He’s the man that coaxed that incredible unforgettable ear-shattering scream from a very young Drew Barrymore, he worked with Christian Bale way before he’d even contemplated donning a cape and driving a bad-ass vehicle and he made many a childhood fantasy come true when he brought dinosaurs to life in Jurassic Park. As film fans we have a tremendous amount to thank Steven Spielberg for; from effects and engaging John Williams’ scores to beautiful imagery, to films with narratives that pull at the heart strings and then there are those awesome action sequences. He really does do it all.
Here’s what you didn’t know though, he’s a chap who is a first and foremost a family man who juggles his film projects with the hectic lives of seven children and their hobbies. He may have countless awards, the respect of everyone in the industry and essentially the keys to Hollywood but he likes nothing better than spending an afternoon mucking out their horses with his family.
Recently our Amy got the chance to talk to the gent about the making of his latest Oscar nominated film, War Horse (read our reviews here: 1 and 2) . Read on to see what making Jaws really meant and why he won’t quit directing until Clint Eastwood stops acting, as well as how he feels about making his first British film.
You call ‘War Horse’ a story of love and war. Why those two?
“I don’t often mix my metaphors, but I don’t really see this as a typical war film. There are only about twelve to fifteen minutes of actual combat here. This isn’t Band of Brothers or Saving Private Ryan. I wanted families to see it, so I wanted to use a different approach. It’s a combination of both courage and combat that I wanted to depict. Albert chooses tremendous courage, it’s blind fear that makes him race forward, but he has a reason. A goal in his heart – Joey was the one for him, amongst a million horses.”
How do you go about picking such a huge and varied cast?
“I watch a lot of movies and TV shows, we have like 600 channels in the US and there’s a lot of great content. If I like an actor, I write their name down and I skip to the end credits and look for who they are, and if I can’t find them I’ll look in the office the next day. I keep a constant mental casting list.”
Your film is gloriously old-fashioned. In the making of it were you reverting to childhood memories of heroes like John Ford?
“Yes, of course. John Ford, Howard Hobbs, Robert Walsh, Alan Ford, Louis Flemming and many more but my heroes go beyond just American directors. But what I was a looking to do here was capture the inspiration of the story, and use the land as part of the storytelling. This film could only have been shot in England, its the most British film I’ve ever made, I once thought Empire of the Sun was a British film – but being at the Royal Première of ‘War Horse’ I disqualified that and changed my mind on hearing the reaction at the Odeon last night in Leicester Square. This is a truly British film.”
How much do you think of your children when choosing projects?
My daughter Destry had a lot to do with me directing ‘War Horse’, she competitively rides horses. We have ten horses! I’ve been living with them for eighteen years and my wife rides dressage. I certainly know how to muck a stable! When Kathleen Kennedy (his long-term producer) found the book ‘War Horse’, my 15 year-old said you HAVE to make War Horse, you have to make it for me! So I did.”
Are you willing to work as late as some other older directors? (The eldest being 103)
“Well, I have no plans to quit. [Clint] Eastwood is one of my best friends and has been for forty years and we have a great jokey relationship about retirement, he’s like eighty-one now and I always say are you ready to retire this year? And he says no, so I say no too. It won’t happen until Clint hangs up his spurs!”
Your portfolio is very diverse. What’s your decision process when choosing a script?
“My movies choose me. I don’t go through an intense torturous process to decide what to direct. I know what I want to direct the second a story grabs me and then I spend four to six months trying to talk myself out of it! I know essentially when and what I want to do next, it’s an undeniable feeling that I get.”
You’ve had such a wonderful and enviable career – what was the turning point for you and what would you say is the most important thing in this trying time?
“Ensure that you never give up hope and keep recovery of spirit and of your hopes for the future. Once you give up hope, you give up your soul. The turning point was Jaws. I was a director for hire before, but after that could do whatever I wanted. I always wanted to do a film about flying saucers and people thought I was crazy! Then after Jaws everyone wanted me to make E.T..
What is your comment on Hollywood today?
“The creative process and people who give to the process is just as stimulating and collaborative as it has always has been. Although, the media’s obsessed with numbers and box office figures, filmmakers don’t think that way!”