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Actor Jeff Daniels can currently be seen in two very different movies at your multiplex, “Steve Jobs” and “The Martian.” And the Emmy winner admits one was far more difficult to act in.
“Sculley was tougher to play,” Daniels told Business Insider over the phone on Wednesday, referring to his character in “Steve Jobs,” former Apple CEO John Sculley.
In “Steve Jobs” Daniels portrays Sculley as one of the Apple co-founder’s closest confidants at the company until, in Jobs’ eyes, Sculley betrays him and sides with the board in stripping Jobs of his managerial duties over the Macintosh, which led to Jobs resigning. The two never reconciled.
Over in “The Martian,” Daniels plays Teddy Sanders, the tough NASA director who is determined to get his astronaut (Matt Damon) back home.
“Teddy had some decisions to make, and I think that’s one of the strengths in ‘The Martian,’ you see these people having to think through problems in front of the camera, but that was pretty much the extent that was needed for Teddy,” said Daniels. “Sculley you had to go down some darker hallways.”
Daniels said to play Sculley he read through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, and watched interviews of him on YouTube. He said Sculley also came to rehearsal one afternoon. But Daniels didn’t want to delve too deep into the man’s life.
“You can still see the pain in John [over what happened between he and Jobs] so we were able to slide that into the movie,” said Daniels. “But you take what you need for the movie and I didn’t need to know how he’s been the last 15 years. The movie ends in ’98, I just needed to know the breakup. I told him, ‘I think I can portray the beginnings of what you’ve gone through.'”
But there’s another reason why Sculley was harder to play than Sanders – the film’s screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.
Daniels played the lead character, news anchor Will McAvoy, in Sorkin’s recently wrapped TV series “The Newsroom” over its three-season run, and knows his material is not easy to pull off.
“Doing ‘The Newsroom’ actors would come through and say, ‘I don’t know how you guys do this, I could never do it,'” said Daniels of the heavy use of dialogue Sorkin is famous for. “You’re given these incredibly long scenes, no rehearsal, and we get there at 6:30 in the morning and you’ve got to know it and know what you’re going to do with it because by 7:30 you’re shooting.”
Making “Steve Jobs,” Daniels said he couldn’t help but laugh when he first met Michael Fassbender, who plays the title character in “Steve Jobs.”
“He is the Will McAvoy of this movie,” said Daniels. “But I told him, ‘I’m living proof that you can survive this.'”
“Steve Jobs” and “The Martian” are currently playing in theaters.