The Man Who Will Turn Kutcher Into Jobs

Meet the Dallas entrepreneur gambling $20 million to $30 million on a movie about the late Apple co-founder.

Steve Jobs would have appreciated the rules Texas businessman Mark Hulme broke in getting the independent biopic Jobs off the ground. Hulme never has produced a movie, lives thousands of miles from Hollywood in Dallas and has no personal connection to the late Apple co-founder. Yet the founder of Five Star Institute, a publishing, communications and conference production company (pubs include Pasadena Monthly and Signature Kitchens & Baths), knew when Jobs stepped down as Apple CEO that he wanted to tell his life story. So he asked Five Star writer Matt Whiteley to pen a script, and when Jobs died in October, he decided the privately held Five Star would produce and finance the project despite Sony's planned version of Walter Isaacson's authorized Jobs biography. Knowing he'd be an underdog, Hulme contacted Hollywood agencies a few months ago, not expecting anyone to return his calls. "We had no clout whatsoever," he says. Then, a friend of director Joshua Michael Stern (Swing Vote) read online about the project, leading Stern to contact Hulme, who flew Stern to Dallas. Once Stern, who is represented by CAA, became attached in March, things began falling into place. Within days, CAA came forward and said its client Ashton Kutcher was interested in starring, and the agency agreed to represent domestic rights to the project. "Things have just blown up," says Hulme, who is working on casting the rest of the film. He has set up Five Star Features, which will operate out of Pasadena and plans to finance and produce one film a year. Jobs, which will cost $20 million to $30 million, will cover Jobs' life from 1971 to 2000 and begins shooting in May. Just before Easter, Hulme was in L.A. for another round of meetings and had lunch with Atari founder Nolan Bushnell, who once hired Jobs at 19 years old. "He's agreed to be a consultant," says Hulme, adding that "the potential for promotional partners is tremendous." Hulme won't say which companies are talking to CAA about distributing the film but that "dialogue is under way."

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