Kutcher on being 'terrified' by portraying Steve Jobs

CNBC

The opportunity to portray Steve Jobs in the upcoming biopic about the late tech billionaire's life was both exciting and terrifying, actor Ashton Kutcher told CNBC on Tuesday, because the Apple (AAPL) co-founder was not only a prolific innovator, but a sometimes flawed and complicated person.

"It terrified me, and I've usually found that the greatest rewards in my life come from taking on things that are a little bit scary," Kutcher said of portraying Jobs.

Kutcher explained that Jobs was a psychologically complicated person about whom people already have a preconceived notion as "the guy wearing the blue jeans and the turtleneck." Playing Jobs, Kutcher said, means facing the challenge of making an audience understand that he had not always been that man. "I wanted to honor him," said Kutcher.

Appearing on CNBC's "Closing Bell," Kutcher told host Maria Bartiromo that he hopes the humanity of Jobs serves as a source of inspiration for out-of-work college graduates or others looking to gain employment, though. (Read more below the video.)

"This film is about is the notion that life isn't just something that you live in, it's something that you build," Kutcher said. "For these kids that are coming out of college and looking for work, you know, it could just be that they may have a friend and they may have an idea and they may have a garage and they can build the most powerful company in the world."

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Kutcher spent three months studying the starring role in Jobs, which follows the dramatic business and personal stories behind the making of the late tech innovator. Kutcher said he spent a lot of time reading about Jobs' life. He watched video of Jobs' presentations at Apple and found a large cache of audio files, which he listened to night and day.

"I just compiled them and listened to them while I was sleeping and driving in my car 24 hours a day, just trying to understand l--like, the themes of his ethos and the themes of his persona," Kutcher said.

In preparing for the role, Kutcher learned just how complex Jobs' character really was.

"He was complicated insomuch as he was a very aggressive leader and he had a brutal, blunt honesty that a lot of people, I think, are afraid to have," Kutcher said. "And I think it was his strength, but it was always, at some points, also his fault."

One interesting thing Kutcher learned about Jobs was that the former Apple CEO didn't necessarily see the shareholder as the priority.

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"He cared so much about creating a beautiful, brilliant, innovative, wonderful, exciting product, an experience, and he made it magical and powerful and he also understood the power of vertically integrating his hardware," Kutcher said. "In turn, the stockholders benefited, but I don't think it was ever his goal to please the stockholders. The stockholders were a result, they were an effect of, and the cause was is he cared about the consumer and cared about the consumer experience."

Directed by Joshua Michael Stern, the movie will be released August 16 in the United States.


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