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Casting about for actor to play Jobs

We're wondering if Noah Wyle is in the running to star in a possible Sony Pictures biopic on the late, great Steve Jobs. As Fortune magazine recalls, it wouldn't be the first time Wyle donned the mock turtleneck.

Noah Wyle starred as Steve Jobs (left) and Anthony Michael Hall as Bill Gates in the 1999 film "Pirates of Silicon Valley." Turner Network Television, via IMDB.com

Who would you pick to play Steve Jobs in a feature-length fimic biography of the tech titan?

You can bet that question is being pondered mightily by producer Mark Gordon and his production entity MG360, who, along with Sony Pictures, may eventually bring such a biopic to the screen. (And you can bet an actor or three is howling at his agent to "Get me that part!")

We're wondering if Noah Wyle is possibly in the running. As you may recall, the "E.R." star played Jobs in the 1999 made-for-TV flick "Pirates of Silicon Valley," opposite Anthony Michael Hall's Bill Gates.

And Wyle's performance in "Pirates" received a very special thumbs up.

Thanks to Fortune magazine--which has unearthed a transcript of a 2009 interview between Wyle and Fortune contributor David A. Kaplan--we get the story direct from the actor himself:

"We were under a very strict directive not to contact the people we were playing [in "Pirates"] for fear that they would find something libelous in the script and shut the production down. So I didn't. The day after the movie aired, I was sitting in my living room and my phone with what I thought was my unlisted phone number rang.

'Noah?' said the voice.

'Yes,' I said.

'This is Steve Jobs.'

My heart started beating through my shirt. And he said--and I've memorized this--'I'm just calling to tell you I thought you did a good job. I hated the movie, I hated the script, I think if you had spent a little more time and a little more money and maybe a little more attention to detail, you could have had something there. But you were good.'

And all I could say was, 'Thank you. Sir.'"

The Apple maestro and Mac mastermind was so tickled, in fact, that he himself cast Wyle to play the role of Jobs at that year's Macworld confab in New York (see embedded video below). In the Fortune transcript, Wyle goes on to recall his meeting with Jobs prior to the show and his dinner with Jobs and a clutch of product designers afterward.

During the meal, Jobs had voiced an off-the-cuff idea for a kind of cinematic take on the standard kid's-portrait-on-parent's-desk: a digital picture frame of sorts that would display looped footage of the child. With the current, post-passing comparisons of Jobs to certain historic wizards of technology, Wyle's response is particularly interesting:

Jobs "took his napkin and started sketching out the schematics and he passed the napkin around the table. They all approved the design--nobody touched it, there were no changes or suggestions. The check soon came and we started to get up to leave--and the napkin just sat there on the table. I thought to myself, 'I got to take that napkin' and my hand was on it, but Steve called from the door and asked, 'Noah, you want to share a cab with me?' So I put the napkin down. I could have had an Edison original.

Indeed. And at this point he might have been able to sell the "Edison original" to Richard Branson, say, and never have to worry about howling at an agent for a part ever again.

Of course, it remains to be seen what, if any, sort of biopic emerges about Jobs, let alone who will play the man himself (please do offer up your own suggestions in the Comments section below).

But, even apart from Jobs' approval of the "Pirates" performance, we like the idea of casting Wyle. It offers up mind-boggling meta possibilities. The film itself could include a sequence about the Macworld keynote we've just referenced. In that case, with the help of today's special effects, Wyle would get the chance to play Wyle playing Jobs opposite Jobs (as played by Wyle) coaching Wyle (as played by Wyle) in how to play Jobs. That would truly be something to see.

Then again, maybe the superhuman CEO won't be played by a human actor at all. Perhaps some combination of Buzz Lightyear and Woody will do the honors. As CNET reader img64 commented on our earlier story about the Sony Pictures deal-in-the-making: "We need a Pixar movie about [Jobs], it's only appropriate."


In the meantime, here's the Macworld footage, along with the trailer for "Pirates":