PARK CITY, Utah -- Ashton Kutcher says playing Steve Jobs on screen "was honestly one of the most terrifying things I've ever tried to do in my life."
The 34-year-old actor helped premiere the biopic "jOBS" Friday, which was the closing-night film at the Sundance Film Festival.
Kutcher plays the Apple Inc. founder from the company's humble origins in the 1970s until the launch of the first iPod in 2001. A digital entrepreneur himself, Kutcher said he considers Jobs a personal hero.
"He's a guy who failed and got back on the horse," Kutcher said. "I think we can all sort of relate to that at some point in life."
Kutcher even embodied the Jobs character as he pursued his own high-tech interests off-screen.
"What was nice was when I was preparing for the character, I could still work on product development for technology companies, and I would sort of stay in character, in the mode of the character," he said. "But I didn't feel like I was compromising the work on the film by working on technology stuff because it was pretty much in the same field."
But playing the real-life tech icon who died in 2011 still felt risky, he said, because "he's fresh in our minds."
"It was kind of like throwing myself into this gauntlet of, I know, massive amounts of criticism," Kutcher said, adding that he expects some might take issue with the film's depiction of the facts.
The actor watched "hundreds of hours of footage," listened to Jobs' past speeches and interviewed several of his friends to prepare for the role.
Kutcher even adopted the entrepreneur's "fruitarian diet," which he said "can lead to some serious issues."
"I ended up in the hospital two days before we started shooting the movie," he said. "I was like doubled over in pain, and my pancreas levels were completely out of whack, which was completely terrifying, considering everything."
Jobs died of complications from pancreatic cancer.
Still, Kutcher was up to the challenge of playing Jobs, in part because of his admiration for the man who created the Macintosh computer and the iPod.
"I admire this man so much and what he's done. I admire the way he built things," Kutcher said. "This guy created a tool that we use every day in our life, and he believed in it when nobody else did."
The film also shows Jobs' less appealing side, withholding stock options from some of the company's original employees and denying child support to the mother of his eldest child.
Kutcher still found the man inspiring. Jobs had a singular focus, Kutcher said, and felt like anyone could change the world.
"I don't know if there's ever been an entrepreneur who's had more compassion and care for his consumer than Steve Jobs," Kutcher said. "He wanted to put something in your hand that you could use and you could use it easily... and he really cared about that."