The Sony hack is the gift that keeps on giving. First it was a laundry list of reasons why making Adam Sandler movies was slowly crushing people’s souls, and now it’s a series of email exchanges between Sony co-chief Amy Pascal, producer Scott Rudin, Aaron Sorkin, and some agents that’s providing a window into the breakdown of a major production deal. I wondered what caused Rudin’s previously-productive relationship with Sony to go south, and now I know: Money, ego, and Michael Fassbender.
The casting of Jobs, the Aaron Sorkin-penned biopic of Steve Jobs, has been f*cked for a while. First Sorkin confirmed Christian Bale was in, then Christian Bale was out, then it was Michael Fassbender, and at last reporting, Natalie Portman was being tapped to play the female lead. But yesterday two things happened: 1) Portman reportedly dropped out of the project, and 2) another wave of Sony emails leaked, this time revealing the mad scramble to put Jobs together at Sony. Among those electrical communiques was an email from Maha Dakhil, an agent at CAA who reps Portman, announcing that “Natalie Portman should be Joanna Hoffman in Jobs!” So Portman was less tapped for the role and more lobbying for it. Undoubtedly the exposure of these emails is why she “dropped out”.
To be fair, lobbying is par for the course for this project. The emails reveal that after Bale passed, Sorkin was pushing hard for Tom Cruise, and Pascal was into it. Robert Newman, a top agent at WME, begged Leonardo DiCaprio to consider doing it but he passed. Meanwhile, director Danny Boyle wanted Michael Fassbender (which is where, as of this writing, the project still sits). Michael De Luca, President of Production at Columbia, wrote, “Shame just makes you feel bad to have normal sized male genitalia”. Sorkin was more scathing: “I don’t know who Michael Fassbender is and the rest of the world isn’t going to care.”
While Sorkin eventually came around to Fassbender (“if the movie’s good, he’ll be on the cover of everything and get nominated for everything”), I wonder what this does to their working relationship moving forward. There’s so much embarrassment contained in these emails. Agents lobbying for actors—prominent actors who don’t want you to think they still have to work for roles—to producers blatantly advocating for anyone other than the guy who ultimately got the job, to just the utter confusion and virulent disagreement about direction for the project. Tom Cruise is a considerably different type of actor than Bale, who is vastly different from DiCaprio, who is a world away from Fassbender. There’s no consensus about what kind of actor they need for this role, except that he be a big name.
I think Cruise would have been very interesting. Sorkin names Magnolia as an example of Cruise’s ability to play Jobs, and I can totally see that, much more clearly than I can see Smiley McSharkattack in the role. But it’s moot as the project has relocated to Universal and Boyle/Fassbender are still attached. It will certainly be interesting to see who sticks around now that this whole mess is out in the open.