Jeff Daniels on the Steve Jobs movie

Jeff Daniels, star of two of the sea­son’s ‘buzz’ films, found Hol­ly­wood suc­cess on his own terms,

The Daily Telegraph (Sydney) - Best Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - writes Fiona Pur­don

Jeff Daniels is at the top of his game. The 60-yearold ac­tor rubs shoul­ders with heavy­weights in two of the buzz movies of this year’s award sea­son — as NASA di­rec­tor Teddy San­ders in the Matt Da­mon film The Mar­tian, and as con­tro­ver­sial for­mer Ap­ple di­rec­tor John Scul­ley in the highly an­tic­i­pated Steve Jobs.

In the biopic about the Ap­ple co-founder, Daniels ap­pears in sev­eral un­for­get­table scenes op­po­site Michael Fass­ben­der as Jobs.

His re­cent suc­cesses in­clude an­chor­ing the 2012-2014 tele­vi­sion show The News­room, for which he won an Emmy Award. And now he’s pre­par­ing for a stint on Broad­way in the tough drama Black­bird, play­ing op­po­site Michelle Wil­liams.

But the ac­tor, who won his first Golden Globe nod for Woody Allen’s The Pur­ple Rose of Cairo in 1985, ad­mits that when he moved from New York in 1986 to the act­ing back­blocks — his home­town of Chelsea in sub­ur­ban Michi­gan — to bring up his fam­ily, he wor­ried he was em­bark­ing on ca­reer sui­cide.

As it turned out, it was merely a more scenic route to his hoped-for desti­na­tion — long-term act­ing suc­cess.

“I wish I could go back and tell my­self from 20 years ago: ‘You will have a lot of fail­ure but, don’t worry, there will be a lot of suc­cess.’ I’m 60

years old. I’m a late bloomer,’’ says the son of a Michi­gan tim­ber­yard owner who once served as the city’s mayor.

Even though Daniels moved back to Michi­gan af­ter only a hand­ful of movies, he knew he wanted to stay in the movie busi­ness.

“I just took the long, scenic route for my ca­reer. I was hop­ing for longevity. I thought my best shot would be to be seen as some­one like Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Ste­wart, Peter Sellers, Alan Arkin or Gene Hack­man — guys whose ca­reers have lasted decades.

“That was the plan — and then The News­room came around and I was in my late 50s.’’

Daniels says play­ing three sea­sons of con­ceited an­chor­man Will McAvoy in the Aaron Sorkin-scripted News­room en­sured he was match-fit to take on the in­tensely bril­liant but di­a­logue­heavy Steve Jobs, which this month won Sorkin a Golden Globe for best screen­play.

He says he was im­pressed by the com­mit­ment of his fel­low ac­tors, es­pe­cially Fass­ben­der, who is in al­most ev­ery scene, and Kate Winslet, whose sparkling per­for­mance as Joanna Hoff­man, Jobs’ con­fi­dant and mar­ket­ing ex­ec­u­tive for Ap­ple and NeXT, won her a best sup­port­ing ac­tress Golden Globe last month. Both

Fass­ben­der and Winslet have act­ing nom­i­na­tions for the film at the up­com­ing Os­cars.

Daniels ad­vised Fass­ben­der and Winslet to learn their lines early and be fully pre­pared for the com­plex­ity of a Sorkin script, which, says Daniels, has its own rhythm.

“You usu­ally get a script and you work out each line. With The News­room, we didn’t change a word in three years. You just need to go away and mem­o­rise your lines and get up to speed quickly,’’ he says.

“Michael and Kate jumped on it early and they got (the script) mem­o­rised fast be­cause you can’t be mem­o­ris­ing your 12 pages of di­a­logue the night be­fore. You need to know your lines days — even weeks — ahead of time so you get in there and re­ally live it. “You have to do the work.” Daniels says Sorkin takes a the­atri­cal, even a clas­si­cal, ap­proach to the life of the Ap­ple co-founder, who was one of the most fas­ci­nat­ing, com­plex and in­flu­en­tial minds of the 20th cen­tury.

Steve Jobs is not a straight­for­ward bi­og­ra­phy. In­stead, Sorkin and di­rec­tor Danny Boyle (Slum­dog Mil­lion­aire; Trainspot­ting) show Jobs be­hind the scenes dur­ing three key prod­uct launches: the Mac­in­tosh in 1984, the NeXT com­puter in 1988, and the iMac in 1998.

The film ex­am­ines the drama and con­flicts for Jobs at work and in pri­vate, in­clud­ing his roller­coaster re­la­tion­ship with daugh­ter Lisa Bren­nanJobs, his spite­ful treat­ment of Lisa’s mother, Chrisann Bren­nan, and his splits with Ap­ple co-founder Steve Woz­niak (Seth Ro­gen) and Scul­ley (Daniels).

Daniels says the real Scul­ley has given the film the thumb­sup. “I’m glad he is happy be­cause theirs was an im­por­tant re­la­tion­ship,’’ he says.

I just took the long, scenic route for my ca­reer

Scul­ley is known as the man who sacked Jobs af­ter the early fail­ure of the Mac­in­tosh. Like many things in life, the true story be­hind that event was rather more com­plex.

“I was very ap­pre­cia­tive to have met John (Scul­ley) dur­ing re­hearsals,’’ Daniels says. “He sat with me and gave me some great in­for­ma­tion. John was like a father fig­ure to Steve. He kind of steered Steve’s ca­reer. John could see he was a cre­ative ge­nius and vi­sion­ary.

“John was a cor­po­rate CEO, and he was also bril­liant at what he did, but when he had to make the de­ci­sion, he stayed with the Ap­ple II and he let the Mac­in­tosh go. It was not per­form­ing at the time. John made a busi­ness de­ci­sion, which, in hind­sight, was the wrong one. Steve never for­gave this be­trayal, and John never re­cov­ered from it. They never rec­on­ciled, even though there was one email ex­change when John sent con­grat­u­la­tions. The re­gret and pain is still there.”

Drama has al­ways been Daniels’ first love, so it is ironic that his best-known role is the bum­bling Harry Dunne in one of cinema’s most fa­mous comic buddy movies, 1994’s Dumb And Dumber with Jim Car­rey, a role he reprised 20 years later in Dumb And Dumber To.

When he was of­fered the role of Harry Dunne, two of his man­agers/agents warned him not to take the part, deem­ing the hu­mour in the Far­relly Brothers com­edy too gross.

But a third man­ager en­dorsed Daniels’ gut feel­ing that he should take on the role to re­veal his comic ver­sa­til­ity.

“Those two guys moved on af­ter that, but the one who said to give the movie a shot, he is still my man­ager,’’ Daniels says.

“Do­ing Harry Dunne was a good move ... I think I sur­prised some peo­ple. I wanted to show I could also do wild com­edy, be­cause com­edy is just as im­por­tant as se­ri­ous drama.’’

Steve Jobs is in cin­e­mas now

At 60, Jeff Daniels is at the peak of his ca­reer.

Jeff Daniels (John Scul­ley) with Michael Fass­ben­der (Steve Jobs) in Steve Jobs.

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