Impulse Gamer Interviews Stephen Spielberg (Universal Centennial Project) - www.impulsegamer.com -

Stephen Spielberg - Universal Centennial Project

Do you remember growing up and realizing the Universal logo?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Yeah, absolutely. The Universal logo was actually my favorite logo umm, because it looked like it was made of glass and this airplane filled, you know, you know, single engine aircraft flew around it. That was my first memory of the Universal logo based on all the old movies they were showing on television.

Were there any movies that you loved as a kid that were immediately associated with Universal?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Uhh, Universalís, my first, my real first close encounter, no. Iím gonna try this agaim. My, my real first, you know, umm, encounter with Universal had to do with Lon Chaney, had to do with Boris Karloff, had to do with Abbott & Costello and had to do with Frances the talking mule. I mean, I mean, my first exposure to the Universal logo and to what Universal was all about was really comedy and horror and fantasy. And uhh, that was my clear association with that for many, many years growing up watching television.

So when you got into directing, was Universal the studio you targeted to work with?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: I think I targeted Universal primarily because it was near, near umm, a location where I was spending the summer in Canoga Park. It was the first studio when you go, I guess east on the 101 Freeway that you hit. Umm, I guess if Warner Brothers had been before Universal, I would have tried to crash the gate at Warner Brothers but Universal was the first uhh, and also they had a tour and uhh, Warnerís didnít have a tour in those days and I was able to get on the tour and, of course, jump off the gray line tour bus for a bathroom break, hid myself in a bathroom stall and when the tour left without me, I got my first uhh, chance to sojourn around the Universal lot unescorted and uhh, by the way, illegally. But uhh, that was my first encounter with Universal.

Itís not an urban legend that you actually sneaked onto the lot.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Umm, no. Thereís nothing urban about Universal, number one. And number two, itís true. I, I snuck onto the lot and I spent several years sneaking onto the lot but I was very lucky because there was a security guard named Scotty. And Scotty was probably as famous as Ken Hollywood was as the security guard for many years at the main gate of MGM. And Scotty basically let me onto the lot. Let me just walk right onto the lot. I donít know whether he thought I was a part of the, I was very young and I looked ten years younger than I actually was. If I was about sixteen years old, I probably looked like a kid under, under eleven. Umm, but umm, he somehow let me onto the lot everyday.

What was the spirit that you got from walking around the lot as a kid?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, I had been making all these 8mm movies in Phoenix, AZ and, and making movies was my dream and coming to Universal for the first time and actually being inside a dream factory was a dream come true for me. It was, it was, I couldnít believe, I couldnít believe that I was actually walking down streets where they were actually making movies and television shows. It was, it was a, an impossible quest and I never thought Iíd really actually become a part of that, that industry but just having some kind of proximity to it and being in the center of it umm, itís very hard to put into words what it felt like but it was hard to sleep at night knowing the next morning I was going to make my second or third or fourth attempt to crashing the gate to uhh, television being, being, being made and watch editors cutting and watching dubbers mixing the soundtracks together. And it was a summer, kind of like a summer school for me. It was like an extension, of course, from my millimeter, umm, amateur days. It was like being in the middle of professionalism. I was the only amateur walking around a professional lot. But I learned so much. I, I spent an entire summer at Universal learning so much.

At what point did you become part of the Universal family and how did that happen for you?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: I never became part of the Universal family until umm, Sid Schimberg, who was at that time the head of television for Universal, saw my short film ĎAmbliní. And umm, I was at Cal-State Long Beach going to college, I think I was a sophomore and uhh, Sidís secretary uhh, called me and asked me if I would come in and meet Mr. Schimberg. And, of course, I couldnít believe this was happening to me. And the next day, I went up to his office. I think it was the 14th floor and umm, he, we met for the first time and he, he told me he liked my thirty minute short film and he offered me a, a contract to start directing television at Universal. And I, I hesitated and, because I didnít believe what was happening. I didnít believe the words coming out of his mouth. I didnít believe what I was hearing and I think he took that, that hesitation as maybe a sign perhaps other studios were interested in me. There was a little bit of a bidding situation brewing under the surface of my response or lack thereof. And umm, and, of course, no one was bidding for me at all, he was the first person who called me. And so, Sid took a pause also and looked at me and he said, he said, kind of selling Universal, he said, you know, umm, you know, if you come here and, and you go to work. He said, you know, I will support you in success but I will also support you in failure. And I had never heard anything like that before. Of course, I could never conceive of failing because I didnít know what failure meant when youíre a kid in college, you donít know donít understand what failure means except if you get a ĎDí in a course, thatís failure. Thatís about, thatís about the measurement. But when he said those words, he said, I will equally support you in failure as I will in success. Umm, I finally got the words out and I started to him and haw and I started to apologize for my, for taking any time because I wasnít thinking about it. I was just absolutely stunned. And that began my professional life at Universal, directing TV.

What was your very first day like?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, it was, it was, you know, right now itís kind of like that moment in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN where a motor shell goes off next to Tom Hanksí head and all of the sudden, he canít hear. He just hears this kind of whistling underwater sound and he can only see images, he doesnít hear the sounds associated with those images. Looking back, thatís exactly how I felt directing my first show with Joan Crawford. Everything seemed to be a bit of a fever dream and I wasnít really umm, I donít have a lot of awareness of it because I think it was such a traumatic experience directing my first film. I do remember that a lot of the older guys on the crew didnít accept me as their director. And, and yet, I was embraced by all the actors including Barry Sullivan and Tom Bosley and Joan Crawford. And I think they actually stood up for me. At one point, Barry Sullivan made a speech to the crew and told them to start treating me with the same professionalism that he would expect a professional crew, expecting that level of behavior, thatís how bad it got. You know, there was a, there was a moment where I couldnít find my script and I was looking for a script and the soundman, in those days, they, they were sitting really up high on a kind of a throne with a long pole mic, a boom mic. And I, I, I, I said, can I borrow this and I reached up to borrow the soundmanís script on my own directed television pilot to see where I was and he just reached up and he grabbed the script away from me and slammed it on his little, little umm, little podium up there and I just remembered that it was, it was tough going because these were the guys that worked with John Ford and worked with Victor Flemming and they worked with Hitchcock and Henry King and they worked with Henry Hathaway and probably Alfred Hitchcock and here was this twenty-one, twenty-two year old kid with acne, you know, looking probably fifteen years old because I looked much younger than I actually was in those days. And uhh, it was really tough for them to swallow that pill. And I think I also with my long hair represented a generation, the EASY RIDER generation that, that they pretty much saw as a bit of a tsunami on the horizon and, and, you know, didnít take to me very well. But the great thing about that experience was that the actors did.

And that led to you directing your first feature film THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS. How did that happen and when did you start interacting with Lou Wasserman?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, I was really, I was, I was Sidís kid, you know? My whole, you know, time there at Universal directing television shows. But when it came time to doing feature films, I transferred over to a man named Jennings Lang, who I got to know well and really, really liked and admired. And Jennings had gotten the script, I had written the story to a, to a script called THE SUGARLAND EXPRESS and how Barwood and Matthew Robbins had written the screenplay and Universal liked it and they bought it and Jennings Lang had, it was, it was sort of in his wheelhouse at that time. But because I was a first time feature director, Jennings said, look I canít green light this picture and give you, you know, the budget that youíll need unless you get a star. And he said the first star I want to put on your movie is, I want you to have some star producers. (talks to interviewer about back door opening) Is it closed? No. So, so the umm, you know so Jennings Lang said, I really, you know, you need, you need a lot of support. Weíre not going to, weíre mot going to risk a lot of money for you as a first time director unless youíve got some really strong producers. So the first person that umm, Jennings Lang put me with was Dick Zanick and David Brown and gave them the script. And by the way, it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. Umm, and Dick and David loved the script and, and, and, and said, weíre behind you 100%, we accept you as the director. I already had met Dick and David at FOX when I sold my first script up to FOX called AC Elan ROGER IN THE SKY which I had done with Claudia Saulter, the screenwriter and a college friend of mine from Long Beach State. And so, we had met in a meeting where Dick and Dave had pretty much said itís nice to meet you but goodbye, youíre not ready to direct yet and weíre going to give this to somebody much older than you to do, which was fine. Umm, but it was great to see them again and the fact they were producing my first movie was a thrill but then Jennings Lang said, and you need to get a star. So Dick, Dave and I decided that Goldie Hawn was perfect for the part and umm, she read the script and liked it but didnít know who I was so, and she was a big star. Sheíd just won the Oscar for CACTUS FLOWER and she was a big movie star having come off a big TV show called LAUGH IN. So I went over to Goldieís house and she vetted me and I passed the vetting and uhh, had my first movie.

And that, in a strange way, lead to the makings of JAWS, correct?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: It did because I read the galleys of the book by Peter Benchly that was sitting around Dick and Daveís office. Dickís secretary let me read it. And I came I on Monday just, I was just frothing with ambition. I knew how to tell that story, I knew how to make that movie. I mean, the first thing I was going to do was cut out the entire love affair between, you know, umm, I think it was, you know (answered by Interviewer) yes, so the first thing I was, I was planning to do was cut out the Hooper umm, Ellen Brody affair which was kind of a Peyton Place soap opera-esque. Just focus on the shark and the sea hunt in the third act. Uhh, but I really didnít get far enough, even pitch myself and those ideas to Dick and Dave because Dick and Dave had said, you know, weíd love for you to do this because we loved your cut on SUGARLAND so much but this has already been assigned to another director. And so, I kind of gave up on it until about a month later, they, Dick called me up and said, you know, the directorís no longer working on the movie. Itís available now and we want to give it to you. So they gave me the gallies to direct it into a screenplay.

When did you know this was going to be tough when you started shooting JAWS?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, I, I think the first time I realized that this was going to be tough was about thirty-five days into the shooting of, of JAWS. And the first thirty-five days went as smooth as silk because it was all on land and it was pretty easy shooting. The second we committed to the ocean with a mechanical shark which only worked periodically, thatís when I saw we were going to be there for a very, very long time.

How supportive was Universal during that period?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: By that time, Sid had moved up and he was the head of Universal. He was the head of the whole division of films and everything. And Sid was always supportive of me. He was always uhh, in my corner but there were people under Sid who were in charge of the production of JAWS that were, there was always rumbling and threatening of replacing me, the director. And Dick and Dave were, you know, always defended me and said no, if, if you go, we go and told the studio if you replace Steven, weíre also going to quit the picture. So they were always in my corner. But with Sid, it was never an issue. Sid was never going to allow me to be replaced and if I was replaced by the person in charge of production, Sid would have overruled that person. And Sid came to the set, to Marthaís Vineyard, three or four times, just as a show of support and he understood that the film was way over budget and way over schedule but he, more than a lot of the real professional production experts back in Hollywood, Sid, just by being in Marthaís Vineyard, could see that with the currents, the tides, the unpredictability of the weather conditions and the shark not working, this was no oneís fault. And Sid said, this is maybe, if itís anyoneís fault, itís my fault for not forcing you to shoot the picture in a tank where you can control all the conditions. But I wouldnít have directed the picture if I was forced to shoot it in a tank. I wouldnít have. But Sid really was my ally, Dick and Dave were my allies, it took that kind of a team to just get through that experience.

How proud were you when it was all said, done and realized? The fear factor, the performances, etc.?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, I was, I was going through so much, you know (chuckles), you know, a sort of a, you know, post-traumatic, you know, stress light. What, what, whatís the abbreviation of that? Is it PTST? Whatís the abbreviation? Is it PT? Yeah, whatís the adventure? Itís post-traumatic, PT, post-traumatic stress? PTS? Iíll say it in another way. I, I was, I was going through a similar kind of umm, post-traumatic shock, or waves of series of shocks while I was making JAWS. It kind of blunted the experience for me. Umm, as a filmmaker, I was working from a very intuitive place but those intuitions had to be suspended and extended for very long periods of time and almost sometimes an entire day. We would be out at sea and not get a single shot and other days when weíd be out at sea and only get a shot before lunch and a shot just before the sun was too low to film, two shots a day sometimes. And because of that, you know, uhh, I, I would both regain my, my vision in JAWS often three or four times a day because Iím used to shooting very rapidly where I can hold on to the, the idea of the movie. Uhh, but on JAWS, you had, I had to keep finding and keep discovering what JAWS was all about and how to make it scary and not having a shark actually helped me make the movie scarier than if I had a working shark. But when it came time to watching the film for the first time with an audience, I got to see it for the first time with an audience and I became that audience because uhh, my memory of the shooting had been blunted and had been kind of uhh, just the, the attrition that all of us suffered making JAWS. Nine months of, you know, shooting, on and off shooting. Umm, I became a member of that audience and for the first time I saw it, it was a pretty good movie and, and the actors did a great job and the shark was actually scary and, and, and the ocean without the shark was even scarier. And I really had a chance for the first time which I often donít have as a director, to see a movie completely objectively. And that was the first time I realized that something good had come of all of that umm, trauma and chaos.

The success of that movie changed your career and it changed Universal as well, didnít it?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Yeah. I, I kind of, very quietly protested the trade ads and the, the big ads in the New York Times that the studio was taking out, showing the shark eating all those other records because those records were my friends (laughs). You know? I knew them well, especially Francis Coppola, you know? And uhh, but, but it, nonetheless, it kind of just showed Universal had the bragging rights. The movie was a phenomenon by that time. It was making more money than any movie had ever made up to that point. I didnít know anything about adjusted gross so it was years later that I was finally informed and correctly that, no. GONE WITH THE WIND is still the number one film and always will be based on adjusted gross. I didnít know that word Ďadjusted grossí in those days and the studio never bandied that word about. So I just took it on face value what they were telling me that JAWS was a huge phenomenon and it was, it was amazing for the first time for me anyways like going to a thirty-one flavors on a Saturday to get a pistachio ice cream cone and actually hear people in line, independent of each other talking about JAWS which they had just seen. And I never had experienced anything like that before. Going to a restaurant and hearing the table behind me uhh, talking about JAWS not knowing I was there, not even recognizing, not even knowing who I was that I was the director of that picture. And I had never gone through anything like that before. Umm, and it became a cultural phenomenon and it became much bigger than me or anything I had done to make it and I didnít intend to make it a cultural phenomenon, I just intended to finish the movie and get home. I mean, that was, that was my goal. My goal was to come home. Safely.

Speaking of phenomenon, after that you had E.T. and it almost didnít get made at Universal. How did it find a home (no pun intended)?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, what had happened was I got the idea for doing E.T. based on two things. I was writing a script about my mom and dadís divorce and how it affected me and my three sisters. And I had that in my mind for a number of years and when I was doing CLOSE ENCOUNTERS in Mobile, Alabama, I was shooting a scene where the little alien affectionately referred to as ĎPickí umm, returns to the mother ship after doing the hand signs of Francois Truffaut. And on that day, I thought, wouldnít it be an interesting story if this was kind of like a foreign exchange and Dreyfuss goes up to the mother ship but the little puck alien stays behind and goes off with Francois Truffaut umm, like a cultural exchange. And I said, hey, that would make a pretty good movie. An alien that kind of becomes stranded on earth. And so umm, a few years later, Iím doing RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK and I combined my divorce story with my parents with this idea I got on this set of a movie made by Columbia Pictures. So I didnít feel it was, and I was, I was living at Universal and that was my home that was sort of my ancestral home, and I wanted to bring it to them but I felt honor bound to give it to Columbia because I actually got it while making a movie that they put sixteen million dollars to make, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. So I took it to the head of, of Columbia and uhh, they read the script Wilson Mathison had written with me and they rejected it. They apparently went out to a supermarket and they did a survey and they, and they did, it was very early and kind of a concept testing and they tested the concept on shoppers at like three oíclock in the afternoon who all said it sounded like a kids movie and they wouldnít go to see it. And so, they gave the script back to me and I immediately took it to Sid Schimberg at Universal and he made it.

Would you say casting Henry Thomas was the beginning of creating the magic of E.T.?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, the beginning of the magic was when I cast Drew Barrymore. She was cast before Henry Thomas. And when Drew came into the office and she was just six years old going on seven and uhh, she took the entire office by storm. She came into my office and was talking to me about this punk band she was forming, this was a six year old child talking about a, a punk band she was forming and the costumes she was making for herself and the kind of music she wanted to play. And I couldnít get a word in edgewise. She was, she was just like a blonde hurricane and I immediately signed her. I mean, that was it. She didnít have to test or anything. She was going to be Gurdy. Umm, and the tests we did with Henry Thomas and I have to thank Jack Fist uhh, the art director and who, who is married to Sissy Spacek. I had known Sissy uhh, over the years through Brian DePalma and I got to know Jack. And Jack knew I was struggling and hadnít found my boy yet on E.T. and he said, look, thereís a very, very small scene in my movie where Iíve got this young kid named Henry Thomas, he just has a couple of lines but let me send you the reel. So he sends the reel over of Henry and I thought Henry was wonderful. Umm, so I brought Henry in and did an improvisation where Mike Fenton the casting director played this kind of CIA man who was coming to this young boy and saying, you have something that we want that I know you got hiding in your closet and we want it. And my only direction to Henry was, you must defend that closet with your life. Do not let the CIA discover your secret friend. And Henry did an improvisation that brought us all to tears and I think right after the improv was over, Henry was crying. Right after it was over, I just said, okay, kid. You got the, you got the job.

And the movie was RAGGEDY MAN, right?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: RAGGEDY MAN was the movie that Jack Fisk had. RAGGEDY MAN was the movie that Jack Fisk had cast Henry Thomas to play a very small part in.

And Robert McNaughton, how did he Ö

STEVEN SPIELBERG: I donít remember.

Talk about the magic of the three kids in the film.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: The kids worked great together; Robert Naughton as the older brother and Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore and Dee Wallace. I mean, she was kind of a kid too in this story which was I showed her face because all other adults I, I would cut off kind of like those old Tex Avery cartoons at the waist only show their legs until the end and that was the kind of concept I had going into it but they, they became a family. We all became a family. And uhh, and because I shot the family in straight continuity from beginning to end, I did that for the kids. I wanted the kids to know that when they were coming to work, the scenes they were shooting today followed what actually happened in our continuity yesterday. So they didnít have to be flung all about from third act first, first act second and second act third. Umm, and shooting in continuity, I think, helped the kids develop not only an affection uhh, uhh, for each other, but a tremendous bonding with E.T. And even though E.T. was a puppet with fourteen Italian operators (inaudible) working behind the scenes, the kids never looked at the wires and they never saw the servos and they never listened to the servos engines motors, you know, humming and whirring. All they saw was this entity who they truly loved. Even, even Dee Wallace whoís was an adult, fell in love with E.T. and by shooting the film in continuity, I think it informed everybody of, you know, emotional geography. That gave everyone a kind of emotional geography. So by the end of the story when theyíre saying good bye to E.T., it was, in fact, almost the last day of shooting. And umm, we all fell apart those last two or three days of shooting. It was, it was very, very hard, especially on the kids.

Did that give you the idea that this puppet would end up affecting the movie audience as well?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: I donít know. I, you know, I, Iím always very hopeful our movie will find an audience but I donít plan on it unless itís a sequel. You know, and the only reason you make a sequel is because the first one was a runaway hit. So in a sequel is the only time I really think weíre going to open this picture, for sure. I donít know whether it will have legs but weíll certainly open it. But everythingís not a sequel. No. I, I never make predictions and I never really think about that.

When did you realize that E.T. was becoming another phenomenon?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, once again, just the preview of E.T., we took E.T. to Texas, the same place I previewed JAWS, my lucky theater: The Medallion Theater in Dallas. And we previewed the picture and uhh, it was extraordinary. It was one of the most powerful experiences Iíve ever had to sit, sitting in an audience because the audience was, was really, they basically adopted the film while they were watching it. They were adopting it, it belonged to that audience, those five-hundred people saw E.T. for the first time, they left that theater and they owned that experience. It was theirs. And making a movie like that is a bit like giving up a child for adoption because you suddenly realize it, itís not yours anymore. It belongs to the audience. And we all felt that, it was palpable.

How did the studio react to the phenomenon that it was becoming?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: The studio was still afraid of the movie even after this, this unprecedented sneak preview in Texas. They were still afraid of it. And, and, and it, they were, and I thought the marketing of the film, I thought the film succeeded despite the marketing which was very dark and full of a sort of false action. You know, people, men with flashlights running through the forest at night. They made it look mysterious and scary, almost like an old Universal ĎBí movie. And I didnít have a lot of say in those days, even though, you know, JAWS was a huge hit and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS was a huge hit and I had mad a number of successful movies, you know, umm, including RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, they still, the marketing people were still very possessive of, no. We really believe this is the way to sell E.T. and I think the audience, umm, because the studio did something, I donít like the way they marketed the picture but I loved that they previewed it two weeks before it opened all around the country on about four-hundred screens and every single screen sold out. And itís very rare when in a sneak preview across the country every single sneak sells out. Usually you hear things like, oh we were sixty percent filled or seventy-five percent filled but it was one-hundred percent filled all over the country. Thatís when the studio knew it had something and they were going to have a big opening number.

How did Lou Wasserman figure in your career during all those years?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, Lou was, Lou was sort of, you know, like, you know, Lou was the kind of, let me put it this way. Umm, Lou Wasserman was always umm, his presence was, was just there at Universal and MCA in those days. You know, you walked into the Commissary and the very, very last row of, of, of booths was on a riser, about a six inch riser. And in the center table, thatís where Lou always had his lunch everyday. And all the eyes gravitated, almost like it was a force field pulling our attention over to Lou Wasserman with his shock of strong hair and his big glasses and his history that both followed and preceded him, you know. And even then, even, even people that didnít read up on Hollywood history knew that Lou had kind of made Hollywood happen in a, in a certain regard and was responsible for a lot of the way business is, is, is conducted even today in the, in the film industry. He really changed the paradigm. And umm, you know, in terms of mergers and putting huge corporations together and creating a family at Universal. Sid and Lou created, and I want to give Sid credit in a hyphen with Lou, because they really worked like brothers. It was an amazing team. But they created an MCA family unlike anything Iíve experienced except a little bit of the Warner Brothers family created by Steve Ross, Terry (inaudible) and Bob Daly. Those were the only two families I knew growing up in the business; the Universal family and the Warnerís family. But the Universal family was where I was born, where I was discovered, so to speak. And Lou Wasserman was always behind these decisions. He was always sort of in the background. If not, and there were no strings between Lou and Sid. Sid didnít have any strings. Sid did what he wanted to do. But Lou believed in Sid and Sid believed in me. It was belief system at Universal where people just, just trusted and believed in each other. And, and good work got done because of that.

Was that because of the success of E.T.?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Yes, Sid and Lou one time, once again, surprised me after the success of E.T. I got called up to Louís office and, of course, I was on the phone with Lou everyday, you know. He, he was telling me countries Iíd never heard where the film had broken records. And I said, thatís great, Lou. Thatís great it broke records but whereís that country located? Again? So, he always reporting the international grosses. Sid was, Lou was more excited, Lou Wasserman was more excited about the international numbers on E.T. than anything else and he was, he bent my ear about that a lot. But one day, Sid and Lou called me up to Louís office and I was at Warner Brothers at the time, I had my offices at Warner Brothers. And Lou said, itís time we brought you home. You, you shouldnít be at Warnerís. You should be right here. And so, weíre going to get a little golf cart right now and weíre going to go around the lot and you tell me where youíd like to live and you can move into that office. So we got into the golf cart and we rode down the street and Lou said, hey. What about that office over there? And this is the office that Alfred Hitchcock when he was alive occupied. I said, no, I could never be in Hitchcockís office because that should be a shrine, a museum. No on should ever occupy that office. And we drove around a bit longer, checked out several office spaces to get me to move back and nothing was really big enough, frankly. It was like three, four offices in a small bungalow and by that time, I had a much larger company over at Warner Brothers. So, Lou just said, well, why donít we just find a piece of real estate and weíll build you an office. I couldnít believe he said that and he said that. Sid was smiling because Sid already knew that was going to be the plan. And Lou said, you tell me where youíd like to build your office and weíll build it there. And I actually had always loved THE LEAVE IT TO BEAVER Street. We had Beaverís house, the Munsterís House, the Adams Family House, the Father Knows Best house, And it was right on the LA river with a view of the golf course. But I didnít want to, but that was also part of the tour. They werenít shooting any more on those streets but it was, it was part of the tour. And I said, Iíve always fancied this one area, when I snuck onto the lot and sneak around, I used to sneak back to the Leave It To Beaver Street to watch the new street to watch them shooting TV shows when I was a kid. So, Lou said great. Sid said, weíll just move the Leave It To Beaver Street up to the top lot and recreate the street on the top lot so thatís exactly what happened. So then they built, you know, they, they, they asked me, you know, what I needed or the square footage of what I needed and they basically umm, I designed this place just based on architecture fancied from Sante Fe, New Mexico and umm, umm, they constructed this office, this facility in seven, eight months. We had moved in eight months from ground breaking. Thereís a picture out in front of Sid, Lou and I with shovels as we, as we break around here. But it was Lou and Sidís idea to get my back to Universal and this was their way of doing it.

How was it producing, like working with other directors like Bob Zemekis in BACK TO THE FUTURE?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, weíd always joked that weíd get our best material from Columbia because we had also taken BACK TO THE FUTURE Bob Zemekis, Bob Gale and I to Columbia because they had just made a picture I produced over there at Columbia and we took BACK TO THE FUTURE and Columbia didnít understand the script and gave it back to us. So, I said, you know, next stop shopping is Sid Schimberg so we brought the project with Sid and Sid instantly understood, loved the time travel paradigm, love the, you know, what the story was really about and gave us the green light to start casting and start making the movie. But I had worked with Bob before or Bob found me. When I was doing JAWS, he crashed into my office with his USC short film called FIELD OF HONOR with Bob Gale. And I saw the film and loved it. Bob instantly became a kind of protťgť at that point even though he was a, I hadnít found a job to give him. We just began hanging out with Bob and Bob and me and John Milius. We were always hanging out together. And when Bob and Bob wrote this script called I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND about the night that the Beatles played the Ed Sullivan Show and stayed at the Plaza hotel in New York, great screenplay. I took that to Sid Schimberg and Sid gave us a million and a half bucks and Bob got a chance to direct his first movie. And then Bob and I had done several films together, that film, I produced USED CARS with he and Bob Gale and then BACK TO THE FUTURE was the third thing we had done together.

And 1941?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: 1941 was something they wrote that was supposed to be John Milius directing it and it turned out I wound up directing it.

Were you surprised that BACK TO THE FUTURE had such a following after you completed it?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, I was more objective about BACK TO THE FUTURE because I didnít direct it. I was able to look at Bob Zemekisí cut and at that point just say, you know, this is a huge hit. People are going to love it. Youíre going to comeback and see this movie over and over again. And itís very hard for a director to say that because they usually, we canít see that about our own work but itís easier when youíre on the producing or youíre a friend of the family to come in with some objectivity and be able to make a valued judgment and even be able to predict something. And uhh, I just thought the film was extraordinary and extraordinarily entertaining and ironic and very much a part of the youth culture in the 1980ís. And uhh, so when it did become a big hit, I wasnít surprised. But the level of success, I was surprised by how much money the movie actually made.

How important has that legacy been to you as a filmmaker?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, you know, the back lot is symbolic of the very, you know, the chemical bath that we all come from, very beginnings of Hollywood with the back lots. Biograph, you know. And all the original back lots, the it studios and you know, the senate studios, these, these, these little independent film groups starting becoming factories --with hard, large enclosed stages especially when sound became critical. You know, the back lot was symbolic for Hollywood. MGM had the biggest back lot but Universal had the most acreage than any of the other studios, the most land available and had the biggest back lot even then. The idea that studios would start to become rental factories and the back lots would become real estate for, you know, mini malls or strip malls or, or just, you know, a real estate deal has always been an ethema in my way of, you know, respecting and loving old Hollywood so when this place burned down twice, I was on the design team that rebuilt the back lot twice. Now, because I really felt that Universal and the tour here but also what that back lot symbolizes in that this is the way that Hollywood used to be and still can be and in a way remarkably still is, especially at Universal.

How did JURASSIC PARK come to you as a project?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: I was working, I was going to direct a movie, Michael Crichton had written an original script about his own experiences as an intern. It was called ER for Ďemergency roomí, and Michael and I knew each other. Weíre friends and he gave me the script, I fell in love with it and I committed to direct it and we had been working several months on a rewrite. He was, he was tailoring it for me and, and uhh, during a lunch break, we were just talking and I said, what are you doing next? What book are you writing? He was always writing a book and he said, I canít tell you. Itís a big secret. I said, címon Michael. You have got to tell me about the book youíre writing. What do you mean itís a big secret? He said, I never talk about me work when Iím writing it. Well, I said you can tell me, weíre friends. Whatís it about? He said, okay. Iíll give you a clue. I said whatĎs the cute. He said itís about dinosaurs and DNA. I said what? And that was the end of ER. Literally that was the end of ER. As a movie that was going to be directed by me, and I immediately began being obsessed with learning more about what this little mystery book Michael writing was about. And finally Michael slipped me the galilees about four or five months later. It was called JURASSIC PARK and I read the galilees and went nuts. I committed to direct it and eventually he sold it to Universal and myself and then I took ER which I was going to make as a movie, and, and we gave it to NBC as a, as a, as a potential TV series and it became a television series.

Was the draw to JURASSIC PARK the ways to visualize it?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, I think that the secret of, of JURASSIC PARK was Michaelís gifts, Michael Crichtonís story telling gifts because that was a real, real E-ticket ride that he had written. Just in book form. You know, I wish I could have shot the whole book but I couldnít. But it was great what he had done. And we were going to make it with standard, you know, motion capture claymation dinosaurs. It was the Ray HarryHausen method. Phil Tippett who was the next Ray HarryHausen and he was going to make these amazing go-motion dinosaurs and I think the film would have worked to a certain degree but when Dennis Murren and ILM volunteered some idea he had about making the dinosaurs on the computer digitally and I knew a little bit about digital work because a movie that I produced that Barry Levinson directed called YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES, we did our very, very first digital effect I think in the history of Hollywood which is where the Templar Knight comes out of the stained glass window and kills the priest. And John Lassiter was the animator who animated that effect when he was working for George Lucas at ILM. So I knew a little bit about digital work but I also knew about its limitations, it was very limited. You couldnít make dinosaurs out of the same kind of xís and oís that they made YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES out of in that one effect. So, Dennis said, let me do a test and Iíll run the test by you. So he on his own and I donít think it was paid for, it was a free bee up at ILM, Dennis created this test of running Galamimus (sp?!) but just not fleshed out, not skinned just the bones. And when he showed me this test, against a still photograph of Hawaii, this kind of valley, it was the most extraordinary thing I think I had ever seen since George Luca showed me his first four shots from STAR WARS, which blew my mind back in 1976. But this was extraordinary to watch and because there was no jerkiness, none of that kind of no blur, kind of, you know, that vibration you get from go motion or stop motion photography. This was absolutely authentic. These were real skeletons running at us, it reminded me of in a way JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS with the Harryhausen skeletons fighting except these bones were moving as smoothly as animal would really be running across the Getty. And that was the moment that I realized that another paradigm shift and Phil Tippett was becoming extinct and I didnít quite know how to break the news to Phil. Phil broke the news to me and said, Iím extinct now and Phil immediately learned how to work the keyboard, learned how to create his art on the computer, he immediately switched over and worked with Dennis and creating the dinosaurs. Stan Winston was the other half of that team and it was always my intention to have full sized animatronics dinosaurs interacting with the cast. You know, broken up by the digital dinosaurs that Dennis would be doing up at ILM with Phil Tippett. Stan Winston did an extraordinary job because he made full-sized, an entire full sized Brachiosaur neck and head, a full sized Triceratops with breathing, lying on the ground in Hawaii. And of course the T-Rex he built, the 30 foot T-Rex from tail to nose, full sized and, and, and moving so fast with so much tonnage, sweeping through the air, you could hear the air being displaced by this mass moving through space, you could actually hear the air being displaced when the head swung that we had to put police tape around the T-Rex where it was to create a safe perimeter but we had to actually put lights, flashing lights on the ground so the crew wouldnít accidentally walk near the T-Rex when it was hot. So, it was quite a production.






 
 



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