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This story first appeared in the Oct. 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Steve Jobs‘ Hollywood moments have come posthumously with 2013’s Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher, and the upcoming Steve Jobs, with Michael Fassbender, out Oct. 9. But in 2009, his cuddly Apple co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak — played respectively by Josh Gad and Seth Rogen in the two films — sambaed his way to TV fame: The then-59-year-old joined the eighth season of ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.
At a time when Jobs was on medical leave for a “hormonal imbalance” (he would die of pancreatic cancer in 2011), Wozniak had no official position at Apple, but his appearance on the reality show became the company’s public face. “We cast Steve because he was the most left-field booking imaginable,” says former showrunner Conrad Green. “He did the most distinctive interpretation of the Worm ever seen on any dance floor. [Judge] Bruno Tonioli is still shuddering at the memory.”
Wozniak had a wobbly start; he and partner Karina Smirnoff received only 10 combined points out of 30, the lowest score of the night. Thanks to audience support, the pair survived elimination. Woz’s next dance, a tango, impressed neither judges nor viewers, and he was sent packing. Sensing the end was near, however, he came to the taping with a stack of 23 handwritten thank-you notes to his competitors.
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