Little has been said about Chris Columbus’s original script for the third Indiana Jones film, so it’s interesting to find some tidbits from both the writer and Steven Spielberg in this fantastic making of article on theraider.net.
Written in 1985, Columbus’s Indy 3 took place in Africa and focused on the legend of The Monkey King. George Lucas initially liked the idea, but after several unsuccessful drafts, the story was scrapped with both Lucas and Spielberg deciding to seek inspiration elsewhere.
Before writing his scripts, Columbus said: “What attracted me to doing Indiana Jones is that he may very well be the greatest American hero of the 20th century. To write this film is a bigger challenge than writing Sherlock Holmes [Columbus wrote the Spielberg-produced Young Sherlock Holmes]. I’m going about it the same way I did Holmes. I’m determined to write the best Indiana Jones movie that anyone has ever seen. I’ve no idea what the story will be, but I know it certainly will be different that the last two.”
Following the abandonment of the project, Spielberg explained: “Chris writes comedy brilliantly and his script was very humorous. It was upbeat and full of the same nostalgia that we tapped into in Raiders of the Lost Ark, so in that sense Chris was right on the money. But I don’t think any of us wanted to go to Africa for four months and try to get Indy to ride a rhinoceros in a multi-vehicular chase, which was one of the sequences Chris had written. Once I got into the script, I began to feel very old, too old to direct it, anyway.”
Collider spoke to Spielberg about his television series The Pacific in 2008 and the interview contains some fascinating tidbits about the director’s approach to historical representation.
Having made Schindler’s List, how do you feel that there’s a whole generation that’s only going to know about the Holocaust second-hand, through films and stories?
Spielberg: There’s no other way to learn about it, except through documentaries. I encourage documentarians to continue telling stories about World War II. I think documentaries are the greatest way to educate an entire generation that doesn’t often look back to learn anything about the history that provided a safe haven for so many of us today. Documentaries are the first line of education, and the second line of education is dramatization, such as The Pacific.
Do you feel that a soldier’s journey is the ultimate hero’s journey?
Spielberg: For one thing, I don’t think that anybody in any war thinks of themselves as a hero. The minute anybody presumes that they are heroes, they get their boots taken away from them and buried in the sand. That’s not going to happen.
In the re-creation of combat situations, and this is coming from a director who’s never been in one, being mindful of what these veterans have actually gone through, you find that the biggest concern is that you don’t look at war as a geopolitical endeavor. You look at war as something that is putting your best friend in jeopardy. You are responsible for the person in front of you and the person behind you, and the person to the left of you and the person to the right of you. Those are the small pods that will inadvertently create a hero, but that is someone else’s observation, not the observation of those kids in the foxholes.
Bantha Tracks was the official newsletter of the Star Wars Fan Club, and they had access to all the major players involved with Star Wars, Lucasfilm and George Lucas himself. That, of course, includes Steven Spielberg, and this is a nice little Q&A interview was published in 1981 to coincide with the release of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
It includes two great passages about the youthful Spielberg’s film-watching habits.
Q: Can you remember the first movie you ever saw?
SS: I was my first film when I was about five years old - The Greatest Show On Earth. What I remember most about it were the elephants and thr train crash, as opposed to the relationship between Charlton Heston and Betty Hutton, or Jimmy Stewart’s fantastic portrayal of a clown. I remember the spectacule before I remember the personalities, which for a child is normal. But perhaps it is a clue to the kinds of movies I’ve been making like Jaws and Close Encounters as opposed to the kinds of films that I might make a couple of years from now.
Q: Did you go to a lot of movies during your childhood?
SS: Not a real lot. I was only allowed to go to those films that today would be considered G-rated. My parents were hypersensitive about my media intake, so they didn’t let me watch too much television between the ages of one and twelve, and they screened the movies I was allowed to see. I think I was the only kid on the block who wasn’t allowed to see violent movies so I would sneak out with friends and see them. So until I was twelve or thirteen, when I began making 8mm movies, I was not allowed to see anything that was not suitable for family enjoyment.
This great TIME interview from 1985 contains Spielberg’s famous ‘I dream for a living’ quote, but it also has a little gem from Michael Jackson, who spoke of his love for Spielberg’s films.
“I must have seen E.T. around 40 times, and Jaws a good hundred or so. You feel loved in his films. Steven never sleeps, never rests at ease. Last year, during the Victory Tour, I was on vacation with him in the Hamptons. But instead of vacating like everybody else, he found a Betamax and we made movies. He put a plastic bag around the whole camera, taped it up and shot underwater scenes in the swimming pool. I worked the lights. He is constantly creating, because making movies is like playing. He will always be young. I love Steven so much, it almost makes me cry. He inspires me more than anybody on earth today.”
Spielberg and Jackson discussed a musical adaptation of Peter Pan during the 80s, but the film eventually fell through.
The Indiana Jones Facebook page has a nifty new feature: Indy’s diaries. Starting in 1957 and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and heading back to 1936 and Raiders of the Lost Ark, the diaries will reveal Indy’s thoughts during the events of the films.
Spielberg discussed his career with Larry King on a December 1999 episode of the latter’s talkshow and there’s a fascinating excerpt in this transcript from The Steven Spielberg Directory about the director’s portrayal of violence on screen…
KING: You have in the course of a brilliant career filmed violence, right? I mean, you’ve touched it in various areas — an “Indiana Jones” kind of violence.
KING: Is that harder to do, to produce on the screen that which shocks us, moves us, scares us?
SPIELBERG: I think it is difficult to do — I think it’s difficult exploring the violence without artifice, you know, trying to get to the quickness of violence, to the eminent moment of impact of a bullet that kills you, and to throw it away and move on to something else as opposed to exploring it, and exploiting it and allowing it to become somewhat balletic, and I think the difference between “Private Ryan” and other things I’ve done, like the “Indiana Jones” movies, is that in the “Indiana Jones” films, you know, violence was meant to be entertaining. And basically..,
KING: We laughed at it?
SPIELBERG: We laughed at it. And basically, in “Private Ryan” and “Schindler’s List” violence was meant to be informative, and it was meant to be more…
Conducted in 2001, just before the release of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, this Entertainment Weekly interview sees Spielberg shedding some light on the popularity of the science fiction genre.
“The public has an appetite for anything about imagination — anything that is as far away from reality as is creatively possible. This is why, to a degree, sci-fi literature has always been successful. Cinema was simply the fortunate beneficiary of all the gifted sci-fi literature spanning a century and a half.”
In this interesting 1978 interview with Time, Spielberg looks back on David Mann, the hero of his made-for-TV movie Duel, and his place in contemporary America.
They are fascinating thoughts that establish Duel as much more than a simple chase movie.
‘The hero of “Duel” is typical of that lower middle-class American who’s insulated by suburban modernisation. It begins on Sunday: you take your car to be washed. You have to drive it but it’s only a block away. And, as the car’s being washed, you go next door with the kids and you buy them ice-cream at the Dairy Queen and then you have lunch at the plastic McDonald’s with seven zillion hamburgers sold. And then you go off to the games room and you play the quarter games: the Tank and the Pong and Flim-Flam. And by that time you go back and your car’s all dry and ready to go and you get into the car and you drive to the Magic Mountain plastic amusement park and you spend the day there eating junk food. Afterwards you drive home, stopping at all the red lights, and the wife is waiting with dinner on. And you have instant potatoes and eggs without cholesterol, because they’re artificial - and you sit down and you turn on the television set, which has become the reality as opposed to the fantasy this man has lived with that entire day. And you watch the primetime, which is pabulum and nothing more than watching a night-light. And you see the news at the end of that, which you don’t want to listen to because it doesn’t conform to the reality you’ve just been through primetime with. And at the end of all that you go to sleep and you dream about making enough money to support weekend America.
‘This is the kind of man portrayed in “Duel”. And a man like that never expects to be challenged by anything more than his television set breaking down and having to call the repair man.’
Jurassic Park actor Wayne Knight discusses how he got cast as Dennis Nedry in the film in this fun interview with the AV Club:
My agent got a call and goes, “Are you sitting down? Steven Spielberg wants you to do Jurassic Park.” And I said, “What?” Apparently, he’d seen me in Basic Instinct and said, “I see him in close-ups, sweating, only instead of open legs, it’s a dinosaur.” [Laughs.] I went to Hawaii, to Kauai, to shoot it. I had never met Spielberg. I’d never auditioned for him. He just cast me. So they’re driving me to my first day of shooting, and it’s up this cane road in Kauai to this place called Blue Hole, which is the rainiest place in the world. It rains like, 360 days a year, and yet they still had rain machines. We pull up in a Jeep through mud to the gates of Jurassic Park they’d built there. The giant gate was right there, and the little guy standing at the base of it is Spielberg. And I walked up to him and was, like, “Dr. Spielberg, I presume. I hope I’m the right guy.” He said, “Yeah, you are.”
Steven Spielberg has issued a statement following the death of Richard Zanuck, who produced The Sugarland Express and Jaws.
“In 1974, Dick Zanuck and I sat in a boat off Martha’s Vineyard and watched the mechanical shark sink to the bottom of the sea. Dick turned to me and smiled. ‘Gee, I sure hope that’s not a sign.’ That moment forged a bond between us that lasted nearly 40 years. He taught me everything I know about producing. He was one of the most honorable and loyal men of our profession and he fought tooth and nail for his directors. Dick Zanuck was a cornerstone of our industry, both in name and in deed.”
Zanuck died of a heart attack on Friday 13th July. He was 77.
Sad news indeed: Richard Zanuck, producer of Spielberg’s Jaws and The Sugarland Express, has died.
This is a fantastic article about Zanuck from the LA Times that originally ran in 2010.
Spielberg says in the article:
“As a producer at the top of his game, what makes Richard Zanuck unique is that he continues to be a mentor. He understands the private process that directors often suffer and has always known how to ask the right questions to get us unstuck. On ‘Jaws,’ a very atypical production, we were literally all in the same boat for nearly half a year and Richard, along with his partner, the late David Brown, always made available four shoulders to cry on.”
Roger Ebert nominated Spielberg for one of TIME magazine’s 100 lists (I’m not sure which exactly) and here gives his explanation as to why. His concluding sentence is particularly good and captures perfectly why I, at least, am such a fan.
“In the history of the last third of 20th century cinema, Spielberg is the most influential figure, for better and worse. In his lesser films he relied too much on shallow stories and special effects for their own sake. (Will anyone treasure The Lost World: Jurassic Park a century from now?) In his best films he tapped into dreams fashioned by our better natures.”
While I disagree with certain sections of this Temple of Doom analysis (especially those criticising Last Crusade), I found it an interesting read. The second Indy film is my least favourite of the four, so it’s fascinating reading something that produces such a compelling and detailed argument in its favour.
“I’ve argued in this essay that Indy transforms from a kebob-slinging mercenary into a respectful professor. He becomes a warmer person, a person of faith. And while I don’t think faith is necessary to be a good person, perhaps in Indy’s case, he needed it. In any event, Indy’s rise from the muck of grave-robbing and money-grubbing starts when Short Round rams a flaming torch into his side and pulls him out of the Thugee’s waking nightmare. Indy hits bottom when he hits Short Round, and he knows it. I task you to find a harder-hitting or more heartfelt moment than when Short Round rears back with that fucking torch and says, “Indy, I love you!” That is what movies are all about. I’ve always admired Luke Skywalker’s unswerving love for his fallen father, but Short Round beats Luke by a longshot. And what does Indy do the second he wakes up? He teams up with Short Round to kick some ass, says he’s sorry – and then he goes to rescue the enslaved village children.”
This is an interesting, if criticial, take on Spielberg’s depictions of Polish-Jewish relations in Schindler’s List. Writer Filip Mazurczak argues:
“All the scenes in the film featuring Gentile Poles portray them as anti-Semitic Nazi collaborators. Also, the film’s depiction of the 1939 September campaign in Poland features incorrect information. While Polish-Jewish relations were often painful during Nazi occupation, Spielberg’s depiction of interactions between Poles and Jews is one-sided and lacks accurate historical context.”
It’s fascinating reading reviews of Jaws from 1975, back when it was just another film, rather than the masterpiece it’s now known as.
This is Variety’s review and it treats the would-be classic in a very matter-of-fact way and even gives away a massive spoiler at the end…
“The fast-moving 124-minute film engenders enormous suspense as the shark attacks a succession of people; the creature is not even seen for about 82 minutes, and a subjective camera technique makes his earlier forays excruciatingly terrifying all the more for the invisibility. The final hour of the film shifts from the town to a boat where the three stars track the shark, and vice versa. The creature is no less menacing when finally seen in a fight to the death wherein Shaw fulfills his Captain Ahab destiny.”
The poster for Jaws is one of the most iconic in Hollywood history and Boing Boing has put together a concise history of the design. Check it out…
The sex scene between Avner and his wife in Munich proved controversial when the movie was released in 2005, but there were some critics who defended it.
Among them was Matt Soller Zeitz and excerpts from his analysis can be seen here…
“…the sex scene is the heart of the movie, the point where it (pardon the language) takes its clothes off and shows you what it really is. Avner truly loves his wife, truly loves having sex with his wife (an unironic expression of heterosexual domestic ardor, one that almost has a hearty peasant quality; only Spielberg would dare be so cornball, and so true to the feelings of men who married well). When he f—ks his wife he feels safe. That this sacred moment would be invaded by images of Munich is at once appalling, sad, funny and true to the experience of anyone who has suffered violence or watched powerlessly as it was inflicted on someone else.”
(via Adam Zanzie)