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'Lost interview' with Steve Jobs to be shown on big screen

Missing footage from a conversation with Apple's co-founder for a public TV miniseries is the basis for a new documentary that will be screened in Landmark Theatres.

November 05, 2011|By Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times
  • Missing footage from an interview with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs about 15 years ago for a PBS miniseries has resurfaced and is the basis of a new documentary that will be shown in Landmark Theatres.
Missing footage from an interview with Apple co-founder Steve Jobs about… (PBS )

Steve Jobs is coming to a theater near you.

Missing footage from an interview Apple co-founder Steve Jobs gave about 15 years ago for a public TV miniseries has resurfaced and is the basis for a new documentary that will be shown in Landmark Theatres around the country Nov. 16 and 17.

Curiosity about the compelling and enigmatic man behind the Apple computer, iPod, iPhone and iPad has skyrocketed since his death from cancer a month ago. A new biography of Jobs by Walter Isaacson is on top of the bestseller list, and a "60 Minutes" show featuring a lengthy segment on the book drew almost 13 million viewers for CBS.

The movie, "Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview," is from a conversation Jobs conducted with Robert Cringely for the 1996 miniseries "Triumph of the Nerds: The Rise of Accidental Empires." The show, about the origins of the personal computer industry and the emergence of Silicon Valley as a technology hub, ran on PBS in the United States and Channel 4 in Britain.

Although Jobs gave a 70-minute interview to Cringely, the finished product contained only 10 minutes of it. When Cringely was making the sequel, "Nerds 2.0.1: A Brief History of the Internet," he went looking for the rest of the Jobs interview, but the footage had vanished.

"We lost all the raw footage completely," Cringely said in an interview.

Unbeknown to Cringely, Paul Sen, director of "Triumph of the Nerds," had dubbed a VHS copy of the Jobs interview and chucked it in the back of his garage in a London suburb, where it sat collecting dust for years.

After Jobs died, Sen went looking for the interview. He told Cringely of his find and suggested that perhaps Cringely could put it on his technology blog I Cringely as a "gift to the world."

"He didn't see any commercial value in it," Cringely said. "I have three kids I have to put through college, so I thought maybe we could sell it."

Cringely sent Landmark Theatres co-owner Mark Cuban an email late one night, less than three weeks ago, to see whether there would be any interest in screening it on Landmark screens. Less than five minutes later, Cuban fired back that he was game.

The "Interview," which was in between Jobs' stints at Apple, captures all sides of the complex visionary. Jobs rips into Apple and rival Microsoft and goes into great detail about how betrayed he felt when he was fired from a company he helped found.

"He was great that day," Cringely said, adding that Jobs' emotions are on display. "He was a cranky guy. I think we see that."

There are also lighter moments, including one in which Jobs tells of a prank call he and a friend made to the Vatican, pretending to be Henry Kissinger and asking to speak with the pope.

The question is whether there is enough interest in Jobs to get people to a movie theater to sit through an interview.

"We are all taking a risk here. Maybe no one will come," Cringely said.

It's not an expensive risk, though. The cost to give theatrical quality to a dubbed interview on VHS was only $6,000. Cringely's math tells him he needs only 1,501 people to see the movie to turn a profit and notes that he has a "large extended family."

Besides Los Angeles and New York, "Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview" will be screened in Landmark Theatres in 17 cities around the country, including the Silicon Valley, where the movie will play for a week in Palo Alto.

joe.flint@latimes.com

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