It's been a couple of years since the biopic Steve Jobs starring Michael Fassbender (not to be confused with 2013's Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher) hit big screens, and it's safe to say that the film left a lasting impression. The movie got two Oscar noms and won Golden Globes for Best Supporting Actress in a Supporting Role (Kate Winslet) and Best Screenplay (Aaron Sorkin), but perhaps the element of the film that really got people talking the most was its depiction of the relationship between Steve Jobs and his daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
Obviously, Jobs didn't come out smelling like roses for the way he treated Lisa and her mother, Chrisann Brennan, but how much of what showed up on screen was real, and how much was exaggerated for entertainment value? We did a little digging.
Separating fact from fiction
It's common knowledge that movie and TV plotlines are normally, shall we say, embellished — even when based on a true story. This is exactly what got fans to talking after seeing the movie. We see Steve Jobs' daughter Lisa appear in multiple stages and ages throughout the movie, played by three different actresses as she grows up.
And while the movie mainly focuses on Jobs' legacy and lifetime achievements, broken up into three different acts based on major product releases, critics say the interaction between Jobs and Lisa in the movie is actually a metaphor for his ego and his need to control everything around him.
Here's what we know about the real Lisa Brennan-Jobs: Born May 17, 1978, Lisa Nicole Brennan is the Apple co-founder Steve Jobs' daughter from his high school love, Chrisann Brennan. Jobs wasn't present for Lisa's birth, but he came to visit a few days after she was born.
The name Lisa was then given to a new computer Jobs was working on, but he created the acronym "Local Integrated Software Architecture" to explain the name to customers. In a very strange act of parenting, he told Lisa he did not name the computer after her. According to Isaacson's book, Steve Jobs, years later Jobs said, "Obviously, it was named for my daughter."
Strangely, though, perhaps terrified by the prospect of being a father, Jobs publicly denied being Lisa's dad, and a legal case followed. Even after a DNA paternity test established Jobs as Lisa's father, he made up a ridiculous argument that because the DNA test said he was 94.1 percent likely to be Lisa's father, 28 percent of the male population could also be Lisa's father. Years later, Jobs apologized for the cruel remarks.
Once paternity was legally declared, Jobs was forced to give Lisa's mom $385 per month in child support. He increased the amount to a mere $500 a month once he became a millionaire. As Lisa Brennan got older, she and her father reconciled, and she even lived with him during high school. She legally changed her name to Lisa Brennan-Jobs. Wanting to be a writer, Lisa attended Harvard University and graduated in 2000.
Originally published October 2015. Updated August 2017.
Lisa Brennan-Jobs is the real star of the movie
According to AppleInsider, Lisa Brennan-Jobs gave a rare interview in which she spoke about her life after her father's death, saying, "It wasn't until really he passed away that we all as kids and my mother realized how much he really had an effect on the family. And while he wasn't involved on a kind of day-to-day basis, when I think of who I am today and who my brothers and sisters are, so much of it is thanks to my father."
When asked why she didn't pursue computer engineering like her father, she said Jobs urged his children to explore different fields and find what made them happy. But it's easy to see that a career in technology would be intimidating, considering he accomplished so much in his short life. "He encouraged us to follow our dreams. I had big shoes to fill if I wanted to go into science," Brennan-Jobs said.
Steve Jobs screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, said he discussed the movie with Lisa Brennan-Jobs before making it and calls her the "heroine of the film."
According to Business Insider, Sorkin also said, "At first I didn't know what I was looking for. Lisa didn't speak to Walter Isaacson when Walter was writing the book because her father was alive at the time. But she was willing to speak to me. She was able to tell stories about her father that weren’t necessarily flattering stories, but she would tell the story and then show me how you could see he really did love her."
Lisa Brennan-Jobs has three half-siblings, Reed, Erin and Eve, whose mother is Jobs' widow, Laurene Powell Jobs. Lisa Brennan-Jobs is currently a freelance writer living in New York and has written for such publications as O, The Oprah Magazine and Vogue. You can also read Lisa Brennan-Jobs' blog. In the movie, Brennan-Jobs is played by actresses Ripley Sobo, Makenzie Moss and Perla Haney-Jardine at various ages.
Lisa Brennan-Jobs writer of Vogue, Apple CEO Steve Jobs only Daughter. pic.twitter.com/FClyewx0— glaiza pizza (@glaizaPizzaFox) October 6, 2011
But that still doesn't answer the question on everyone's mind: Was the portrayal of Steve Jobs' daughter in the movie really accurate? There are plenty of facts about Lisa in the movie that have been confirmed — like the paternity dispute and the initial denial that Jobs named the Apple Lisa after his daughter. And yet, like most on-screen adaptations, the Steve Jobs movie isn't 100 percent on point.
The scene of 5-year-old Lisa bonding with Jobs backstage by using MacPaint is reported to be pure fiction. And while we don't want to give away any spoilers, the big reconciliation between Jobs and Lisa at the end of the movie also leaves out the fact that Jobs had remarried and had three other kids. What's true is most of the good stuff, though some details may be shaky. Jobs and Lisa were in a much better place before he died in 2011, and their tumultuous relationship alone makes the movie worth watching.
For those who haven't seen the film just yet, here's the official trailer for Steve Jobs, released in 2015: