"Steve Jobs," the movie that was written by Aaron Sorkin and opened in Palo Alto last week, artfully captures the character of the computer legend, said Jobs' onetime publicist, who is among those portrayed in the movie.
Palo Alto resident Andrea "Andy" Cunningham, who was Jobs' young publicity handler during the 1984 launch of the Macintosh and worked with him off and on through 1987, said that while many of the movie sequences are compressed or fictionalized and some characters are composites, the film accurately portrays the complexity of the man.
Actress Sarah Snook plays Cunningham in the movie.
The movie "captures the range of everything Steve was he could be a very tender, loving, kind person, and he could also be a raging maniac, and everything in between," said Cunningham, now head of the San Francisco marketing communications firm Cunningham Collective.
"I know some people look at the movie and say, 'What a monster how could you work with him?' But, number one, I don't think he's portrayed as a monster in the movie and, second, it was worth it. It was so inspiring, life-altering and stretching of my own abilities to work with him," Cunningham said.
Jobs "took the impossible and asked you to do it, and made it possible because he believed you could do it," she said.
She cited two such instances in the movie: Jobs' insistence, minutes before the January 1984 launch of the Macintosh at Flint Center in Cupertino, that software engineer Andy Hertzfeld make the computer talk even though Hertzfeld said he wouldn't be able to do it; and Jobs' insistence that Cunningham achieve absolute darkness in the auditorium by extinguishing the legally required "exit" lights.
"I actually don't remember whether that really happened," Cunningham said. "The reason it didn't stand out in my memory is because he asked me to do hundreds of things like that."
Cunningham said she was "hired and fired four or five times" by Jobs during the 1980s, when she worked with him during the formation of NeXT and as he acquired an increasing stake in the animation company Pixar. The last time he called to hire her, she said, she had to decline because she was working for a competitor.
"I didn't talk to him again for years," she said.
Working for Jobs, Cunningham said, meant creating for people an emotional connection with the products and ensuring that everything to do with Apple and Jobs were consistently portrayed in a certain way.
"He was very picky about the environment because he wanted to make sure the impression the journalists left with was exactly the right one," she said.
For example, he preferred giving interviews at the Carlyle Hotel in New York because "he respected the authenticity of it real wood, real marble. When you walk into the Carlyle Hotel you feel this classic, authentic thing, and he wanted people to feel that way about the Macintosh also. It would never have done to have the event in a ballroom somewhere."
In Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs," a 2011 biography that Jobs authorized and upon which the "Steve Jobs" movie is based, Cunningham describes Jobs arriving at the Carlyle and insisting that his suite to be completely redone the piano moved, the strawberries replaced even though it was 10 p.m. and meetings were to begin the next day. He particularly did not like the flowers, sending Cunningham on a late-night quest in Manhattan for calla lilies.
"He believed that if you built an environment, you could affect the way people experience things, so everything he did was about the environment as much as about the thing he was trying to do at the time," she said.
Critics of the "Steve Jobs" movie "many emanating from Apple think it portrays Steve as too nasty," Cunningham said. "But all those people working at Apple today didn't work with Steve in the 1980s.
"He grew and matured and learned a lot of stuff in that time," she said. "Because I didn't work with him in the 2000s I cannot say he mellowed, but he did become a CEO, which he never was before. He became a leader, and in addition to being a visionary and a motivator he became a CEO."
But even as part of the youthful Macintosh team in the early 1980s, Cunningham said, "all of us had a feeling -- we definitely knew he was the real deal. He really did change the world we live in, and he was right here in Palo Alto."