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Despite criticism that Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs is a false portrayal of the late Apple co-founder, the screenwriter maintains, ‘this is a movie you’re writing, not a piece of journalism.’Aaron Vincent Elkaim/The Canadian Press

Aaron Sorkin doesn't care about the truth. Well, that's not an entirely accurate statement – "Aaron Sorkin doesn't care about the exact verbatim version of the truth" would be more fair. But given how the screenwriter/showrunner/lightning rod for controversy often torques history to his own artistic advantage, I'm sure he wouldn't mind the hyperbole.

After adding dramatic, uber-articulate flourishes to the life of Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, Sorkin is once again bending the nature of the biopic with Steve Jobs. The film, which opens across the country on Friday, is not so much a cradle-to-grave saga of the late Apple visionary but a dramatic interpretation of the side effects of genius.

The film is carved into three acts, each of which shows Jobs's confrontations with friends and foes at three crucial product launches (1984's Macintosh, 1988's NeXT and 1998's iMac). Throughout, Jobs (played by a magnificently intimidating Michael Fassbender) berates staff, threatens enemies and alienates his family. This is all done while the antihero rattles off whimsical metaphors and speaks in a captivating rat-a-tat cadence familiar to any fan of Sorkin's A Few Good Men, The West Wing or The Newsroom – and, from most accounts, nothing like the actual Jobs himself.

Naturally, critics and past Jobs associates have come out of the woodwork to decry the film. Business journalist Joe Nocera, who covered Jobs for most of his career, called it a con; Jobs's widow Laurene reportedly tried to stop the project in its early days, even reaching out to potential actors to dissuade them from signing up; and Slate and other websites have made a cottage industry out of Jobs vs. Jobs features. But none of that matters to Sorkin.

"Of course things didn't happen like that – nobody argued with each other for 40 minutes every time a product launch happened. That's a writer's conceit," he says in an interview with The Globe and Mail. "But the content of those confrontations is real."

Indeed, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has said that, while "everything in the movie didn't happen," the film is still a fair portrait of both the company and Jobs. (Wozniak might be slightly biased, though, as he comes across as the film's most likeable character: Seth Rogen plays him as a tech-whiz teddy bear who only wants Jobs to acknowledge the behind-the-scenes team members who helped make Apple what it is today.)

Sorkin, though, says the project was never intended to be a straight biography (despite ostensibly being based on Walter Isaacson's bestseller) – and audiences are smart enough to know the difference.

"I don't think what I did here is new at all. The movie announces itself very early on as not being literal – Michael Fassbender doesn't look anything like Steve Jobs, and he makes no effort to do any physical or vocal impersonation," Sorkin, 54, says. "I don't think anybody is going to leave the theatre saying, 'Can you believe this guy? Every time he wants to do a product launch, he has to deal with the same five people!' It's plainly impressionistic."

For Sorkin, the film is more a painting than a photograph, and part of a long tradition of art that attempts to distill history. He points to All the President's Men as just one example. "Here's a movie in which the details must be as close to the real truth as possible. It's based on the first-hand accounts of two journalists and features the fall of the President, so facts are very important, you don't mess around," Sorkin says. "Still, people don't speak in dialogue. Even if there had been a tape recorder in the Washington Post newsroom, it wouldn't have been useful to you because movies and plays and TV shows require dialogue – that's part of the art form, just like lighting or actors.

"No, I wasn't around for the start of Facebook, but writer Peter Morgan wasn't around for any of the conversations the Queen was having with Tony Blair [in The Queen], and Tony Kushner wasn't around for Lincoln's conversations [in Lincoln]," Sorkin adds. "Even if they were, it wouldn't have mattered – this is a movie you're writing, not a piece of journalism."

So just as The Social Network featured imaginary, hyper-Sorkin-esque banter between Zuckerberg and Napster co-founder Sean Parker that cut to the heart of their toxic relationship, Steve Jobs employs the same method to underline Apple's snake-pit environment. "It's art now," Sorkin says. "There's a certain amount of poetry that's required."

It's a point Rogen echoes. "I don't think facts are any more insightful than a creative interpretation of facts. Facts themselves are incomplete, but a movie can connect the emotional dots, and can express what someone was like in a way that just information alone can't," the Vancouver-born actor says in a separate interview. "I was watching Alex Gibney's doc [on Steve Jobs] and it for sure had a perspective and an agenda like anything else, so I don't think that cold, hard facts are necessarily more insightful than a well thought-out interpretation of those facts."

Still, Sorkin is careful to point out that he never changed any biographical details of Jobs's life, or anyone else's. "It's obviously tricky when you're writing about real people and people who are still alive, or were recently alive. You have an internal compass about these things and you kind of take the Hippocratic Oath and say first do no harm," he says. "But if there's something wrong with your internal compass, then a studio's legal department is happy to help you out, and won't allow you to change the biographical details of someone's life."

Plus, sometimes a screenwriter just has to think different.

Sorkin and Rogen vs. the Internet

For a film focused on one man's quest for technological innovation, Steve Jobs was an ironic target for online hackers.

Last November, hackers – perhaps working for North Korea, perhaps not, depending on which account you believe – made their way into Sony Pictures's servers, and proceeded to spread little nuggets of Hollywood gossip for months. One victim was the still-in-development film Steve Jobs, which the studio was trying to produce with screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. Although major films often weather salary disputes, casting changes and all manner of general tumult, the hack exposed a wealth of behind-the-scenes drama, with Gawker and its network of sites taking particular glee in documenting every little problem.

"I couldn't get over what I saw. I could not believe that the press ran the last leg of the relay for extortionists," Sorkin said in an interview with The Globe, almost a year after the embarrassing leak. "They desperately tried to pretend that there was news value there. To me, that was the worst thing I've ever seen in American journalism."

From casting changes to artistic demands, every matter related to Steve Jobs was out in the open – including one biting line about Sorkin's financial well-being. "At one point an exec suggested I was broke, which I wasn't – he misunderstood something in an e-mail. But to see [these leaks] done in such a dinner-bell aspect.…"

The online attack was supposedly in retaliation for Sony's film The Interview – a Seth Rogen comedy depicting the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. (Although Sony initially buckled under the pressure and held Rogen's film from release, it eventually relented.) In a neat twist of events – or, perhaps more likely, just a reminder of how small a town Hollywood is – Rogen also co-stars in Steve Jobs, which was picked up by Universal Pictures after Sony put it in turnaround.

"I think everyone has moved on in a good way from it. It was hard for a long time to reconcile my feelings on it, but everyone just kept working through it. I think with a career-related crisis like that, nothing clears it better then just working more," Rogen said in a separate interview with The Globe. "We just kept our heads down and plowed forward. But I think that Amy [Pascal] was unfairly targeted."

Indeed, Pascal, then co-chairman of Sony Pictures, was subjected to the most lurid leaks, including one on Gawker Media's Jezebel website that detailed her Amazon orders, taking perverse delight in her beauty regime.

"Like Seth, I'm not going to spend the rest of my life kvetching about it, but boy, that was terrible," Sorkin said. "It was the most misogynistic thing I've ever seen, and it kind of just left me speechless."