Danny Boyle’s planned Steve Jobs biopic (based on the book Steve Jobs, by former TIME managing editor Walter Isaacson) has been subject to some turbulence when it comes to the leading role. Which leading man has the right qualities to play one of the most influential business minds of the past century, and more importantly, which one would be willing? Leonardo DiCaprio had been connected with the role and turned it down, and Christian Bale has left the project. But the star Boyle’s looking at now is the perfect fit: If anyone should play Steve Jobs, it should be Michael Fassbender.
The Irish actor is reportedly in “early talks” for the part, and it’s a perfect choice. He effortlessly passes, for instance, what we might call the Kutcher Test: Is the actor serious enough to ensure that the project won’t become an object of derision before anyone sees it? (Ashton Kutcher’s movie Jobs was a laughingstock for much of last year, due in large part to that actor’s Dude, Where’s My Car? pedigree.) Fassbender, who went to the Oscars as a nominee for 12 Years a Slave this year, is certainly in the conversation when it comes to the most accomplished young actors.
But it’s the sort of parts Fassbender is good at playing that particularly qualify him for Jobs. His two franchise roles have proven him uniquely able to convey intellectual power that’s literally superhuman and a certain disregard for the concerns of mortals — as the all-powerful Magneto in the two most recent X-Men flicks, and as David the android in Prometheus. The Jobs of Steve Jobs is both a visionary thinker, naturally, but is more concerned with technological advancement than with human ties. Fassbender’s ability to be supercilious onscreen without becoming loathsome would serve him well, here.
Magneto and David have been two roles that prove Fassbender’s readiness to play Steve Jobs, but neither saddle him with an unwieldy persona. He’s still free to play characters without making it all about him. Leonardo DiCaprio, for instance, is almost too famous to play the role; he’s such a major star, and pulls consistently from such a familiar bag of tricks, that he only works in roles that are wildly outsized, like his vampy Wolf of Wall Street character. Fassbender’s been in hits, but his X-Men and Prometheus characters are different from one another, and more different still from his character in, say, 12 Years a Slave. He’s proven he can handle the fundamentals, even changing his appearance for a role (he took his good looks out of the equation, wearing a mask throughout Frank). But perhaps more importantly, Fassbender still bears the exciting potential of an actor we haven’t seen do everything he can.
And that’s part of why he should take the part, too: He deserves it. Fassbender has for years been a fantastic supporting actor in widely watched movies (add Inglourious Basterds to the list that includes X-Men, Prometheus, and 12 Years a Slave) or a leading man in little-seen movies like Shame and Jane Eyre. His ability to build an utterly convincing inner life for a morally complicated character has never been tested by a lead role in a movie as potentially big as Steve Jobs, a movie whose very bigness demands an actor willing to take artistic risks. It’s early yet, but more famous and more widely loved actors leaving the project could be the best thing that happened to the Steve Jobs movie. And if it doesn’t work out, Fassbender’s star-making project is, no doubt, just around the corner.