The three-act film was shot in sequence. The actors spent four weeks on each act, rehearsing for two weeks and then filming for two weeks. Kate Winslet said that by act three, Michael Fassbender didn't even have his script at the rehearsals, as he had memorized all one hundred eighty pages.
Michael Fassbender said in an interview that Christian Bale, who exited the project in November 2014, would have been perfect to play Steve Jobs. "I thought to myself: Christian Bale is perfect, why isn't he doing it?" Fassbender told The Hollywood Reporter while promoting the film in London. "I actually called him up and told him that myself."
Seth Rogen met with Steve Wozniak extensively to understand him. Rogen also researched Wozniak's keynotes and speeches online. Rogen cited watching an old eighties video on repeat, featuring Wozniak giving a tour of the Apple museum at their headquarters, as part of his research. Rogen later admitted that he had no idea who Steve Wozniak was prior to working on this movie.
Kate Winslet found out about the movie from her make-up artist while working on The Dressmaker (2015). The make-up artist just got hired for this movie, and told Winslet. Winslet said that she was intrigued by a movie written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Danny Boyle, and starring Michael Fassbender, that she asked for more details about the female part. She later sent a picture of herself with a black wig, and then she got the script, and met with Boyle, which resulted in winning the part.
David Fincher was originally attached to direct. Sony dropped him after he demanded a $10 million salary and full creative control of the project. Fincher wanted Christian Bale to play the lead role. After his departure, Danny Boyle signed on to direct, and Leonardo DiCaprio was approached about the title role. DiCaprio passed on the project, and it was offered to Christian Bale instead. Bale also declined, feeling he was not right for the part.
According to the Isaacson biography, Jobs was invited to give the 2005 Stanford commencement address. He asked Sorkin help him with the speech, but didn't hear anything further, so Jobs wrote it himself. It began "today, I want to tell you three stories from my life...."
Aaron Sorkin revealed before the film's official release that it would consist of three 30-minute scenes spread across 16 years of Steve Jobs life of. All of the scenes would dramatize backstage events before three major product launches (the Macintosh in 1984, NeXT in 1988, and the iMac in 1998). The scenes would take place in real time at "two auditoriums, a restaurant, and a garage," with a few flashbacks depicting key moments of Jobs' life inserted throughout the story.
During the first act of the film, when Jobs and Woz are arguing in the courtyard about the two versus eight ports on their way to the launch of the Mac, Aaron Sorkin makes a cameo as the taller of the two gentlemen walking by in the background.
Leonardo DiCaprio was originally set to play the lead role, but dropped out to do The Revenant (2015). Michael Fassbender was cast when Christian Bale also passed on the project. All three actors were nominated at the 2016 Academy Awards: DiCaprio for Best Actor in The Revenant (2015), Fassbender for Best Actor in this movie, and Bale for Best Supporting Actor in The Big Short (2015). DiCaprio ended up winning an Academy Award.
During the montage depicting the failure of Apple's Newton PDA, one of the clips shown is from the animated TV series The Simpsons. This is a more multileveled reference to the life of Steve Jobs than it might appear at first: Jobs, who was adopted as an infant, discovered well into his adulthood that he had a full biological sister, the novelist Mona Simpson (author of novels including Anywhere but Here, Off Keck Road, and A Regular Guy--which is about a Jobs-like billionaire technology mogul). Mona Simpson was married for many years to Richard Appel, who was a writer for The Simpsons during the mid-1990s. One of Appel's lasting contributions to that show was that he was the writer who named the character of Homer Simpson's mother; since Appel was married to a woman whose last name was, coincidentally, Simpson, he named Homer's mother "Mona Simpson," after Steve Jobs's sister.
The film was set to hold a Paris premiere on November 16, 2015, at the UGC Ciné Cité Les Halles cinema in the presence of Danny Boyle. Following the November 13 terror attacks on the French capital, the premiere was maintained, but took place in Boyle's absence.
During the 1984 sequence of the film, Jobs and Sculley watch the Macintosh Super Bowl commercial from backstage. The commercial was directed by Ridley Scott, who went on to direct Michael Fassbender in Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017), as well as Jeff Daniels in The Martian (2015).
First film by Danny Boyle not to be DP'd by Anthony Dod Mantle since Sunshine (2007). Though this is due to the influence of 20th Centuary Fox, who hired majority of the behind the scenes staff (including Boyle) years before production began. Boyle and Mantle would later immediately reunite 6 months later with T2 Trainspotting (2017).
Given the real-time "play in three acts" structure of Aaron Sorkin's screenplay, there was very little in the way of 'deleted scenes', though some extended exchanges and dialogue in the final shooting script, did not make the finished film. These include: - Steve Jobs explaining to Chrisann that he only took the blood test regarding paternity, because the Apple board asked him to, and the two of them continuing to argue over whether the test proved he was Lisa's father. - An exchange between Chrisann and Joanna Hoffman over why she "chooses to work for an asshole". - Extra lines during Jobs' and Wozniak's walking scene outside the Mac launch, where Jobs says that when Woz is asking for an acknowledgment of the Apple II team, he's really talking about himself. - Jobs meets with the journalist from GQ Magazine before the Mac launch and defends against the suggestion that Apple may have 'stolen' technology from Xerox PARC. - Extended dialogue between Jobs and John Sculley before the 1984 Mac launch, where Jobs suggest even more verses from the Bob Dylan song he might use, and the two of them discussing the true meaning of the song. - Steve Jobs rehearsing part of his speech at the NeXT launch (1988), before interrupting to ask the stage manager about the spotlight. - Jobs going on an extended monologue regarding the circus, and how he would like to modernize it (follows from his saying to the stage manager, "I'm not a fan of the circus aesthetic", which did make the final cut). - Jobs walks back on stage in 1988 to continue rehearsing, while Wozniak watches. He demonstrates the NeXT Thesaurus, and then Steve notices Lisa is with Woz as well. Lisa and Woz discuss why the angles on the NeXT have to be exactly ninety degrees, as Steve walks Lisa back to the dressing room. - A flashback scene to 1985, taking place at Chrisann's house, where she complains to Steve about Lisa only wanting to do her homework, and see her father. Andy Hertzfeld then arrives to tell Steve about Sculley's emergency board meeting. In the script, this was the first time Lisa asked Steve if she could come live with him (in the finished film, she says it right before leaving the NeXT launch in 1988). - At end of Jobs and Wozniak's final argument in 1998, they both had some additional lines regarding The Beatles (as a follow up on Woz's comment about being seen as Ringo, when in truth, he was John). - The flashbacks to the restaurant meeting with Jobs and John Sculley were much longer, with an extended monologue from Jobs on the history of the computer industry, and the desire for Apple to take on and defeat IBM. This dialogue was lifted almost verbatim from the real Steve Jobs speech at the 1984 Macintosh launch. - After Lisa insults the iMac in 1998 and walks off, Jobs pauses and says, "There's no way in the world that's not my kid." In the final scene between Jobs and Lisa in the parking lot, Steve insists on waiting, while Lisa goes through her backpack, and finds an essay she had written, and then gives it to him.
In one scene, John Sculley (Jeff Daniels) offers Steve Jobs a bottle of Château Margaux, a premier cru Bordeaux wine. In Arachnophobia (1990) Daniels played a doctor with a case of Château Margaux, of which he was extremely protective.
Sony Pictures Entertainment and Columbia Pictures decided to put the project in turnaround, essentially dropping out of the production and distribution obligations, leaving it available for any other studio to pick up. Universal Pictures, in the process, picked up the project, which isn't the first time that Universal has picked up a project put into turnaround by another studio, and the truth is that they are just coming off a very successful version of this maneuver. Dumb and Dumber To (2014) was originally set up at Warner Brothers, before being dropped, and Universal swooped in to make sure that the film got made. This paid off big, as the comedy opened to a solid thirty-six million dollars in its first three days. Picking up discarded projects hasn't always worked for the studio. Case in point: Kick-Ass 2 (2013), but there exists plenty of potential in the Steve Jobs biopic, and Universal seems to see it.
It is mentioned that Steve Jobs' daughter was accepted into a school for gifted children, to which he quips that, "She was tested. Turns out she can fly." In the X-Men franchise, mutant children attend the Xavier School for Gifted Children, as a cover for their superpowers. Michael Fassbender, who plays Jobs, also plays Erik Lensherr, a.k.a. Magneto in the X-Men film franchise.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Several memorable scenes in the movie never happened in real-life. Some of these are the scene where Jobs' little daughter uses his computer to draw a picture, the reconciliation between John Sculley and Jobs, most of the arguments with Steve Wozniak, and the final scene between Jobs and his now-grown up daughter. On the other hand, the infamous scene where it's implied that Jobs splashes his feet in the toilet bowl to calm himself down, did actually happen. This was one of Jobs' infamous quirks, and Michael Fassbender himself asked to do it in the movie, since it wasn't in Sorkin's script.
When the film premiered at Telluride, the version screened was a few minutes longer than the theatrical cut. One of the moments cut from the festival version, was when Steve and Joanna are talking about glitches. As they talked, the screen in the movie glitched. It was done two times back-to-back to confirm it was intentional, and not a mistake. This meta moment was a quick display of Danny Boyle's style, but was omitted from the theatrical release without explanation.
During the reconciliation scene between Jobs and Sculley, Jobs explains why he decided to kill the Apple Newton, a failed PDA device. "I killed the Newton because of the stylus. If you're holding a stylus you can't use the other five that are attached to your wrists." This is a reference to the speech the real Steve Jobs gave, when introducing the original iPhone in 2007 where he quipped "Nobody wants a stylus. We're going to use a pointing device that we're all born with."
Throughout the film, two running motifs are that Steve Jobs (Michael Fassbender) always has to be right and always needs to have the last word in an argument. It is fitting, however, that the final line of the movie is "Woz", in a flashback where Jobs concedes design decisions to his original partner, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen). Woz, in essence, gets the last word.
At the very end of Act 1, the PA announcer says, "Ladies and gentlemen, the CEO of Apple, John Sculley." At the end of Act 2, the announcer says, "Ladies and gentlemen..." then gets cut off. Only at the end of Act 3 - the dramatic conclusion - does the announcer finally say, "Ladies and gentlemen...Steve Jobs."