parent company of The Verge, but like we said before, that's never gotten us into cool parties, and he still refuses to read our screenplay for The Butterfly Effect 2: Chaos Theory Boogaloo.