Let’s set aside for a second the kinda-sorta opportunistic nature of Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview. That the archival Q&A with Apple’s founder, parts of which were used in the 1996 PBS miniseries Triumph of the Nerds, is being released in its entirety now, just one month after the man’s death, feels a little skeevy. But getting hung up on the why just obscures how intriguing this 70-minute sit-down with Jobs really is—not because it reveals any new facts about his life, but because it offers an unvarnished glimpse at his personality.
One of the necessary evils of documentary storytelling is leaving a ton of research on the editing room floor. Viewers of the finished product get a series of money quotes that serve the story’s narrative arc—i.e. Jobs’s jabs at Microsoft—but they often miss the longer stretches of conversation that give insight into the subject. At one point, late in The Lost Interview, host Robert Cringely asks Jobs how a CEO can know if he’s taking a tech company in the right direction. Jobs pauses for several seconds—keep in mind, this interview was conducted in 1995, 10 years after Jobs had been ousted from his own company and two years before he took it back—before responding, “You know, ultimately it comes down to taste.” Had you just caught that sound bite in the documentary, you would have missed his earlier monologue about the creative—and artistic—spirit he fostered in his employees while developing the Macintosh 10 years earlier. Jobs is, in no uncertain terms, comparing himself to some of the greatest artists of all time.
But my favorite part? When Jobs compares the process of developing the Macintosh to putting unpolished stones into a rock tumbler: The engineers who designed that next-level computer were thrown into a room together, and were forced to smash into each other again and again and again until they came out with something beautiful. What Jobs never says—but you can see it in his ideas—is that he delighted in being the metaphorical tumbler. Did you get that from Walter Isaacson’s biography?
Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview screens November 16 & 17 at 7:15 & 9 at Landmark’s Metro Cinemas.