SAN FRANCISCO - Ashton Kutcher and Josh Gad took the stage to kick off Macworld/iWorld Thursday talking about playing Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in the soon-to-be-released biopic jOBS. The two actors spoke passionately about capturing the essence of the two Steves, rather than the word-for-word history.
"Playing this character changed my life," Mr. Kutcher said. "Steve Jobs to me is an iconic hero. If this story is going to get told, I want it to get told in a way that honors my hero."
Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs
The keynote was more of a talk than a true keynote in the traditional sense, and the two actors answered questions from host Paul Kent, the head of Macworld/iWorld.
"I had an Apple IIgs when I was young," Mr. Kutcher said when asked about his first Apple device, an answer that was greeted with applause by the audience of Apple fans. He said that his dad brought the wicked fast IIgs home when he was very young, that the family was very excited, and that he mostly played Number Munchers on it.
Josh Gad, on the other hand, had a much later exposure to Apple products. He talked about his knowledge of Apple products starting with the iPod and eventually the iPhone.
"I was as computer illiterate as Steve Wozniak was computer literate," he said, a line greeted with laughter from the audience. That didn't stop him from taking a programming class, however, as he sought to learn more about what made Steve Wozniak tick.
He also heaped praise on Ashton Kutcher's technical acumen. Mr. Kutcher immersed himself in studying the life of Steve Jobs and understanding who he was within the context of each period in time the film covers.
Mr. Gad spoke about working on a scene filmed in the original Jobs family garage. He said that he was very impressed when Mr. Kutcher look around the garage and spot something that was inaccurate.
"No this wouldn't have been created for another year," Mr. Kutcher said. "Get rid of it."
The attention to detail given to the technology in the film was different from the way the two actors approached their characters. Mr. Kutcher immersed himself in recordings of Steve Jobs for months, and said that he got to the point where he started quoting Steve Jobs to the people around him.
He said when you go around quoting Steve Jobs all the time, people start thinking you're brilliant. The line got a big laugh from the audience, causing Mr. Kutcher to emphasize, "Now you do. If you want people to think you're brilliant, just quote Steve Jobs."
Mr. Gad, on the other hand, wasn't interested in doing an impression of Steve Wozniak, and both actors readily acknowledged that they weren't there for the conversations that took place between the two Steves and those around them. They said they were worried less about word-for-word accuracy than they were about being true to the essence of each character.
"Nobody knows exactly how [Abraham] Lincoln walked," Mr. Kutcher pointed out. Playing someone like Steve Jobs, who died only 16 months ago, was "scary," especially considering how beloved both Steves are.
"If anything," Mr. Kutcher said, "we wanted to capture what it was like to be there at that time."
Paul Kent asked both actors about how playing these roles had changed them. Ashton Kutcher said he learned three things.
"The first quality is focus," he said. Steve Jobs was famous for his focus, a quality that received even more attention after the release of Walter Isaacson's biography, Steve Jobs.
He said that he was struck by a Steve Jobs quote he heard from one of the partners at Path, a company Ashton Kutcher's VC firm—A-Grade Investments— has invested in. That quote: "There's no virtue in saying no to the things it's easy to say no to."
His take away from that is that it's okay to say to no to things that you want to do if its in service to bigger vision.
"The second thing is a passion for the consumer," he said. Mr. Kutcher said that Steve Jobs's passion for making products that would enhance people's lives informs the way he approaches his VC work.
He said, "The third thing—and really this is the message of the film—Steve believed it was possible to do things that were impossible. He was saying, 'Don't settle for what life gives you.'"
The last question of the session was, "If Steve had walked into your office [in the mid-1970s], barefoot maybe smelling less than perfect, would you have written him a check?"
Mr. Kutcher took a long time to answer, tilting his head back and forth while he considered the question. His long pause caused Josh Gad to quip, "We're at Macworld, say 'yes.'" That line also got a big laugh.
Still Mr. Kutcher considered, and after more thinking he said, "I would hope that I would have invested. I hope I would have been smart enough, wise enough to invest [in Apple]."
It was a testament to his admiration for both Steve Jobs and Apple that he didn't take the easy answer to that question and simply answer, "Oh, of course I would have."