In the opening scene of Jobs -- the biopic of the Apple co-founder, billionaire tech entrepreneur and guy who had the dream of making it possible for people to walk down the street with their heads down and thumbs pressed on a tiny video keypad so they don't pay attention to where they're going – Ashon Kutcher takes the stage at an Apple town hall staff meeting.
It is 2001, and he is about to unveil something "insanely cool:" the iPod. Kutcher, a spring in his step, a stoop in his back, bearded and bespectacled, looks and sounds eerily like Steven Jobs, who was 46 back then – and who died a decade later.
In Jobs, in theaters now, Kutcher, 35, plays Jobs from the early 1970s up to that "1,000 songs in your pocket" New Millennial moment. It's the kind of performance that, if it doesn't work, it sinks the entire film – you have to believe that you are watching Jobs, or else, what's the point?
"Ashton was scared," says Jobs director Joshua Michael Stern. "He was really scared to death about it. I think it was that fear that told him he needed to do it. He felt that unless you're frightened, it's not worth doing."
Stern, who directed the 2008 Kevin Costner election year parable, Swing Vote, says that Kutcher was already "channeling" the Apple brainiac at their first meeting.
"You never know when you walk into a meeting with an actor," Stern reflects. "But he was so committed from the start. He had already studied a lot of his mannerisms, and seen hours and hours of Steve Jobs footage from when he was young through to the older Steve. He had done his homework.
"And not only that, but I realized that this was an important role for him. It was a role that meant something to get it right."