You may have heard that there’s a new Steve Jobs movie opening this week. Of course, Steve Jobs is being played by a hunk of the moment (Michael Fassbender), while his Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak is being played by yet another funny fat guy (Seth Rogen). Previous pairings have featured Ashton Kutcher and Josh Gad in Jobs, and Justin Long and Jorge Garcia in iSteve. (The Benedict Cumberbatch–Jonah Hill version is presumably still in development.) So, how have these films depicted Wozniak (or “Woz,” as he’s affectionately known), the man who invented the personal computer? Here’s a ranked list you didn’t know you needed, just like those very first personal computers. These are all the different — and admittedly not great — onscreen portrayals of Steve Wozniak over the years.
6. Jorge Garcia, iSteve
This dreadfully unfunny Funny or Die feature production, in which Justin Long plays Steve Jobs, was reportedly written in three days, and it shows. The film wants to send up biopic clichés as well as some of the mythology surrounding Jobs — a noble endeavor, perhaps, but the lack of any genuine laughs kills the satire. In Woz’s case, that leaves us with Garcia playing him as a kind of dim, catastrophically obese third wheel. None of that is true, of course, and the film knows it. But it’s not funny either, and Garcia, who is otherwise a good actor, isn’t given much to do except stand there and look hapless, which is maybe the most un-Woz thing he can do.
5. Steve Wozniak, The Big Bang Theory
In this episode from BBT’s fourth season, Sheldon — worried that he’s not going to live long enough to reach the Singularity — decides to exist in the world via a Mobile Virtual Presence Device, or a remote-controlled screen with a shirt hanging off it. He sees Woz having lunch and approaches him to tell him that he considers him his “15th-favorite technological visionary.” (It’s okay, though, because it’s still six spots ahead of Steve Jobs.) And guess what? Steve Wozniak is a stiff, terrible actor, even when he’s just playing himself.
4. Jason Hillhouse, Golden Dreams
Hey, anybody remember this 20-minute short film celebrating the history of California that used to show at Disneyland? It’s a guided tour through the centuries starring Whoopi Goldberg, but at one point, we get a brief vignette with Jobs (played by Mark Neveldine, who is apparently the same Mark Neveldine later to become part of the directing team of Neveldine/Taylor, who gave us Crank) and Wozniak (Hillhouse) demonstrating the first personal computer to a small group. There’s not enough to judge the performance here, but the most notable thing about this bit is that even at 35 seconds, it still gives us the typical dynamic of alpha-male visionary Jobs and can’t-quite-see-the-big-picture nerdlinger Woz. “We could sell like a dozen of these!” he says to Jobs. “We’re gonna sell one to everybody on the planet,” Jobs responds, confidently. “Dream on, Steve,” Woz replies, mockingly. “Keep dreaming,” Whoopi Goldberg says to them, prophetically, as she bites an apple.
3. Josh Gad, Jobs
Gad is one of the few good things about this dire hagiography starring Ashton Kutcher as the future Apple honcho. Though Gad is known mostly for his comic and singing abilities (what up, Olaf), he brings a shy warmth to Wozniak that shines through his scenes. He easily acts circles around Kutcher and his tech-visionary-hero histrionics. The film gives Woz a lot of well-deserved credit, but we can tell early on that this man is going to get screwed over by Jobs. His presence lends this otherwise mostly glowing portrait of Jobs much-needed depth. Shame about the rest of the movie, though.
2. Joey Slotnick, The Pirates of Silicon Valley
One advantage of this 1999 TV-movie about the rise of, and rivalry between, Jobs (Noah Wyle) and Bill Gates (Anthony Michael Hall) is that it’s actually told from the point of view of Slotnick’s Wozniak, who narrates his early years with his fellow Apple founder and describes how these geeks took over the tech world. Slotnick is affable and radiates intelligence, but he also has to play the clown in some scenes. That’s par for the course: These movies always use Woz as a comic foil for the always-cool Jobs, though they also make the case that Jobs was often just taking credit for Woz’s creations. Also, here’s the first (and only) real film portrait of Wozniak that actually doesn’t portray him as overweight — accurate, since he wasn’t until later in life.
1. Seth Rogen, Steve Jobs
In Danny Boyle and Aaron Sorkin’s film, Rogen’s Wozniak is one of several figures from the solipsistic Jobs’s life and career that haunt him through the film’s three product launches. In this kind of internalized structure, everybody’s development comes through how they interact with Jobs himself. And Rogen has to do something surprisingly challenging here: He plays Wozniak at first as a typical Seth Rogen type: slightly dorky, affable, pliant. But as the film proceeds, he allows little slivers of hurt and stridency to come through. And in the film’s final act, he delivers the most cutting indictment of Jobs’s persona. This is apparently very unlike the real Woz: “Anybody who knows me will tell you I just don’t say negative things to people,” he told the BBC not long ago. But he also praised the film and its portrayal to the skies. We’re with him: The movie — and Rogen — are both aces.