Sunday, October 23, 2011

The phone call Aaron Sorkin never returned

« “Why don’t you come on up here and let me give you a tour of the place.”

I’d never met Steve Jobs but we’d begun a phone friendship. It began when I was quoted somewhere answering the question “Mac or PC?” and I said, “Everything I’ve ever written, I’ve written on a Mac.” He called me to say he appreciated the quote and said if there was ever anything he could do for me I should give him a ring. Then he would "call me from time to time to compliment me on an episode of television or a movie I’d written that he’d particularly liked.

When someone’s making a courtesy call I like not to make them stay on the phone very long. So I never got a chance to tell Steve that he was making truly great American products that people wanted to buy. I never got to tell him about the experience of “opening the box” that so many of us are talking about this week. Or about how my young daughter can’t walk past an Apple store without going in. I never told him how I loved his sense of showmanship.

There’s a huge difference between a showman and huckster. A showman’s got the goods.

The second-to-last call I got from Steve came the day a television series of mine was canceled. “I just want to make sure you’re not discouraged,” he said. Why would an almost stranger take even 60 seconds out of his day to make that call? It had to have been because he was an awfully nice man. And that he knew what it felt like to blow it on a big stage.

But it’s his last call I’ll always remember. He wanted me to write a Pixar movie. I told him I loved Pixar movies, I’d seen all of them at least twice and felt they were small miracles, but that I didn’t think I’d be good at it.

STEVE: Why not?

ME: I just—I don’t think I can make inanimate objects talk.

STEVE: Once you make them talk they won’t be inanimate.

ME: The truth is I don’t know how to tell those stories. I have a young kid who loves Pixar movies and she’ll turn cartwheels if I tell her I’m writing one and I don’t want to disappoint her by writing the only bad movie in the history of Pixar.

(long silence)

STEVE: Jeez ... write about THAT.

ME: Steve—

STEVE: Why don’t you come up here and let me give you a tour of the place.

I told him I’d take him up on it and I never did. But I still keep thinking about that Pixar movie. And for me, that’s Steve’s legacy. That, and the fact that I wrote this on a Mac that I loved taking out of the box. »

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