As the producers of Argo and Zero Dark Thirty found out this past winter, audiences are eager to take to social media to point out the inaccuracies of movies that are "based on a true story." Ryan Perez, the writer and director of iSteve, the Steve Jobs biopic that Funny or Die will premiere on April 15, would love for that to happen to his movie. In fact, he encourages the audience to catch all of the inaccuracies.
"Almost nothing that you see that’s based on a true story feels like a true story," he tells Co.Create. "This movie takes a lot of dramatic license, but does it take as much dramatic license as Liz and Dick on Lifetime with Lindsay Lohan? I honestly don’t know."
Perez, a former Saturday Night Live writer who has been writing and directing shorts for Funny or Die since 2011, wanted to take on the task of making a feature-length Jobs bio because two serious biopics—one starring Ashton Kutcher, the other being written by Aaron Sorkin—are proceeding through the normally molasses-slow Hollywood pipeline so quickly.
"I think the idea came from creating a version that’s even more rushed than those versions, by creating the epitome of a rushed and inaccurate biopic," he said.
The goal was to be the first Jobs movie to debut, which means that the timeline was short and the budget tight. Perez wrote the movie over five days, using only Steve Jobs’ Wikipedia pages and various interviews as source material—he joked that "we couldn’t buy a paperback version of [Walter Isaacson’s] book; it’s not in our budget." Filming was done over another five days, and the editing schedule was also compressed. Overall, the process of going from idea to 80-minute final cut will have taken about eight weeks.
Perez wouldn’t recommend the schedule, but he does see an upside to it. "Maybe you don’t end up with as much excess or shooting things you don’t need, or putting things that are unnecessary in the cut."
Casting was key, especially the coup of casting Justin Long as Jobs. While the pretty obvious in-joke that Long was the face of Mac in the famous "Mac and PC" series of ads wasn’t lost on Perez, he praised Long’s ability, calling him "a very skilled comedic actor and wonderful dramatic actor with incredible instincts. Even if that irony of him being the face of Mac for so long wasn’t in place, he’d still be our top choice." The other primary actors are Jorge Garcia as Steve Wozniak, and James Urbaniak and Michaela Watkins as Bill and Melinda Gates.
While the movie is supposed to be funny, it’s is not intended to be an extended comedy sketch, according to Perez. "I think my hope would be that people are interested in following the story."
Even so, he’s using the term story very loosely. "We’re barely making sure there’s a coherent story," he laughed. "If we made a coherent story out of this, it’ll be a miracle. A coherent story maybe wasn’t the highest priority."