When he heard the news that Ashton Kutcher would star in the upcoming indie pic about the life of Steve Jobs our colleague asked the right question, wondering whether "Mr. Two and a Half Men" will be able to muster the necessary rage and superior scowl that part calls for.
Obviously, central casting was looking for someone who would look good in a black turtleneck but can Kutcher summon up the myriad contradictions that came to define Apple's co-founder. With all due respect, we'd like to offer an alternative acting slate for consideration.
Fuggedaboutit. And if you ever saw Depp in "Donnie Brasco," you'd know why he's our top pick. The guy has acting chops beyond belief. Plus, he can go from sweet to scary in Warp Factor 5. Apologies for mixing movie references here but this is one of the best actors of our generation, someone who would have no difficulty bringing out the nuance and contradiction that a Steve Jobs portrayal would involve.
One word: Batman. Can you find a movie character as screwed up and as terribly conflicted as the Caped Crusader? Yet Christian Bale pulled it off with aplomb, doing justice to a role many thought Michael Keaton had defined. If you want pure nuttiness, there's his role as the quite insane yuppie investment banker in "American Psycho." During the when he was confronted about Android, can't you just see Bale going off: "You blankety-blank mutt, you!" Actually, Joe Pesci comes to mind -- but then he would wind up stabbing Schmidt in the neck with a pen. But it's not just weird brooders. Bale also showed his more vulnerable side in "Laurel Canyon" and "3:10 to Yuma." Strong contender.
Another superstar with amazing range. Did you see Tom Hanks in the "Road to Perdition"? The same actor who was all sweetness and doe-eyed in "Big" turned in a bravura performance as a stone-cold killer who didn't bat an eyelash about leaving a dude with a bullet in his head. That kind of training would come in handy for any actor studying up on the history of Jobs' vendor negotiations.
Yeah, he's on everyone's list these days and if so you want to go commercial, big box office, you go Cruise-ing. But he's more than your average pretty boy. And as the resident superman/super killer Ethan Matthew Hunt in "Mission Impossible," Cruise has already got the charming assassin thang down pat. And if you want evil, look no further than his role as Vincent, the contract killer in "Collateral." At the same time, Cruise showed he could play some driven but yet simultaneously sensitive both in Rain Man and Jerry McGuire. As much as we commonly think of Jobs the famously hard-headed business mogul, he also had a sentimental side and, as we learned from Walter Isaacson's biography, often became emotional to the point of crying.
Noah Wyle already did one turn as Steve Jobs in "Pirates of Silicon Valley." Ditto in a cameo appearance at the 1999 Macworld. No doubt, he resembles the great man and the subsequent years he's had to mature as an actor would be put to good use in reprising the role. But he's already had his turn in the spotlight and isn't it time to see someone with a darker side try on the role?
Each time I watch Stanley Tucci in action, he reminds me again why he's one of the best actors in the English-speaking world. Truth be told, I failed to include him in my original list. But a colleague pointed out Tucci's surprising resemblance to the older Steve Jobs. A lot would depend upon what stage of life the movie chose to focus on. Could Tucci handle the role of the mature Jobs? Piece of cake.
So does it get darker than Jack? Yeah, we know. It ain't gonna happen barring a slurp from the fountain of youth. But imagine Jack Nicholson 30 years and 30 pounds ago as Steve Jobs. Col. Nathan Jessup morphing into the most charismatic technologist of our time? We'd pay top dollar and then some to see that. Alas. This one's just for our fantasy list.