This week "Jobs" attempts to tell the story of one of America's greatest success stories without turning it into a clichéd Wikipedia entry with actors. It mostly fails on that account, and with Ashton Kutcher feeling often hilariously out of place in the lead (despite an incredible resemblance to Steve Jobs), it made us wonder: what would a movie about Bill Gates be like?
The wizard of Windows used his cunning and business acumen to transform a few lines of DOS code into $67 billion dollars (that's billion with a "b"), and along the way earned the scorn of Apple users everywhere. Let's look at the flipside of the computerized coin as we cast the imaginary biopic "Gates."
Gallery | Casting 'Gates,' the Microsoft Movie
- Bill Gates: Dylan Baker
Here's a left-field choice for ya'. Perhaps more than any other business magnate, Microsoft's Bill Gates has the look of a first-class nerd, with a cartoonish grin. Who better to channel that sense of lofty Charles Foster Kane-like isolation than the guy who played the creep in "Happiness"? Baker's already got the right dirty-blonde hair and freckled complexion, but really this would be an opportunity for a character actor (best known for playing Curt Connors in the "Spider-Man" movies) to revel in the role of a lifetime. Fun fact: Baker narrated the audiobook of Walter Isaacson's "Steve Jobs" biography.
Younger Alternate: Jack McBrayer
- Paul Allen: Stephen Root
While perhaps best known for playing ineffectual dweebs in comedies like "Office Space" and "Dodgeball," Root earned his stripes portraying eccentric billionaire Jimmy James on the '90s series "NewsRadio." That seems like perfect prep work for taking on Allen, who co-founded Microsoft (and coining the name) alongside Gates in 1975. He also beat cancer and became a world-class philanthropist, buying up sports teams like the Seattle Seahawks, and funding weird movies like "Hard Candy."
Younger Alternate: Zach Galifianakis
- Steve Ballmer: Bruce Willis
Every movie's gotta have star power, and if you can lock in a heavy hitter like Willis to come in and kill it in an against-type, tour de force supporting role, then do it. Ballmer is the current CEO of Microsoft (i.e. the world's 19th richest man), and is famous for his frenzied, borderline evangelical corporate speeches. "Developers! Developers! Developers! Developers!" he'd monotonously chant. Willis has the perfect bulldog intensity (and baldness) to pull it off, although he might need to get some extra padding in that sweaty shirt to properly pudge himself up.
Alternate: Jeffrey Tambor
- Melinda Gates: Bonnie Hunt
Frequently ranked by Forbes as one of the most powerful women in the world, a Gates biopic would have to include how the tough-as-nails Melinda Ann French entered her love code into Bill Gates' mainframe. The scene of Bill asking his then-employee for a first date in two weeks time (the dude had a tight schedule) will no doubt send giggles throughout the audience. Hunt has a history of playing "the wife with a heart" in family fare like "Cheaper by the Dozen" and "Beethoven," and she'll have lots of fun onscreen figuring out how to spend that $80 billion charitable allotment she's in charge of.
Younger Alternate: Allison Williams
- Tom Rogers: Jon Favreau
A former Wall Street attorney cum telecommunications genius, Rogers crossed paths with Gates in 1996 when NBC and Microsoft co-founded the cable news/internet venture MSNBC. Favreau seem's to have the perfect physical resemblance, and since Rogers founded TiVo he might actually get a FREE TiVo out of the deal. He's so money and he doesn't even know it.
Alternate: Robert De Niro
- Joel Klein: Ben Kingsley
A juicier part of any Gates movie would be the antitrust case "United States v. Microsoft," where the company was accused of acting as a monopoly in bundling its Windows operating system with their Internet Explorer search engine, among other things. Gates was famously "evasive and non-responsive" in his testimony. Appointed by Bill Clinton as Assistant Attorney General, Klein was the lead prosecutor in the case, and could mean a meaty cameo for a master thesp like Kingsley, who absolutely destroyed in his smallish "Iron Man 3" role as "The Mandarin."
Alternate: David Paymer
- William H. Gates, Sr.: Martin Landau, Mary Maxwell Gates: Mary Steenburgen
Say what you will about the controversial Gates, but his parents seem pretty cool, or at least Ward and June Cleaver cool. Gates Sr. (imagine having to add Sr. to your name cause your kid is way richer than you) was an outstanding lawyer who became a philanthropist promoting both taxation of the wealthy and Planned Parenthood. Groovy! As for mama Gates, Mary was instrumental in convincing IBM chairman John Opel to take a chance on her son's little computer company. The rest is history, and a Landau/Steenburgen combo would work a treat.
Alternate: Carl Reiner and Florence Henderson
- Master Chief: Chuck Norris
One of Microsoft's biggest cash cows is its Xbox gaming console, so it only seems fair that the protagonist of their biggest selling franchise, "Halo," have some presence in the film. Maybe armored space warrior Master Chief can act as a spiritual guide to Gates, like Jiminy Cricket with a flame thrower. Or, the film could finally reveal what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is really a smokescreen for: Genetically-enhanced supersoldiers. Either way, when that helmet comes off it's gotta be Walker, Texas Ranger or nothing.
Alternate: Chuck Norris
- Ray Ozzie: Toby Jones
One look at Ozzie and you realize he ain't that far aesthetically from Karl Rove, who Jones also played to evil perfection in Oliver Stone's "W." Ozzie is the developer of revolutionary business software Lotus Notes, and later took over Gates' role of Chief Software Architect at Microsoft. Known as one of the world's great programmers, he could be viewed as one of the potential successors to the Gates legacy of innovation.
Alternate: Jason Segel
- Steve Jobs: Keanu Reeves
All due respect to Ashton Kutcher, but this role belonged to Reeves from the get-go. Watching Kutcher play Jobs with monotonous intensity nearly made "Jobs" feel at times like the "Funny or Die" parody of an Apple Computers biopic. What Reeves brings to the table is the same thing that's always made him a draw: a childlike innocence combined with that trademark surfer robot delivery of his. Plus, having seen his recent documentary "Side by Side" about digital cinematography, it's fair to say he has the intelligence to actually understand the technology Jobs developed. Also, he's frickin' Neo, dude.
Younger Alternate: Demetri Martin
- Anthony Michael Hall: Himself
Back in 1999 TNT aired their made-for-TV movie "Pirates of Silicon Valley" about the parallel development of Apple and Microsoft, as well as the bitter rivalry between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. To play the Microsoft founder they got "Breakfast Club" brain Anthony Michael Hall, and just this year Gates stated on a Reddit AMA that he found Hall's portrayal of him to be "reasonably accurate." It would be beyond meta to actually have a scene of the actor practicing Gates mannerisms in preparation for the film, which to this day is still the most famous cinematic portrayal of the big man.
Alternate: Haley Joel Osment