Directors Interesting

The Future of Movies (1990)

The Future of Movies in 1990

Back in 1990 the late Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel hosted a TV special which featured directors Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Martin Scorsese discussing the future of movies.

Spielberg and Lucas made headlines earlier this summer by predicting the implosion of Hollywood’s current economic model, but what did they feel 23 years ago?

The answer lies in this programme – recently discovered by Cinephilia and Beyond – where they not only discuss the future of movies but also their careers and a good deal else beside, including:

  • The possibility of a sequel to E.T. (1982)
  • Spielberg’s interest in a Howard Hughes project
  • Lucas on the Star Wars prequels
  • Scorsese on Goodfellas (1990) and commercial success
  • The sex scene in Don’t Look Now (1973)
  • HD television
  • Film preservation

You can watch the full programme here (along with the fast-forwarded ads):

> Find out about 1990 on film at Wikipedia

Amusing Random

Citizen Steve

Citizen Steve 1987

For his 40th birthday Steven Spielberg‘s friends made him this short film based on Citizen Kane (1941) about his life and career up to that point.

With a March of Time segment voiced by Dan Ackroyd, John Candy plays the reporter who is assigned the task of uncovering the famed director.

Keep a look out for previous Spielberg collaborators such as Dennis Weaver (Duel), Allen Daviau (E.T.), Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale (1941) and Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall (longtime producers).

You wonder how this stuff ends up online but I’m glad it did.

> Steven Spielberg at the IMDb
> More on Citizen Kane at Wikipedia

Directors Interesting

Steven Spielberg at La Cinémathèque Francaise

Last month Steven Spielberg sat down for an hour long discussion with Costra-Gavras and Serge Toubiana at La Cinémathèque Francaise.

It was part of the European press tour for War Horse but the length and quality of the conversation made it much more than the usual press junket and red-carpet sound bites (where time is limited).

What made it extra special is that the two guys asking the questions really know their stuff.

Costa-Gavras directed two of the best political dramas ever made in Z (1969) and Missing (1982), whilst Toubiana was was the long time editor of Cahiers du cinéma (1981-1991) and is currently director of La Cinémathèque Française.

Spielberg wrote after the event:

“Not since Cannes in ’82 have I been so moved by an audience of lovers. I will never forget today!”

As you can imagine it was a pretty fascinating conversation, which formed part of the Spielberg season they are currently running, which lasts until March 3rd.

Although the questions are asked in French, Spielberg had an earpiece through which quick translations were made, so the conversation flows pretty well.

They never discuss it, but Costa-Gavras’ Z (1968) – one of the great films of the 1960s – was a major influence on Spielberg’s Munich (2005).

Here is the English version:

(Click here for the French version).

Spielberg starts speaking at around 03.36 and the conversation covers the following:

  • The ‘secret of his success’ and the ‘nervous energy’ that keeps him making movies
  • Why he made War Horse and how he directed the horses
  • The influence of John Ford (e.g. the landscape and choosing wide-shots over close-ups)
  • How he fell down a hole during shooting
  • Researching World War I at the Imperial War Museum in London
  • Why he didn’t use CGI horses and
  • Patience as a working tool in working with animals and children
  • The importance of casting and listening to actors
  • Using wide-angle lenses in shooting horses and the Devon landscape
  • His regular ‘chameleon collaborators’ (e.g. John Williams, Janusz Kaminski and Kathleen Kennedy)
  • Why his editor Michael Kahn persuaded him to edit Lincoln (2012) on an Avid
  • He will still shoot on photographic film for the foreseeable future
  • How he selects film projects
  • Shooting 3 films in 12 months (The Lost World, Amistad and Saving Private Ryan)
  • Why John Ford never shot coverage to prevent studio interference
  • How he got final cut after Jaws (1975) and why it is sometimes dangerous
  • How Duel (1971) was inspired by an issue of Playboy
  • Why some of the best writing is now in US cable television (e.g. Boardwalk Empire, Modern Family etc.)
  • Why he cast Francois Truffaut in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
  • How Spielberg helped translate the title of L’Argent de poche to Small Change
  • Crazy Hollywood sayings like ‘product’ and ‘taking a lunch’
  • The influence of 9/11 on Minority Report (2002) and War of the Worlds (2005)
  • Why he became more interested in news and world events after becoming a parent
  • At 51:32 Costa-Gravas says something which leaves Spielberg speechless in admiration – can any French speakers translate?
  • The danger in having too much confidence and why a lack of it can be essential
  • The work of the Shoah Foundation and how some survivors had never talked about their experiences before
  • Why he shoots on schedule
  • His work as a producer and studio head
UPDATE: 08/02/12: Richard Brody has provided a translation via Twitter:

La Cinémathèque française
> Arte.TV page for the event
> Serge Toubiana’s blog about the event (in French but use Google Translate)
> Find out more about Steven Spielberg and Costa-Gavras at Wikipedia

Cinema Reviews Thoughts

War Horse

Steven Spielberg’s latest film is a simultaneous reminder of his undoubted filmmaking skills and weakness for old-fashioned sentimentality.

Adapted from Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel – which later became a huge stage hit in London and New York – it follows a young horse named Joey as he gets caught up in World War I.

The resulting equine odyssey we explore his various owners: a Devon farm boy (Jeremy Irvine); an English soldier (Tom Hiddleston); two German troops (David Kross and Leonhard Carow); a French farmer (Niels Arestrup) and the effect he has on the them.

As you might expect from a filmmaker of Spielberg’s vast experience, there are sequences here which are staged with his customary taste and skill.

The rural English locations are beautifully realised through Rick Carter‘s production design and skilfully adapted for the wartime action, which is impressive in scope and detail.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the film is one which audiences may take for granted: the acting and handling of the horses used to represent the title character.

Although there are precedents for an animal as lead character – notably Robert Bresson’s Au Hasard, Balthazar (1966) – it is highly unusual to see a mainstream live-action film built around a horse.

The main trainer was Bobby Lovgren and several were used to create the central illusion, which Spielberg pulls off, especially in the latter stages of the film.

Unfortunately, the screenplay by Richard Curtis and Lee Hall appears to have been tailor made for a ‘Spielberg Production’, which means that stilted stereotypical characters and frequent doses of lachrymose sentimentality get in the way of the drama.

By trying to match the ideal of what they think are the directors strengths, the screenwriters have misunderstood that his best work (Jaws, Close Encounters, Schindler’s List and Minority Report) comes when he operates outside his usual comfort zones.

Thus we have an array of great acting talent (Mullan, Watson, Arestrup) along with current casting-director favourites (Hiddleston, Cumberbatch, Kebbell) forced to read awkward lines which undercut the dramatic impact of their scenes.

Visually the film is also mixed bag.

Spielberg and DP Janusz Kaminski are a formidable partnership but here their approach to lighting seems odd.

Filming in the ever-changing climate of England poses challenges for any production, but here the lighting choices are distracting – at times bordering on the avant-garde – with characters faces being lit up like they were on stage.

That being said, the battle scenes are composed with impressive precision and the use of wide-angles and Michael Kahn’s graceful cutting seems like a breath of fresh air in the current era of chaos cinema.

There is also a lot to be said for a film that tries to genuinely appeal to a wide family audience in an era where comic books and animated films rule the multiplexes.

For some – especially those who have had close connections with horses – there are moments that will be undeniably moving, but overall the material doesn’t naturally translate to screen in the manner the filmmakers presumably hoped.

Although the aim here has been to channel the visual style of John Ford on to the battlefields of Europe and to pepper the film with noble anti-war sentiments, the overall effect is underwhelming.

There are frequent touches of brilliance, such as a devastatingly simple shot to conclude a particular battle sequence, but there is little in the way of narrative urgency.

Another negative is the fact that French and German characters don’t speak in their native language – a commercial decision which undercuts the expensively assembled realism of the set-pieces.

The film reaches a nadir of sorts during the final battle when Spielberg reverts to his favoured ‘why can’t we all get along?’ position which feels as predictable as it is redundant, especially when delivered via clunky lines of dialogue.

This is accentuated by the John Williams score which contains all the soaring strings and melodies and beats you might expect – but like the film it is too much surface and not enough substance.

I suspect that there was part of Spielberg that couldn’t resist the lure of War Horse – after the enormous success of the stage production it seemed pre-packaged project for him, with its built-in family appeal and worthy subject matter.

But ever since the beginning of his astonishing career he has been a director who has achieved his very best work in adversity rather than the dangerous comfort zones he finds hard to turn down.

Whether it was the tortuous production of Jaws (1975), the desire for redemption with Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) after the folly of 1941 (1979), or the compulsion to depict the brutality of the Holocaust in Schindler’s List (1993) after the misfire of Hook (1991) – all these triggered a kind of magic inside of his artistic soul.

For a director who achieved career and financial security so young, the greatest risks have always creative ones and he seems to thrive when making risky leaps of faith.

It was there during his innovative use of the Panaflex camera in The Sugarland Express (1974), his exhilarating framing and cutting during Jaws (1975) and the awesome sights and sounds in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

As his career progressed, he became so successful as both director and producer that he even reached the giddy heights of owning his own studio, even if it often had to partner with the majors on the big productions.

Yet despite all this ‘extracurricular activity’ he has maintained an impressive focus on his films, even if they have been of varying quality.

War Horse is ultimately not a film that stretched his creative muscles enough.

Perhaps the upcoming Lincoln – a project that he’s been circling for years – could prove to be more challenging?

> War Horse
> Reviews of the film at Metacritic
> Find out more about the book and stage play at Wikipedia


The Spielberg Face

This video essay by Kevin B. Lee highlights a signature feature of director Steven Spielberg.

Whenever you watch a Spielberg movie there is a good chance you will see the camera zoom in on a character looking at something (or someone) in awe.

As the video points out it was not a new technique, but the enormous success of his movies meant that it became synonymous with the wonder of his films.

It is an effective technique as it literally draws us closer to the characters and stokes our imagination as to what is being looked at.

Perhaps it goes back to the famous “Dolly zoom” shot of Roy Scheider on the beach in Jaws (1975) where we get a disturbing close-up before cutting to glimpses of a dreadful shark attack (it’s around 2.01 in the clip below).

But the visual motif also functions as a metaphor for his career – a director who cares deeply about his audiences before providing them with something of wonder to look at.

> Transcript of the essay at Fandor
> Steven Spielberg at the IMDb, MUBi and TSFDT
> Chaos Cinema the Rise of the Avid


Steven Spielberg on Stanley Kubrick

In 1999 Steven Spielberg sat down for a lengthy and fascinating interview about Stanley Kubrick.

Conducted by Paul Joyce, parts of it were used in the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures and clips surfaced on the subsequent DVD and Blu-ray re-issues from Warner Bros.

An Italian Kubrick site recently posted the unedited 25 minute version that aired on British TV around the release of Eyes Wide Shut at UK cinemas (which if I remember correctly was September 1999).

It is a fascinating discussion which covers:

  • Spielberg’s first experience at a Kubrick movie
  • How the film of 2001: A Space Odyssey was a mind-altering experience
  • The violence in A Clockwork Orange
  • How they first met on the set of The Shining
  • Kubrick’s late night phone calls to other directors
  • How he found out about Kubrick’s death on the Internet

> More on Stanley Kubrick and Steven Spielberg at Wikipedia
> The Stanley Kubrick Collection (available on Blu-ray here)

Interesting music

John Williams 1990 Concert

In 1990 Steven Spielberg hosted a TV special dedicated to the music of John Williams.

For a special edition of a WGBH programme called Evening at the Pops, Williams conducted the Boston Pops Orchestra as they played some of his most famous themes.

Spielberg introduces each segment and those played are selections from Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Sugarland Express, 1941 and E.T. The Extraterrestrial.

Although there were more scores to come (Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List) it is a nice tribute to one of cinema’s most enduring creative partnerships.

> John Williams at Wikipedia
> Steven Spielberg at MUBi and TSFDT

Amusing Directors Interesting

Steven Spielberg Cameos

Steven Spielberg pops up in movies more often than you might think.

People of a certain age might remember him in The Blues Brothers (1980) but there are some that are not so well known, like Jaws (1975) and Vanilla Sky (2001).

A YouTube user has compiled this neat video of them.

My favourite?

Probably Gremlins (1984).

> The Voice Cameos of James Cameron
> DGA Panel on Spielberg’s career

Cinema Reviews Thoughts

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn

Steven Spielberg’s long cherished dream of bringing Herge’s famous character to the screen utilises cutting edge visual effects to create a delightful adaptation.

Although as his first animated film it marks new technical territory for the director, the globe-trotting nature of the narrative closely resembles his Indiana Jones movies and he weaves something fresh and exciting out of a much loved character.

The story blends elements of the first three Tintin books – The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure – and centres around an intrepid reporter (Jamie Bell) and his loyal dog Snowy as they come across a valuable model boat.

They soon discover that various other people are interested in it and their investigation sees them come across various characters, including: enigmatic Sakharine (Daniel Craig), drink-soaked Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and twin Interpol agents Thomson and Thompson (Nick Frost and Simon Pegg).

Using a similar 3D motion capture process that James Cameron pioneered on Avatar, Spielberg shot the actors on a stage with a virtual camera and then producer Peter Jackson’s visual effects company Weta Digital essentially animated over the performances and created the world in which they inhabit.

It should be noted that Jackson was closely involved in the project – he is even credited as 2nd unit director – and will probably co-direct a sequel, if this one meets commercial expectations.

The end result is visually stunning, a rich and immersive depiction of Herge’s world filled with impressive detail and colour.

Spielberg especially seems energised by the new process, exploring visual angles and movements that wouldn’t be possible in a conventional live action film.

Various action sequences utilise the virtual locations extremely well and the filmmakers really squeeze the excitement out of different spaces, be they streets, ships or deserts.

Nowhere is this more apparent in the character of Snowy – an integral part of Tintin’s world – who simply wouldn’t have been possible in a live action process (unless they found a ridiculously talented dog).

The motion-capture process also gives the main characters bodies a greater sense of weight and their movement a greater believability, although it is still early days in the technology when it comes to the detail of the face.

A slight sense of weirdness comes when there are facial close ups, as they are so rich in detail that they venture into uncanny valley territory, but overall this isn’t too much of a problem as the look has been carefully designed on pre-existing source material and isn’t meant to duplicate real people.

It perhaps isn’t a surprise that the stand-out performance comes from Serkis, now the most experienced motion-capture actor in the world after his pioneering work in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, King Kong and Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Not only is his character engaging and hilarious, his performance is the most complete hybrid of voice and movement in the cast, setting a new benchmark in this new technical zone of acting.

That said the other main performances – especially Bell – help bring their characters to life and unlike recent Robert Zemeckis films that have used motion capture (such as A Christmas Carol) they feel more complete and polished.

The recreation of light, be it from lamps on a ship or direct sunlight, is remarkable and matched by the tricky business of water (which is similarly impressive) giving scenes which combine them a real wow factor.

Mainstream audiences are likely to be dazzled by the overall look and some of the visual transitions, which explain potentially tricky plot elements, are done with such finesse and joy they suggest Spielberg was thoroughly enamoured with his new digital tool kit.

Is it too much of a stretch to suggest his love of shooting on celluloid and editing on a Steenbeck could be waning in the face of the possibilities afforded by digital? (Michael Kahn has confirmed that they edited the upcoming War Horse on an Avid)

Spielberg has always stated that he’s going to shoot on film stock for live action movies, but the screening of this in very week that Panavision and ARRI announced they would stop making traditional film cameras in favour of digital models seems like some kind of portent.

But whatever the future holds, this is probably Spielberg’s most purely enjoyable film since Minority Report as he handles the action and characters with effervescent aplomb, each sequence snapping easily into another.

Much of the solid foundation of the film lies in the witty, respectful script by British writers Steven Moffat, Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish, who have wisely focused on getting the fundamental characters right and letting everything flow from there.

Fans of the books and a whole new audience will find much to enjoy in Snowy’s persistence, Tintin’s fearlessness and Haddock’s drunken wisdom, whilst enjoying the mix of playful humour and genuine excitement.

The eagle eyed will notice the loving references to Herge’s world and what seemed to me like Easter egg references to each of the first three Indiana Jones movies – I won’t spoil what they were, but keep an eye out for a van, a plane and a motorbike side-car.

In some ways, there are parallels to Raiders of the Lost Ark as that was an adventure film heavily influenced by existing source material (the serials of the 1930s and 40s) and Secret of the Unicorn sees Spielberg flex similar creative muscles, with its mix of fast-paced action, humour and globe-trotting adventure.

Perhaps the best credit you can give the filmmakers is that it seemed like they had a blast making it and that infectious enthusiasm – a classic trait in Spielberg’s best work – transmits to the end result.

As for the 3D, the filmmakers and distributor seem to have taken into consideration the problem of brightness levels, which has bedevilled recent releases such as Captain America: The First Avenger and the final Harry Potter movie.

Although the colours are distinctive to begin with, the brightness level on the cinema screen I saw (the Odeon Leicester Square in London) was amongst the best I’ve seen in a 3D screening and Spielberg also makes intelligent use of the sense of space that the medium offers.

As for the director’s usual collaborators, Michael Kahn’s editing helps give the film an energy and smooth sense of movement, whilst the score from John Williams – whilst not one of his most immediately melodic – forms a similar function and never overpowers the visuals.

Given the nature of the production, which involves digital rather than traditional photochemical cinematography, regular DP Janusz Kaminski has performed a different role as a ‘visual consultant’ but seems to have played a role in the realisation of Herge’s drawings and the virtual lighting and camera moves.

Unusually for a major release, this will be released in Europe almost two months before America, presumably to build buzz and anticipation in the continent where the characters are most familiar.

There was a lot that was unconventional about this project, as two major directors have teamed up for a franchise that is being released by a pair of major studios, with Paramount distributing in Europe and Sony in America.

It is ironic that the latest digital filmmaking technology has been utilised to bring such a traditional character to the big screen, but it says a lot that Spielberg and his team of collaborators have kept faith with the core characters and look of the source material.

The end result has a beautiful charm and simplicity to it which should appeal to a wide spectrum of audiences around the world, possibly paving the way for an enduring franchise.

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn opens in the UK on October 26th and in the US on December 19th

> Official Tintin site, Facebook and Twitter
> Find out more about the Tintin books at Wikipedia


Trailer: War Horse

War Horse is the upcoming Steven Spielberg film based on the 1982 children’s novel by Michael Morpurgo.

Set during World War I, it tells the story of a horse who ends up being sold into the army and serving both British and German forces in the battlefields of France.

After being turned into a hugely successful stage adaptation in 2007, Spielberg chose to direct it and the film stars David ThewlisBenedict CumberbatchJeremy IrvineEmily WatsonTom Hiddleston and Peter Mullan.

It’s released in the US on December 25th and in the United Kingdom on January 13th 2012.

(Quick fact: a key sequence was filmed just a few miles from where I’m typing this post)

> Official US site and UK site
> More about War Horse at Wikipedia


Interesting Thoughts video

Chaos Cinema and the Rise of the Avid

This two-part video essay by Matthias Stork on the style of modern action films considers the rise of chaos cinema.

The first part contrasts traditional, composed action set-pieces in Die Hard (1988) with the frenetic approach adopted in more recent films from directors like Paul Greengrass and Michael Bay, as well as highlighting the importance of sound in shaping our perception of a scene.

The second part explores the way dialogue scenes have also been affected, but also points out the benefits of chaos cinema if used for a specific purpose, using the example of Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2009).

I’m not sure I agree with all examples here, as the Greengrass Bourne films – The Bourne Supremacy (2004) and The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) – are exhilarating and shouldn’t be blamed for the lame copycats that followed in their wake.

The question I was left pondering after watching these videos is why did ‘chaos cinema’ really take hold over the last 15 years?

One could cite the influence of a generation of directors who ‘graduated’ from MTV videos and commercials, such as Michael Bay, Gore Verbinski and David Fincher.

Or perhaps the rise of handheld visuals and quick cutting has roots in trying to satiate the attention spans of the younger audiences used to first person video games, as shooter games like Overwatch, people play with the use of services as Overwatch boosting from sites online.

In a sense, the GoldenEye first-person shooter game which came out in 1997 proved more influential and prophetic than the actual film that inspired it two years beforehand.

Perhaps audiences got used to shorter attention spans in the age of the Internet and this frenetic multi-tasking was somehow reflected on screen.

My theory is that computer based non-linear editing systems, such as the Avid and Final Cut Pro have had a major influence.

Back in 1990 when Bernardo Bertolucci was editing The Sheltering Sky (1990), the Italian director was asked by a BBC film crew to compare the old editing system with a new non-linear based one.

Filmmaker and author Michael Rubin worked on the production and discussed in 2006 how it used the laserdisc-based CMX 6000 editing system:

“No-one was using non-linear on feature films at the time. We set it up at the post-production in Soho …the English [producers] were waiting for this computer to crash, so we could get back to film.”

This was a pretty extraordinary development, given that Bertolucci, cinematographer Vittorio Storaro and editor Gabriella Cristiani had all just won Oscars for their sumptuous epic The Last Emperor (1987).

Bertolucci admitted to the BBC crew that he missed the feel and smell of celluloid on a traditional flat-bed system, but seemed impressed by the unprecedented freedom offered by a computerised system.

It was clear that a gradual revolution was taking place, roughly at the same time as computerisation was changing visual effects with ILM doing ground-breaking work on Terminator 2 (1991), partly thanks to a new program called Photoshop.

In the past, using machines like a Steenbeck – which physically cut and spliced celluloid – made editing a much slower and more considered process.

When you see someone like David Lean editing A Passage to India (1984) on a moviola, you realise what a skilled and mechanical process it was to physically cut a film:

The rise of the Avid in the 1990s changed all that, giving editors astonishing flexibility and freedom to arrange sequences and cut them with precision.

Bill Warner, the pioneer who came up with the basic idea of the Avid, mistakenly thought that such as system already existed in the late 1980s when he developed what was essentially a software program that ran on a Macintosh.

When early computerised editing systems first came in, the challenge they faced was convincing directors and editors who were used to editing on older systems they were familiar with.

After all, if traditional editing machines like the Moviola, Steenbeck and KEM weren’t broke, then why fix them?

In the high-pressure world of film post-production time literally is money and there is often a rush to get the scenes arranged for the score and final sound mix.

It would have been quite a challenge to explain to experienced editors used to cutting the old way that Avid offered a compelling alternative and that they had to learn how to use a computer.

*UPDATE 01/06/15* Filmmaker IQ do a nice history of the transition here:

Given the steep learning curve, it was no surprise that change was gradual but by the early 1990s Avids began to replace older flatbed editing machines and by 1995 many major productions had made the switch to scanning their films in via telecine and then cutting them on computer.

When Walter Murch won the Oscar for editing The English Patient (1996) on an Avid, it became the first editing Oscar to be awarded to a production that used a digital based system, even though the final print was still celluloid.

Whilst mainstream Hollywood has made the switch, Steven Spielberg has been a famous hold out against editing machines like the Avid, because he dislikes the very speed of the modern workflow, saying he needs time to think during editing.

Although even he admitted at a recent DGA event that he has surrendered to the new system whilst editing his latest film, War Horse, which will be cut by his longtime collaborator Michael Kahn.

This freedom to quickly arrange and cut together elements of a film seems to have had a profound influence on the work of ‘chaos cinema’ directors.

Paul Greengrass shoots lots of footage so he can assemble it in the editing room; Tony Scott shoots on multiple cameras with such ferocity that his films are almost avant garde; and Michael Bay’s career seems like a case study in applying techniques of MTV videos directly to the multiplex.

These filmmakers get a lot of attention for how they shoot action, but the way they piece it together in the editing room is as fundamental to their visual style.

Would they be agents of chaos without modern, lightweight cameras and faster editing systems?

> IndieWire essay on Chaos Cinema
> David Bordwell on ‘intensified continuity’
> Find out more about non-linear editing systems at Wikipedia

Directors Interesting

Steven Spielberg Panel at the DGA

The DGA recently paid tribute to Steven Spielberg with a panel event that included Michael Apted, James Cameron and J.J. Abrams.

Held on June 11th at the DGA Theater in Los Angeles, it was part of their 75th Anniversary ‘Game-Changer’ series of events.

After an introduction from current DGA president Taylor Hackford, Michael Apted hosts a discussion which sees Abrams and Cameron ask Spielberg questions about his films and career.

It isn’t availabe as an embed but if you click on the image below, it will take you to the DGA page where – if you scroll down a bit –  the full video can be found, along with highlights and photos:

Lasting over 90 minutes, it is a fascinating talk and covers:

  • The famous boat scene in Jaws (1975)
  • Abrams coming across the script for Jaws at Spielberg’s house
  • Using motion capture on his upcoming film version of Tin-Tin (2011)
  • Cameron’s love of Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and how it influenced him
  • The early visual effects Spielberg employed on Close Encounters and why he re-shot the ending
  • The classic fight scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and the fact that Spielberg didn’t get ill whilst filming in Tunisia because he had Sainsbury’s canned food shipped in from the UK.
  • Tips on directing children and how a fantastic preview screening of E.T. (1982) upset actor Henry Thomas
  • How he had to adapt his directorial style for Schindler’s List (1993)
  • The visual effects breakthroughs on Jurassic Park (1993)
  • Being inspired by the films of David Lean and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
  • How he edited on an Avid for the first time on the upcoming War Horse (2011)
  • How he was being glib when he once advised young directors to wear ‘comfortable shoes’
  • The importance of collaboration and listening to co-workers
  • How he loves shooting in England because the crew there call the director ‘Guv’.
  • JJ Abrams and James Cameron also have nice closing statements about how they have been inspired by him
  • Spielberg also closes by talking about his biggest regret, the film he’s proudest of and the one that most closely resembled his original vision.

[Via /Film]

> Steven Spielberg at Wikipedia and the IMDb

Cinema Reviews Thoughts

Super 8

A loving homage to the early work of Steven Spielberg, Super 8 mixes genres to create an unusual but enjoyable summer movie experience.

Set in Ohio during 1979, it tells the story of a teenage boy named Joe (Joel Courtney) and his group of friends who accidentally discover strange things happening in their small town whilst making a movie using a Super 8 camera.

After witnessing a spectacular train crash, quickly covered up by the US army, Joe has to deal with his lawman father (Kyle Chandler), his filmmaking buddies led by Charles (Riley Griffiths), a classmate named Alice (Elle Fanning), and a series of increasingly mysterious events.

In a summer filled with remakes and sequels, this singular project sees director J.J Abrams blend his love for the original series of The Twilight Zone with the Spielberg films that enchanted him as a young man.

For a major studio like Paramount, this is an unlikely summer tent-pole release as it isn’t based on a pre-existing property (or is it?) and there are no star names attached.

With a relatively cheap production budget of about $50 million, it is being sold on the central concept of ‘what if Steven Spielberg made Cloverfield in 1979?’

The end result is an entertaining love letter to the era in which Abrams grew up but also to the movies and TV shows which inspired him to become a storyteller.

Whilst the bedrock is a coming-of-age tale, it also mixes sci-fi and family drama with the kind of mystery and wonder that Abrams and Spielberg have both specialised in during their careers in film and television.

Spielberg is a producer on the film and reportedly had significant creative input into the script and final movie (it is even co-produced under his iconic Amblin’ banner), which is kind of like Paul McCartney teaming up with a Beatles tribute band.

Indeed, Super 8 is so intentionally marinated in Spielberg tropes that it is almost difficult to categorise.

Is it a homage? A cinematic mashup? Perhaps one analogy would be to say that it is a filmic remix of Spielberg’s greatest hits by Abrams.

It certainly draws deeply from Spielberg’s early blockbusters but also on other films he wrote and produced in that period when he established himself as Hollywood’s boy wonder.

Like Jaws (1975), it deals with a sinister threat to a small town; like Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), ordinary people are caught up in extraordinary events; like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), innocent children are contrasted against guilty adults; like Poltergeist (1982), a family struggles against dark, underground forces and like The Goonies (1985), a band of friends bond on an adventure.

(Spielberg fans will have fun spotting many other little details and references to his work)

Some people might level the accusation that Abrams and Spielberg have combined to just rip off and revisit the latter’s movies, but it is to their credit that they have actually crafted something new, whilst remaining respectful to those original works.

Perhaps the neatest trick of Super 8 is that it remembers that despite their spectacle, Spielberg’s early films had a rich vein of emotion that flowed from memorable characters.

Opening with an scene of eloquent sadness, the film is grounded in real life and even if some fantastical things later happen, it is all about how these events affect the characters and their relationships.

A good deal of this comes from the two young actors who anchor this film brilliantly.

Newcomer Joel Courtney has just the right amount of innocence and spirit in what is essentially the lead role, whilst his chemistry with Elle Fanning is both believable and charming.

She too is really quite something, conveying complex emotions with an ease rare for actors her age. One sequence early on, as she rehearses a scene for the Super 8 film-within-the-film, has shades of Naomi Watts’ audition in Mulholland Drive (2001).

The other actors round out the film nicely, with Riley Griffiths, Zach Mills, Gabriel Basso and Ryan Lee making up an engaging patchwork of friends and budding filmmakers.

In the token adult roles, Kyle Chandler as Joe’s police officer father and Toby Emmerich as the military commander are OK without bringing the house down, but perhaps that’s a by product of having so much focus on the kids.

It is also worth noting that for all his obsession with sci-fi spectacle Abrams (like early Spielberg) is deft at handling the little character touches, whether it be an extra talking on a payphone or revealing background visual details.

His recent reboot of Star Trek (2009) worked wonderfully because of this kind of attention to character and place and the same is true of Super 8.

The production design, cinematography and tone are all remarkably authentic to the vibe of the period and DP Larry Fong creates widescreen images that seem to curb his director’s occasional instincts to frame the action like he’s still working in television.

On the downside, Abrams penchant for lens flares becomes distracting – they are even on the poster! – even if the visuals overall work well. Some shots of awestruck kids and depictions of small-town suburbia nicely reference Allen Daviau’s cinematography in E.T and Vilmos Zsigmond‘s work in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Ben Burtt’s sound design is also very effective, especially during the action set-pieces, which simultaneously keeps things real whilst also giving certain scenes a requisite fantastical lift.

One major caveat is that the visual effects sometimes feel overdone for key scenes, but that could be a case of the production needing to spend its allocated budget.

This is especially true as the film enters its final act and the compulsion to introduce big set-pieces threatens to drown out the carefully constructed tone of the film.

But even here Abrams deploys his secret weapon in composer Michael Giacchino, who is fast becoming one of the best of his generation after establishing himself with TV shows such as Lost and winning awards for his work on Pixar movies like Up.

As you might expect his work here deliberately channels Spielberg’s regular composer John Williams, but he also manages to weave in his own blend of melodies, which give the final sequences a special emotional kick.

It is difficult to discuss much of the plot without giving away spoilers, but despite some problems with the latter stages, it was very hard not to exit the film smiling.

Some might feel this whole project is simply an exercise in nostalgia, but it manages to be more than just a retread of Spielberg’s work by tapping in to the essence of what made them successful.

By mining the magic of a previous era, Super 8 reminds us that the simple pleasures of summer movies, like character and emotion, are often the most rewarding.

Super 8 is out now in the US and opens in the UK on Friday 5th August

> Official site
> Find out more about J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg at Wikipedia
> Reviews of Super 8 at Metacritic

Behind The Scenes Interesting

Joe Alves on Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Production designer Joe Alves describes how he found the iconic locations for Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978).

He had already worked with director Steven Spielberg on films such as The Sugarland Express (1974) and Jaws (1975), but Close Encounters involved more elaborate sets and visual effects.

In this interview with Herve Attia he discusses:

  • Finding the houses for the Neary and Guiler families
  • The enormous set built for various sequences including the climax
  • How his musical background influenced the famous colour scoreboard
  • His thoughts on the different versions
  • How the light of the spaceship was created

> More on Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Wikipedia
> Herve Attia’s channel on YouTube

Images In Production News

First images from Spielberg’s Tintin

Empire have posted the first images from the upcoming Tintin film directed by Steven Spielberg.

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn is based on three of the stories by Hergé: The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure.

The story involves Tintin’s (Jamie Bell) first encounter with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis) and a treasure hunt which involves an escaped prisoner, as well as Detectives Thompson and Thomson (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost).

A longtime Tintin fan, Spielberg filmed using motion capture 3-D cameras and the film is currently scheduled for release in late 2011.

> Empire’s Tintin page
> IMDb entry


Andy Warhol interviews Steven Spielberg

An interesting video of Andy Warhol interviewing Steven Spielberg, while Bianca Jagger occasionally chips in.

[Link via Buzzfeed]

> Find out more about Andy WarholSteven Spielberg and Bianca Jagger at Wikipedia
> The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh

Cannes Festivals Interesting Technology

Steven Spielberg on Seesmic with Jemima Kiss of The Guardian

Yesterday, The Guardian’s Jemima Kiss managed to ask Steven Spielberg and cast members of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (including Harrison Ford and Karen Allen) a bunch of questions via the new video site Seesmic.

She explains:

Seesmic, the video discussion site, has gone wild this morning as Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, George Lucas and more big names from Indiana Jones 4 join a Q&A session on the site.

It’s a simple enough idea but incredibly exciting; I just posted a few direct questions to Spielberg and Karen Allen (Marian was always one of my favourite heroines) and it’s quite a buzz watching them reply directly to your own questions.

Seesmic is quite intimate too – like most people, I just use my webcam and was still wearing my pyjamas when I recorded. But hey, pyjamas have a good internet heritage.

Here is Jemima asking him about his plans for the small screen and the interactivity of the web:

And Spielberg then replied:

Jemima also asked Steven how the Indy films fit into his wider body of work:


Harrison Ford talks about the first day on the set of the latest movie:

Karen Allen discusses the return of her character, Marion Ravenwood:


Great work from Jemima and it is good to see a major studio like Paramount and A-listers like Spielberg embracing this kind of technology.

As someone who has done my fair share of interviews with actors and filmmakers this looks like a really exciting development.

> The full interviews over at the Guardian’s PDA blog
> Jemima’s blog
> Official site for Seesmic
> Loic Le Meur blog with more details on how the interviews worked
> Techcrunch on Seesmic

Cannes Cinema Festivals News

Cannes 2008 Reactions: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Earlier today, the world’s press in Cannes finally got to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Would it be a Da Vinci Code style descent into a snake pit of critical derision or would Indy triumph whilst the doubters melted away like the Nazis at the end of Raiders?

On the whole, the reaction coming out of Cannes seems to be positive with a few naysayers here and there.

Here is a summary of the critical reaction:

Anne Thompson of Variety sets the scene outside the screening and says the film is ‘good enough’ and ‘fun’:

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull had its world premiere at Cannes at 1 PM May 18; the press anxiously streamed into the Lumiere early, afraid they would be shut out–and many were.

There were whoos and whistles before the screening started. The movie unspooled without the usual Cannes logo. The first hour plays like gangbusters and is really fun.

Harrison Ford has Indy down, even as a grizzled “gramps” dealing affectionately with Shia LaBeouf as a 60s greaser with a pompadour.

The movie will do blockbuster boxoffice, and whatever critical brickbats are still to come…

Her Variety colleague Todd McCarthy says it ‘delivers the goods’:

One of the most eagerly and long-awaited series follow-ups in screen history delivers the goods — not those of the still first-rate original, 1981’s “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but those of its uneven two successors.

“Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” begins with an actual big bang, then gradually slides toward a ho-hum midsection before literally taking off for an uplifting finish.

Nineteen years after their last adventure, director Steven Spielberg and star Harrison Ford have no trouble getting back into the groove with a story and style very much in keeping with what has made the series so perennially popular. Few films have ever had such a high mass audience must-see factor, spelling giant May 22 openings worldwide and a rambunctious B.O. life all the way into the eventual “Indiana Jones” DVD four-pack.

Kim Voynar of Cinematical is also positive, saying it is ‘nicely satisfying’:

Indy 4 is a nicely satisfying continuation of the franchise, and will please most Indy fans.

Though the first act drags a bit, the latter two-thirds of the film pick up the pace, and the film is packed with all the familiar elements fans have come to expect from Indiana Jones.

Harrison Ford is older, of course (aren’t we all), but still brings the role all the charm, daring and humor Indy should have.

However, her Cinematical colleague James Rocchi is very disappointed though, deeming it ‘self-conscious and self-satisfied’:

Loaded with moments referencing the earlier films and full of action sequences that don’t measure up to past highlights of the series, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crustal Skull feels simultaneously self-conscious and self-satisfied, as if a little warm glow of past glory will soothe our bumps and blows from the clumsiness of the script.

The action sequences are nothing to write home about, either; there’s nothing here with the inspired delight of the mine chase in Temple of Doom, or the sheer, guts-and-glory greatness of the truck chase in Raiders.

I think most of us want Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull to be good, which it, sadly, is not.

Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere is mostly admiring, saying he was ‘more than delighted at times’:

Sections of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull are a great deal of fun.

I felt jazzed and charged during a good 60% or even 70% of it. I was more than delighted at times.

What a pleasure, I told myself over and over, to swim in a first-rate, big-budget action film that throws one expertly-crafted thrill after another at you, and with plotting that’s fairly easy to understand, dialogue that’s frequently witty and sharp, and performances — Harrison Ford, Shia LeBouf and Cate Blanchett’s, in particular — that are 90% pleasurable from start to finish.

I heard some guys say as they left the theatre, “It’s okay…it’s fine…it’s good enough.”

I talked to a guy who kind of wrinkled his face and went, “Not really…not for me.” But nobody hates it. It gave me no real pain, and a healthy amount of serious moviegoing pleasure. (Although I was, from time time, slightly bothered.) Fears of a DaVinci Code-styled beat-down were, it turns out, unfounded.

Allan Hunter of Screen Daily says ‘the old magic still works’:

The world can rest easy – the old magic still works in Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull.

It may take some breathless, helter-skelter action to redeem the opening hour’s clunky storytelling, but the first Indy adventure in almost twenty years is like a fond reunion with an old friend and will not disappoint diehard fans or deter a new generation from embracing it as a summer blockbuster adventure ride.

This is money in the bank as far as exhibitors are concerned, but the relief of some critical support will do no harm to what is destined to stand as one of the year’s top moneymakers.

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter feels it is ‘charmless’:

Director Steven Spielberg seems intent on celebrating his entire early career here.

Whatever the story there is, a vague journey to return a spectacular archeological find to its rightful home — an unusual goal of the old grave-robber, you must admit — gets swamped in a sea of stunts and CGI that are relentless as the scenes and character relationships are charmless.

Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running says it is the ‘most fun’ of the series since Raiders:

…the fourth Indy installment isn’t really an attempt to retroactively create a Spielberg omniverse.

But David Koepp’s script, from a story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson and Herge and Edgar Rice Burroughs and Erik von Daniken and Carl Stephenson and…well, you get the idea…does tie together a good number of Spielbergian themes into an eventually pretty nifty package.

Yeah—this is, by my sights, the most fun and least irritating installment of the series since the first one.

Charles Ealy of the Austin Movie Blog says the film is ‘no Da Vinci Code’, likes the new characters and also describes the chaotic scramble of journalists getting into the screening :

There were plenty of justifiable reasons for such savagery toward “The Da Vinci Code.” There are few reasons for such a reaction to the new Indy.

The scene outside the Palais before the premiere was chaos. Dozens of journalists from top-flight publications — with the highest credentials possible for festival access — were shut out of the theater until just before the movie started. And many had to sit in uncomfortable, fold-down seats at the ends of the aisles.

Fans of the Indy series will enjoy the reunion of Harrison Ford and Karen Allen, as well as the introduction of Shia Labeouf.

Labeouf, who has stunts involving knives, vines, swords and motorcycles, is believable as the naive sidekick who is drawn into Indy’s wild world.

Cate Blanchett, as usual, is pitch-perfect as a villainous Soviet parapsychologist.

And to finish, just a quick note on a ‘review’ today published by John Harlow of The Sunday Times (be careful if you don’t want the plot ruined as there are spoilers there).

It is – as I understand it – the first newspaper review of the film, but did Paramount really give the exclusive first look to a UK newspaper (albeit a big one)?

David Poland has some thoughts on this over at The Hot Blog:

After the embarrassingly misreported story on how dangerous Cannes is to Indiana Jones yesterday, The Times Online today offers an alleged first newspaper review of the film… that is nothing close to being a review!!!

All they do is drop a few spoilers and indicate that they liked the movie more than the buzz… the buzz that didn’t much exist and that they propagated!!!

Really… there is nothing much to read here, especially if you don’t want to read spoilers, albeit fairly minor ones. There is nothing approaching a single graph of critical argument about the film… not even hack level criticism.

I just don’t get it. Isn’t The Times Of London supposed to be Traditional Media? Aren’t they supposed to act like adults?

My guess – just a guess – is that they feared printing a full review before the Cannes screening because they had made an agreement with Paramount in order to get early access to the movie.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has a gala premiere tonight and if you aren’t there you can follow the action via IFC’s Cannes webcam.

The film opens worldwide on Thursday.

> Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the IMDb
> Have a look at our countdown to Indy 4 with various facts, pictures and videos
> Check out a video of the Indy 4 press conference over at Anne Thompson’s Variety blog and an interview with Karen Allen
> IFC’s Cannes webcam
> Official Indiana Jones site

Cannes Festivals

Countdown to Indy 4

Today sees the world premiere in Cannes of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

It is one of the most eagerly awaited releases of the summer and likely to be the highest grossing film at the box office this year.

I thought I’d post a few things in anticipation of the opening, ranging from images, videos and snippets of information related to the series.


George Lucas created the character of Indiana Jones as a homage to the 1930 serials and pulp magazines he used to watch as a kid, such as those by Republic Pictures and the Doc Savage series.

The serial of Zorro Rides Again was a particular touchstone:

But the movie started to become a reality when, in 1977, Lucas was on holiday in Hawaii with his friend Steven Spielberg. The director of Jaws told him that wanted to make a Bond film, but Cubby Broccoli (then producer of the franchise) had turned him down twice.

Lucas said that he had his own concept for a hero (then called ‘Indiana Smith’) along similar lines – an archaeologist and adventurer inspired by the serials and comics he – and Spielberg – had enjoyed as children.

The visual look of Indiana Jones was created by comic book artist Jim Steranko. Lucas suggested the flight jacket, the fedora (a nod to Humphrey Bogart in The Treasure of the Sierra Madre) and a whip (reminiscent of Zorro’s weapon of choice).

The costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis admitted that Indy’s look was inspired by Charlton Heston’s character in the 1954 film Secret of the Incas:

Lawrence Kasdan was recruited to write the script on notes from Lucas and Philip Kaufman.

Indiana Jones was born, but who would play the role?

Harrison Ford had worked with Lucas on American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars (1977) but the original choice for the role was actually Tom Selleck, who had recently been cast in the TV series Magnum, PI.

However, Selleck couldn’t get out of his contract with Universal television and had to pass on the role.

Ford was then cast just three weeks before production began on Raiders of the Lost Ark in the summer of 1980.


The first film saw Indiana Jones searching for the Ark of the Covenant in 1936. In his search he discovers the Nazis are also keen to find and harness the Ark for their own ends.

Assisted by an old girlfriend named Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) he ends up in Egypt, where a rival archealogist named Belloq (Paul Freeman) is helping the Nazis.

Production was based at Elstree Studios just outside of London and also shot in various locations around the world including La Rochelle (for the Nazi submarine base), Tunisia (for Egypt section ), Hawaii (for the opening jungle sequence) and the United States from June to September of 1980.

The film was a huge hit when it was released in June 1981 and became the biggest film of that year, eventually grossing $384 million worldwide.

It was also nominated for 8 Oscars (including Best Picture) and ended up winning for Sound, Editing, Art Direction and Visual Effects.

Here are some quick facts about Raiders:

  • The name Indiana Jones was inspired by the name of George Lucas’ dog Indiana and Steve McQueen’s eponymous character in the 1966 film Nevada Smith.
  • The opening shot of a mountain peak in the jungle is a reference to the the Paramount Pictures logo. Similar shots open the following two films.
  • Alfred Molina has a small role in the opening scene (‘throw me the idol!’) and it was his screen debut. On his first day of filming he was covered with tarantulas – it was not the last time he had trouble with spiders as many years later in 2004, he would star as Dr Octopus in Spider-Man 2.
  • The airplane Indy escapes on in the opening sequence has the number ‘OB-CPO’, which is a reference to Obi-Wan Kenobi and C-3PO from Star Wars.
  • Toht, the sadistic Nazi interrogator (‘Good evening Frauline!’), was played by British actor Ronald Lacey. He also played the character of Harris in the TV series Porridge. There are two strange  coincidences involving Lacey and the film: he played The Bishop of Bath and Wells in an episode of Blackadder II in 1985 – a character who threatens people with a red hot poker. In Raiders, his character threatens Marion with a red hot poker in the opening scene. Also, Lacey starred in an episode of Magnum, PI in 1984 (The Case of the Red-Faced Thespian) – the very series that prevented Tom Selleck from starring as Indiana Jones.
  • The scene where Indy shoots a swordsman in the Cairo marketplace was scripted as a long fight, but Harrison Ford was suffering diarrhea at the time, and asked if it could be shortened. Spielberg joked that they could only do that if Indy pulled out his gun and just shot the guy. The scene worked so well that they kept it in.
  • An amateur shot-for-shot remake of Raiders was made by Chris Strompolos, Eric Zala and Jayson Lamb, who were children in Mississippi. Filmed over 7 years (1982-1989) it was known as Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, it was rediscovered in 2003 and even acclaimed by  Spielberg himself, who said he was impressed with the “very loving and detailed tribute” and “appreciated the vast amounts of imagination and originality” of the film.


Given the huge success of the first film, a sequel was an inevitability. In 1982 Spielberg made E.T., which even outstripped Raiders to become the biggest grossing film of all time.

When he unveiled E.T. at Cannes that year he was interviewed by Wim Wenders about the future of cinema:

Despite the financial pressures on studios and filmmakers in the early 80s, Spielberg had already established himself as the most successful filmmaker of his generation.

Anticipation for his next film was huge and all the more so because it would be the follow up to Raiders, entitled Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

The film was technically a prequel as it is set in 1935, a year before the action in Raiders begins.

It opens with Indy in a Shanghai nightclub attempting to trade artifacts with a local gangster, only for it to go wrong. Indy escapes with the club’s singer, Wilhelmina “Willie” Scott (Kate Capshaw), with the help of a  young sidekick called Short Round.

They get on a cargo plane and after it crashes in the Himalayan mountains they bail out and end up in a village in India ravaged by evil forces nearby. The villagers persuade Indy to retrieve the Sankara Stone and the kidnapped children of the village who are held captive at nearby Pankot Palace.

The production was again based at Elstree Studios and location shooting was done in Sri Lanka. However filming was disrupted when Harrison Ford injured his back. Despite this setback, Spielberg found a way to shoot around it, with stuntman Vic Armstrong as a stand in.

Here is the original theatrical trailer:

It was released in May 1984 amidst a blizzard of hype and expectation as this report from Ted Koppel’s Nightline shows:

Although it was the third highest grossing film of that year (behind Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop), some were taken aback by the darkness of the story, which included human sacrifice and a distateful dinner table sequence.

Although it was rated PG, the violence on display led to the creation of the new PG-13 rating as the MPAA came up with a category that covered the area between the PG and R ratings.

Some facts about the Temple of Doom:

  • The title was originally Indiana Jones and the Temple of Death
  • This was the first sequel Spielberg had ever made – outside the Indy series, the only other sequel he directed was the Jurassic Park follow up, The Lost World.
  • The club at the beginning is called ‘Club Obi Wan’, another reference to Star Wars character Obi-Wan Kenobi.
  • The scenes involving Indiana hiding behind a giant rolling gong, the mine cart chase sequence, and leaping out of an aeroplane in a rubber dinghy were in an early draft of Raiders and revisited for this film.
  • Indy’s associate in the opening night club scene is played by David Yip – best known to UK audiences for his role in the TV series The Chinese Detective.
  • Kate Capshaw would eventually become Steven Spielberg’s wife.
  • The footage of the giant bats in the jungle on they journey to Pankot Palace is footage from David Lean‘s The Bridge on the River Kwai (Spielberg is a huge fan of Lean)
  • When the two swordsmen attack Indy on the cliff and he reaches for his gun, the music references a similar scene from Raiders.


After the second Indiana Jones film, Spielberg ventured into more serious and literary subject matter, directing The Color Purple (1985) and Empire of the Sun (1987).

However in 1989 he reunited with Lucas and Ford for what everone expected to be the final chapter of the trilogy with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Spielberg, Lucas and screenwriter Jeffrey Boam came up with a more humourous film that featured an extended prologue of the young Indy (played by River Phoenix), a story that saw him hunt down the Holy Grail and Sean Connery cast as his father.

It was shot in a variety of locations including Spain, London, Germany, Jordan, Venice and the US.

When it opened in May 1989 it broke box office records by grossing $50 million in a single week and was the second highest grossing film that year behind Tim Burton’s Batman.

Here is the original theatrical trailer:

Here are some facts about The Last Crusade:

  • The opening prologue with River Phoenix as the young Indy hiding in a circus train, shows how he learned to use a whip, scarred his chin and why he has a fear of snakes.
  • After the criticisms of Temple of Doom, Spielberg reportedly said he wanted to complete the trilogy for George and ‘to apologize for the second one’.
  • Tom Stoppard did an uncredited script polish and wrote the scenes in which Indy complains to his father about having abandoned him as a boy to go off on his own adventures.
  • Spielberg turned down Rain Man and Big to make this film.
  • There are many Bond connections in this film: the original James Bond (Sean Connery), a former Bond ally (John Rhys-Davies), a former Bond girl (Alison Doody), two former Bond commanding officers (Michael Byrne and Billy J. Mitchell), a former Bond nightclub owner (Vernon Dobtcheff), and three former Bond villains (Julian Glover, Stefan Kalipha and Pat Roach ).
  • The actor who plays Hitler in the book burning sequence is Michael Sheard. He also had a role as the U-boat Captain in Raiders and originally auditioned for the role of Gestapo agent Toht. He is known to UK audiences for playing the role of Mr Bronson in the TV series Grange Hill.
  • Even though he plays his father, Sean Connery is actually only 12 years older than Harrison Ford.
  • Michael Byrne played a Nazi opposite Harrison Ford in Force 10 from Navarone (1978) and in this film. Curiously, in both movies his character ends up in a vehicle falling off a cliff.

After the film’s release Spielberg reportedly said in an interview:

I built every clue into this movie I possible could think of to let George know that we should retire this guy’s number. I did all I could. But at the moment I think I’d like to quit.

At this point we all feel pretty much have a nice first, second and third act. Why go and create a forth act? We don’t need one.

However, rumours of another Indiana Jones film would surface from time to time over the next 15 years.


During the 90s Spielberg made some of his most successful (Jurassic Park) and personal (Schindler’s List) films, winning his first Oscar for the latter.

He also made Amistad, Saving Private Ryan (for which he won another Oscar), Artificial Intelligence: AI, Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds and Munich.

Reports of another Indy movie persisted through the 90s but despite several attempts, none of the principals could agree on a script or story idea.

Amonsgst the roster of screenwriters hired to take a crack at a script were M. Night Shyamalan, Stephen Gaghan, Tom Stoppard and Frank Darabont.

Darabont had written several episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles tv series and between 2002 and 2004 wrote a script set in the 1950s, with surviving Nazis pursuing Jones.

Lucas rejected the draft despite Spielberg reportedly liking it. Jeff Nathanson was then hired in late 2004 to write a new draft, which was then passed over to David Koepp who is the credited writer for the new film (Lucas and Nathanson have story credit).

Finally in January 2007, Lucas and Spielberg announced that the fourth installment of Indiana Jones would definitely begin production that summer.

Shooting finally began on Indy 4 in New Mexico in June 2007 and the first image of Ford (taken by Spielberg) was officially released:

Footage of the first day’s filming in New Mexico was also released:

Shooting was mostly done in the US with some scenes shot in New Haven, Connecticut:

During Paramount Pictures’ presentation at Comic-Con in July, the audience got a special live video greeting from Hawaii as Steven Spielberg – along with Harrison Ford, Shia LaBeouf and Ray Winston – announced Karen Allen would be back as Marion Ravenwood:

Shooting then continued and on September 9th, Shia LaBeouf revealed (at the MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas) that the title would be:

Principal photography finished in October 2007 and this was the first trailer:

Yesterday in Cannes, the stars and Spielberg did a full day’s press at the Carlton Hotel and in the evening threw a small press cocktail party where the actors mingled with journalists.

According to Anne Thompson of Variety, producer Kathleen Kennedy explained why Spielberg wanted to do all the press before they had seen the film:

He really wants to try to preserve the experience for the audience, so they don’t know everything before they see the movie, like it was on the first three Raiders pics.

“If you learn everything, no one can get surprised anymore,” said Kennedy. “You can’t discover this movie until we let them discover it.”

Today, the film will get a world premiere at Cannes and on Thursday will be released worldwide.

> Official site for Indiana Jones
> Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull at the IMDb
> The – a terrific Indy fansite
> Indy 4 reports in Cannes from Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere and Anne Thompson of Variety

Cannes Festivals Interesting

Steven Spielberg at Cannes in 1982

This Sunday Steven Spielberg will be at the Cannes Film Festival to unveil Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Back in 1982 he was there to unveil E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial and during his stay German director Wim Wenders persuaded him to sit down for a short film called Room 666.

The premise was simple – Wenders asked a group of film directors from around the world to sit in Room 666 of the Hotel Martinez in Cannes.

Using a static camera he then asked the directors about the future of cinema, the principle question being:

Is cinema a language about to get lost, an art about to die?

Here is what Spielberg said (wait 23 seconds for him to appear):

> Room 666 at the IMDb
> More about the film at Wim Wenders official site

Interesting Useful Links


TimeTube is a very cool mashup of YouTube and the interactive timeline site Dipity.

This means that if you do a keyword search it will bring up relevant YouTube videos in an interactive timeline.

So, for example, if we wanted to to a TimeTube search on Steven Spielberg, type in the keywords ‘Steven Spielberg’ and then watch it build up a timeline of videos related to the director:

Then select the relevant video you want from the timeline, such as this BBC interview Spielberg did with Jeremy Isaacs around the UK release of Schindler’s List in 1994:

Then you can watch the video:

You can also check out parts two, three, four and five of the interview.

> Check out more video timelines at TimeTube
> Steven Spielberg at the IMDb

Amusing Viral Video

Must Love Jaws


This trailer mashup of Jaws as a cheesy family movie has been around for a while but I never got around to posting it before.

It was created by Mike Dow & Ari Eisner (Smacky Productions)

Interesting News

Spielberg and Lucas discuss the Internet and Indiana Jones

Steven Spielberg and George Lucas recently sat down with EW’s Steve Daly to discuss the upcoming Indiana Jones movie and the impact of the internet on how films are made and released.

Some notable quotes include them disagreeing on internet speculation:

STEVEN SPIELBERG: It really is important to be able to point out that the Internet is still filled with more speculation than facts. The Internet isn’t really about facts. It’s about people’s wishful thinking, based on a scintilla of evidence that allows their imaginations to springboard. And that’s fine.

GEORGE LUCAS: Y’know, Steven will say, ”Oh, everything’s out on the Internet [in terms of Crystal Skull details] — what this is and what that is.” And to that I say, ”Steven, it doesn’t make any difference!” Look — Jaws was a novel before it was a movie, and anybody could see how it ended. Didn’t matter.

SPIELBERG: But there’s lots and lots of people who don’t want to find out what happens. They want that to happen on the 22nd of May. They want to find out in a dark theater. They don’t wanna find out by reading a blog…. A movie is experiential. A movie happens in a way that has always been cathartic, the personal, human catharsis of an audience in holy communion with an experience up on the screen. That’s why I’m in the middle of this magic, and I always will be.

Plus, they also discuss the impact of the web on filmmaking in general:

SPIELBERG: You also have films being made and released on the Internet, little films, five- to six-minute shorts. They come from all over the world, and it’s really interesting to see and to sense how this world has shrunk down to size of a single frame of film…. More people can pick up video cameras, and more individuals can express who they are as artists through this collective medium.

That’s what’s so exciting. What makes me really curious to see as many short films, especially, as I possibly can, is that everybody is coming out of a different box, and is free to express themselves because budget is no longer a limiting factor. You can make a movie for no money and basically get it out there on YouTube for everybody to see.

LUCAS: Movies are now becoming like writing, like books. It’s opened up to the point where anybody who has the urge or the talent to do it, there’s not that many impediments to making a film. And, there are not that many impediments to having it be shown. That’s where the Internet comes in. Now you can actually get it in front of people, and have them decide whether they like it or not.

Before, that depended on the decisions of a very, very small group of people — executives who in a lot of cases didn’t even go to the movies, and didn’t even like ’em. And they were deciding what the people were and weren’t going to like. It’s much more democratic now. The people decide what they want.

Read the full interview over at EW’s website.

> Official site for Indiana Jones
> IMDb page for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull