Steve Martin's 50-year career is highlighted in a new Apple film

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For younger Americans, Steve Martin is the white-haired guy who plays arrogant amateur detective Charles Haden Savage on the hit Hulu show, “Only Murders in the Building.”

What a joke. It is a shame.

Fortunately, director Morgan Neville (“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”) is here to remind us of Martin’s astonishingly diverse 50-year career with “Steve!” (Martin) is a two-part documentary, a nearly four-hour film on Apple TV+ that delves into the insightful mind and often lonely heart of a true genius.

Not that Martin, 78, would agree. “I guarantee you I have no talent,” he says in the doc. “If I had direction, I wouldn't have gotten anywhere.”

But by forging his own path, Martin redefined comedy before embarking on a career as an author, playwright, film and television actor — and, lest we forget, an extremely accomplished banjo player.

Introspection is not Martin's thing, but he admired Neville. “At first Steve said he wouldn't watch the doc,” Neville says in an interview. “Then he did, and I got a text saying, ‘I love it.’ Can I show him to my psychiatrist?”

More discoveries from Steve! About American ancestry:

Most notable audio books: “The Steve-ness of it all”: Steve Martin Conversations with Martin Short, new audiobook

Steve Martin's drive to succeed came in part from a search for parental approval

Martin grew up in Southern California and discovered his love of working as a teenage magician working at Disneyland. But his father, Glenn, a real estate salesman and aspiring actor, was always difficult to woo.

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Even in Martin's heyday in the late 1970s, his father's comment after a sold-out show was: “That's what's wrong with this show.”

Decades later, father and son reconnected. As Glenn lay dying, Martin wrote in a poignant 2007 New Yorker story, his father turned and said, “I did everything I wanted to do.”

A friend of his helped guide Steve Martin toward his unconventional brand of comedy

Martin adored legends like Jack Benny, but knew the joke-based approach wouldn't work for him. Then a friend suggested that he read “The Razor's Edge,” a novel by W. Somerset Maugham, published in 1944, is about the spiritual quest.

Martin had two revelations: one, that he would try a more philosophical approach to comedy, and two, that he would “do everything he could until the age of thirty, and then become a professor of philosophy.”

Martin worked tirelessly in the early 1970s until finally, his character “as a comedian who thinks he's funny but really isn't” became the focus of counterculture audiences. The dam collapsed in 1975, and he had just turned 30 years old.

Steve Martin was arguably the Taylor Swift of comedy in the late '70s, and then that was it

Between 1975 and 1980, Martin became a cultural phenomenon. His comedy records like “A Wild and Crazy Guy” sold in the millions, and he went from playing small clubs to huge arenas.

Just like today's adoring Swifties, Martin's fans showed up in his signature head-piercing outfit and let out a “Okay, excuse me!” His appearance on NBC's “Saturday Night Live” has become must-see television. But by 1980, Martin realized it wouldn't last.

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“Steve’s stand-up career was a real performance art,” Neville says. “So when the audience got the joke, it was over. The moment he felt he had reached his climax, he decided: ‘I’m done.’ And it’s a theme with him.”

Steve Martin had many cinematic successes, but were often crushed when they didn't resonate with audiences

Over the course of nearly 40 years, Martin has made dozens of films, including such hits as “The Jerk,” “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” “Father of the Bride” and “LA Story.” In many cases, he also co-wrote the screenplays.

But “Steve!” He reveals that Martin was crushed when some films dropped, including the musical “Pennies From Heaven,” in which he learned to tap dance, and “Leap of Faith,” a film about a preacher that Martin was certain would bring him acting accolades.

His obsession with success led to sabotaging relationships. He married his LA Story co-star, Victoria Tennant, in 1986, but they divorced without having children. “He was very, very shy,” Eric Idle, a Monty Python alumnus and friend, says in the documentary. Director Frank Oz describes Martin as “closeted.” Martin indulged his passion for art to stay sane.

“I told Steve we don't need to see Mary, but I want people to see you as a father,” Neville says. But Martin being Martin, he can't resist a joke. When she entered the room and hugged him, Martin joked, “Remind me your name?” When she leaves, he pats his heart.

The dream eventually led to Steve Martin embracing fatherhood and a new life

“Steve had a dream around 1998 where someone told him his life needed an adventure,” Neville says. But the person did not intend to travel; She meant people. Now, years later, Steve is no longer a lonely person. He's got a family, he's got Marty (Martin Short), he's got a bluegrass band. “He's surrounded by people.”

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In 2007, Martin married Anne Stringfield, 51, a fact-checker at The New Yorker. In 2012, the couple welcomed their daughter, Mary. At Martin's request, Mary was only seen as a stick figure in “Steve!”

Steve Martin's friend Martin Short helps keep his fears at bay

A constant presence in “Steve”! Short, 74, first collaborated with Martin on The Three Amigos (1986), and again on Father of the Bride (1991), and is now part of a touring standup show with Martin as well as a co-star. In “Murders Only”.

In “Steve!”, the friends are seen doing a workshop, driving around Los Angeles landmarks and riding bikes around Santa Barbara. “Steve still has anxiety (about performance), while Marty doesn't have any anxiety,” says Neville. “As soon as Marty enters the room, Steve relaxes.”

Neville adds: “In many ways, Marty is actually the wild, crazy guy that Steve pretends to be, so being with Marty is in a way like being with his former self.”

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