December ‘15
Insight Interview

December ‘15
Steve In Cinemas
Steve In Cinemas


Could you tell us about Joanna Hoffman, the character you play?

Im glad you describe her as a character. I play Joanna Hoffman who does really exist. She is a real woman, but she is very much the character of Joanna Hoffman in the film because Aaron Sorkin fiddles with the truth a little bit and he extends the period of time for which she worked with Steve Jobs. In the film she is very much his work wife and his confidante. She is a Polish/ Armenian woman who moved to America as a teenager. Shes a trained archaeologist and found herself working at Apple, and Steve made her head of marketing for Macintosh. She stayed in his working life throughout the time that this film covers, which is fourteen years. She was very strong and also had a warmth to her, so she also brings out a side of Steve Jobs that people assumed didnt exist and didnt get to see. I felt my responsibility as the person playing this role was that the audience needs to be able to access that warm and more humane side of Steve Jobs that we get to see in flashes throughout the story. Joanna really did challenge him on things that she believed he wasnt doing correctly or when he was behaving badly. She would absolutely pull him to one side. She was his moral compass and very much his wingman.

How do you think history will look at these people in fifty years time?

Danny Boyle directed this film and he had such incredible vision and all of us actors felt very included as it was a very collaborative effort but he really had the ability to create that feeling that these were techy rock stars. They had the ability to make audiences scream and wail and do the Mexican wave. That was all Danny; he created that sense of intensity and that sense of excitement. I think in fifty years time someone like Steve Jobs will still be heralded, probably even more so now with what they are doing with Apple - end-to-end control - thats all Steve and his vision; thats his concept and thats his genius.

Joanna Hoffman seems like a workaholic, and I think at one point she quit to spend more time with her family. How could you personally relate to that aspect in life?

I think it would be fair to say that the character of Joanna Hoffman is very different to the real Joanna and the choices she has made. The character in the film does feel like a workaholic. In terms of being a workaholic, thats not for me. I like to think that I have this way of working which is to just do one thing a year which often can take four- sometimes five months of my life. In the last couple of years, I seem to have found myself doing a heck of a lot more. I dont know why, but my life has revealed itself to be in such a place right now that makes it possible for me to do that and logistically work with my family. However, I couldnt work as much as those guys do. I couldnt even work as much as Michael Fassbender does (laughs). Im amazed the guy is still standing and smiling!

You did meet Joanna Hoffman, so how did that help in preparing to play this version of her?

Naturally, I wanted to meet Joanna and I was lucky enough to get to spend a lot of time with her. When she and I talked about Joanna Hoffman, the character, she never referred to her as When you are playing me We always talked about the character in the third person because whilst I very much tried to capture the essence of Joanna, nail her dialect and infuse the relationship between Joanna and Steve with everything that Joanna shared with me, this is an interpretation of her and is also, I feel, a composite of several different women who were a part of Steves working life who were all quite strong. She is extremely warm and very generous and strong, but that doesnt come hand-in-hand with being tough and that was one thing that I really wanted to make sure I did with my version of the Joanna Hoffman role.

Can you remember your first computer?

I still dont have one. I have an iPad. Does that count? I was given an iPad as a gift by the producers on Mildred Pierce, a film I did for HBO and that was back in 2011. Ive only had an iPhone for the last two years. I had a Blackberry before that and a good old bog standard mobile phone before that, so I do remember getting my first mobile phone and it was the size of a brick (laughs). It was yellow and black and I was very proud of it actually, and I got that when I was twenty.

Can we talk about working with Michael Fassbender?

You know one of the reasons I wanted to be part of this film and why I threw my hat into the ring at a time when the part remained uncast was because of Michael.Hes an actor I really respect the choices hes made and the risks he takes. I felt that he and I, in a way, have a similar attitude towards acting, which is if you dont take risks and you dont challenge yourself, whats the point? Working with Michael and playing these characters together was really hard. It was really hard for both of us, but particularly him because hes on every single page of a 185 page script. I genuinely had this feeling, and I think Im like this anyway as an actress, but the two worlds kind of merged a little bit me the actress and Joanna Hoffman the character and the role that she played in Steves life. She really was his wingman, and I wanted to make myself that for Michael. I have to be honest with you; he didnt really need it. He was very self-sufficient and Ive never seen an actor behave in such a professional manner. I really have not. He was so prepared and he set the bar so high for all of us as actors. He was 100 percent on point, lines learnt, ready to go. And we all had to follow suit. It was really the only way to do it, to be honest.

What gave you more inspiration, Aaron Sorkins screenplay or Walter Isaacsons biography?

In terms of backstory and facts because Walter Isaacson was a journalist I did get a lot of actual information from the book. Im really pleased that I read it. There is not much about Joanna in the book, which was a huge disappointment to me, but the little that there was reflected Joanna. It was just wonderful to see how Aaron did put this story together and the choices that he made and the sides of Steve Jobs that I think are revealed to us as the audience. I think there is no way we would have had access to those things before, regardless of whether they are invested or not. They feel extremely real and impactful and so much of that has to do with Michaels brilliant performance. He is amazing. I was there, I know.

But could you live without work?

I could actually but not for too long. Could I give it up completely? No. I couldnt because I really love it. I really do love acting and, as I get older, I find myself loving it more and more. The other thing too is that ive just turned forty and truly in this last year, I am so struck by just how long I have been doing this. I suddenly feel like one of those people who has been around for a long time and I have. It is twenty three years since Heavenly Creatures was made. Thats really a very long career; thats over half of my life and Im really proud of that and Im still doing it. Im still in the game, as it were, and thats fantastic. I dont think Ive particularly changed that much as a person. Certainly, hopefully, Ive changed a lot as an actor and Im continuing to learn new things and thats what its all about. The great thing about acting is that every role brings new challenges and new mysteries as well. Ill walk on to set and think I dont know what is going to happen today. Its so exciting. Its like going on holiday. I really love it. Getting up in the morning even if its 3am, which some of our calls were on this film I still feel great. You are walking out into a quiet, dark street to go and shoot in the Opera House in San Francisco and its amazing.

What did you know about Steve Jobs, the man, before you did the movie and changed your opinion of him?

I honestly didnt know very much about Steve Jobs. I knew who he was. I knew what he was responsible for creating, and I knew that he had died of cancer. Tragically, those are the things that I knew. I didnt know anything about his relationship with his daughter, Lisa; I didnt know anything about Chrissann [Brennan]. I certainly knew nothing about Joanna Hoffman, Andrea Cunningham, and Andy Hertzfeld. I didnt know who any of those guys were. My impression of Steve Jobs was: Wasnt he really mean and difficult to work for and didnt he make people cry? When I met Joanna, in a way, I was so relieved I didnt know much about him because the Steve I learnt about through her was a very different Steve. My impressions of Steve changed for sure. One thing that I certainly feel is that I really do think the film gives us the impression that he absolutely was a brilliant man and also that he was a collaborator. As much as he would badger people to get things right, hes not hitting people; hes not a bully in that regard. He wanted the best out of people who were working for him, and he wanted the best out of people who were responsible for bringing his ideas to fruition. He also wanted to know that those people were in those jobs that they had been given for a very good reason, so he would quiz people. Joanna told me this story about when he was in a working environment he would ask, Who are you? What do you do? Tell me what that is? Explain this to me. He was just very thorough. I think the guy was amazing, I really do. I also do know that there were other sides to him because Ive had that explained to me by people who worked closely with him.