The Emmy for Best Performance as an Evil Geek Goes To...
By Patricia Sellers

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Here in the hinterlands of Oregon, in the middle of a wind-swept wheat field, twirls a crazed dervish of a man in cutoff jeans and a tie-dyed T-shirt. It's Steve Jobs, ecstatically "conducting" the wheat to the Bach concerto that throbs inside his LSD-addled head. "The wheat field is moving to the music!" he screams. "Everything is moving to my music!"

Okay, so it's not really Steve Jobs. And this isn't really Oregon. The hippie is actually Noah Wyle--ER's Dr. John Carter--and he's on a movie set just north of Los Angeles, playing Jobs in TNT's forthcoming Pirates of Silicon Valley. The other pirate in the title is Jobs' sometime nemesis Bill Gates, played by--wait for it--Anthony Michael Hall. If that name rings a bell, it's because Hall made his name in the '80s playing an assortment of geeks in John Hughes movies like The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles. Now 30 and cast as what he terms the "ultimate nerd," he's playing Gates to the hilt--with rocking body, "Kermit the Frog" voice, and, as he says, "an affable cold-heartedness."

To nail these characters, Hall and Wyle wanted to meet the men themselves. No way, said writer/director Martyn Burke, who told the actors, "I don't want you trying to please the people you're portraying." There's not much chance of that: Pirates is a scathing, almost cartoonish swipe at Gates and Jobs. When the film airs next May, you'll see mischievous Bill, at 12, telling a psychologist that his idol is Napoleon; rebellious teenage Bill racing Porsches; and, of course, grownup Bill ruling the world's technology. The Jobs character is self-absorbed and even nastier than Gates: The adopted son who didn't know his birth parents, he grew up to despise authority, dodge responsibility, and deny his own daughter. The day FORTUNE was on the set, Wyle-as-Jobs coldly told his ex-girlfriend, "She is not my child." He ends up giving the baby's name, Lisa, to a creation he does embrace: an Apple computer.

Burke's versions of these guys are one-dimensional. "Steve Jobs is a fire-breathing dragon. Bill Gates is a chameleon," he says. And what do the real-life pirates say about the movie? Gates hasn't read the script, but his PR people have. They call Pirates "pretty shallow and ultimately forgettable." Jobs, meanwhile, can find consolation in the fact that Tom Hanks is developing a miniseries about Apple for HBO. Bet that show won't focus on acid-tripping in wheat.

--Patricia Sellers