Spielberg, Steven

Spielberg, Steven
(1947– )
   Spielberg was born in Cincinnati in 1947, but was raised in Arizona. He began making short films as a teenager in Phoenix, Arizona, and he made five student films while he was earning a degree in English at California State College. Amblin’ (1969) marked his debut as a professional filmmaker, as it was shown at the Atlanta Film Festival and earned him a contract with Universal to make films for TV. His first theatrical feature was “The Sugarland Express (1974), which was followed by his first blockbuster, Jaws (1975), a suspense film about a monstrous shark that was welcomed by viewers and critics alike.
   Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) was another critical and popular success, a SCIENCE FICTION film that reflects the sort of inquisitive awe for the unknown that recalls STANLEY KUBRICK’S 2001:A SPACE ODYSSEY. (In fact, Spielberg screened 2001 several times while he was making Close Encounters, because he regards it as a model science fiction film. ) He went on to make Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982), an adventure tale, which spawned two sequels. E. T. The Extraterrestrial (1982), which concerns the friendship of a boy and an alien, was the most successful movie of all time, until Spielberg made Jurassic Park (1993), about dinosaurs running amok in a contemporary amusement park, and the film surpassed E. T. as the alltime box office champion.
   In 1984 Spielberg formed Amblin Entertainment (named for his first commercial short subject), an independent production company. In 1994 he joined forces with two multimedia moguls, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, to found Dreamworks, one of Hollywood’s largest and most influential independent production companies. Like Stanley Kubrick, Spielberg’s preoccupation with the business side of the moviemaking, as evidenced by his involvement in Amblin and Dreamworks, indicates his determination to have total creative control of the films he directs. And like Kubrick, Spielberg instills in his films his own personal vision.
   Spielberg received the Irving Thalberg Award for his body of work from the Motion Picture Academy at the Oscar ceremonies in 1986. He received his first Academy Award as best director for Schindler’s List (1993), a drama of the Holocaust, and his second best director Oscar for Saving Private Ryan (1998), a World War II epic. His telling the story of Private Ryan from the point of view of the common soldier, and the overall documentary-like realism of the movie parallel Kubrick’s own antiwar picture, FULL METAL JACKET.
   Asked by Chris Hodenfield to analyze his favorite movie, Spielberg picked Kubrick’s DR. STRANGELOVE. “This is one of the few films I’ve ever seen that is nearly a perfect motion picture,” Spielberg explains. “There are things in that film that are 100 percent technically perfect. ” For example, in the sequence where the Russian missile tracks the American B-52 bomber and explodes,“the shock wave sets the B-52 on fire, and sparks and smoke and fire erupt inside the cockpit and fuselage. Kubrick personally operated the camera; it was handheld. It was just the way you experience a 60 Minutes report. The eye Kubrick has for detail—that makes the movie different. ” The brilliance of Dr. Strangelove, Spielberg continues, is that “the reality was so true to life. . . . At least for my generation that’s a film that will live as a nearly perfect example of movie making. And storytelling. ” “I admired Kubrick for the sheer variety of his films,” Spielberg goes on; THE SHINING is “the best haunted house story ever put on film. Paths of Glory was the best anti-war film ever made. . . . Lolita was, for me, the best picture about the social mores in America. It was way ahead of its time. It was the best film about kids and adults ever made. ” Spielberg recalls going to England in 1978, when Close Encounters was chosen for the Royal Command Film Performance that year; but he remarks that he went over, not to meet the Queen, but to meet Stanley Kubrick, with whom he spent an entire day. He told Hodenfield that Kubrick turned out to be very different from the remote, solemn individual he had imagined him to be. There he was, “with his sleeves rolled up, with wrinkled clothes . . . . I was happy to find that he was a nice guy, that he laughed and liked movies. He talked about the films he liked, as opposed to so many of my other contemporaries, who . . . don’t give that much credit to other people. ”
   Little did Spielberg realize when he met Kubrick that one day their careers would intersect, to the extent that Spielberg would eventually see through to completion a project that Kubrick did not live to finish. The project in question was a science fiction film that Kubrick had intended to make entitled A. I. (for artificial intelligence), on which he worked off and on for years.
   In 1974 BRIAN ALDISS, a science fiction writer, published a history of science fiction called Billion Year Spree. “In a footnote I said that surely Stanley Kubrick is the great science-fiction writer of the age,” Aldiss told Premiere magazine. Kubrick responded by requesting that Aldiss send him some of his stories; and Aldiss, in turn, dispatched to him a collection of his short fiction, which included a 1969 story called “Supertoys Last All Summer Long. ” “It’s about a five-year-old android boy who isn’t aware he’s an android,” says Aldiss. Kubrick expressed interest in adapting the story for film at some point in the future. In Aldiss’s short story, an executive of a company that manufactures androids (artificial humans) brings home an android boy named David for his wife, since he and his wife are childless. Neither the reader nor David, who complains that his “mother” does not love him, knows until the conclusion that David is an android.
   Kubrick put the project on hold while he devoted himself to other pursuits; then, in 1982, he got around to buying the rights to “Supertoys. ” “Stanley was really crazy about that story,” Aldiss explains. “And he said to me, ‘If we work together, we could make this into a major movie. ’ I couldn’t see it myself; I thought I had written a vignette which was too slight to serve as the foundation of a feature film. ” But Kubrick was convinced that the short story could be expanded for film, in much the same manner as he had expanded ARTHUR C. CLARKE’s short story “THE SENTINEL” into 2001. At all events, “Supertoys” nevertheless remained on the back burner until 1990, when Kubrick got together with Aldiss to work on the project in earnest. It seems that Spielberg’s E. T. had given Kubrick a fresh concept of the film. E. T. , a sentimental, dreamlike science fiction picture about a boy’s love for an alien creature, suggested to Kubrick that A. I. could be an enchanting fable. Aldiss remembers that the script which he and Kubrick were developing seemed to have a marked affinity with Pinocchio, the Disney film version of the Italian tale about the wooden puppet that longs to become a real boy. Indeed, Kubrick began referring to A. I. as his “Pinocchio story. ” Aldiss states in Howard’s book on Kubrick that he spent six moths laboring “ten hours a day, eyeball-to-eyeball” with Kubrick at Castle Kubrick. During each script conference with Kubrick, Aldiss would take copious notes, and then go back home and “write up the next bit of screenplay,” based on the notes. Aldiss says that, as a matter of fact, he wound up writing the equivalent of three novels. “We gave it our best shot,” he concludes;“but in the end we came to a dead end. ”
   Undaunted, Kubrick persisted with the project, and collaborated with three other science fiction writers on the proposed film—Bob Shaw, Ian Watson, and Sara Maitland—between 1990 and 1995. While working on the scenario, Kubrick had commissioned Chris Cunningham, a special effects expert, to build and test robot heads,“to see,” in Cunningham’s words, “if the little robot boy could look half-real, half-odd. ” Cunningham told Premiere, “I was quite negative about the whole thing, that you couldn’t make an animatronic creature look real. ” Eventually Cunningham gave up and left the project. Kubrick then decided that the best special effects technology available at the time was simply not good enough for the futuristic vision of A. I. which he had conceived. JAN HARLAN told Cindy Pearlman that Kubrick had considered casting a child actor as David, the robot, but decided against it, since he tended to take well over a year to shoot a picture; the boy would be a teenager before shooting was completed. Still Cunningham’s experiments produced a robot that “looked very unattractive. It wasn’t life-like enough. ” (In the end, Spielberg opted to cast Haley Joel Osment as David. )
   When Kubrick saw Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, however, with its genetically engineered dinosaurs wreaking havoc in a theme park, he was deeply impressed by the film’s computer-generated special effects. Indeed, the digitally created special effects represented a genuine breakthrough in special effects technology. Accordingly, Kubrick gained renewed confidence that his “Pinocchio story,” about a robot boy’s quest to transcend his android nature and become human, could be realized on the screen. Throughout 1995 Kubrick was collaborating simultaneously with Sara Maitland on A. I. and with FREDERIC RAPHAEL on the screenplay for EYES WIDE SHUT, another film that Kubrick had been interested in for a long time. Maitland remembers that she and Kubrick got stalled on their transmillenial version of the Pinocchio fable. As she puts it in Nelson’s book on Kubrick,“You just can’t load two and a half thousand milleniums onto the poor little Pinocchio story. ” Meanwhile, the script for Eyes Wide Shut had reached fruition, and so Kubrick elected to make that film instead of A. I.
   A press release, issued by WARNER BROS. on December 15, 1995, declared that Eyes Wide Shut would be Kubrick’s next film, and added, “A. I. -believed to be one of the most technically challenging and innovative special effects films yet attempted—will follow Eyes Wide Shut. ” But Kubrick’s death in March 1999, only days after fin-ishing the final cut of Eyes Wide Shut, ended all hopes that he would make A. I. Accordingly, Steven Spielberg stepped into the breach and announced that he would complete. A. I. , working from a revised version of Kubrick’s prose treatment and turning it into a full-scale screenplay.
   Spielberg recalls how Kubrick had discussed with him the computerized, digital technology which he had utilized on Jurassic Park in some of their transatlantic phone conversations. “When we spoke on the phone, our conversations lasted for hours,” Spielberg states in Howard’s Kubrick book. He added pointedly that Kubrick had gotten “a bum rap” by being labeled a recluse, “just because he didn’t do a lot of press. He actually communicated more than many people I know. ”
   Spielberg felt challenged by taking over a Kubrick project, calling Kubrick “the grand master of film making. He copied no one, while all of us were scrambling to imitate him. ” Kubrick is listed in the screen credits as coproducer of A. I. , since he was responsible for developing the film from its inception. Kubrick had prepared a 90-page prose treatment of the story and had commissioned illustrator Chris Baker to execute more than 1,000 storyboards, visualizing individual shots in the film. In shooting the movie, Spielberg estimates that he utilized 600 of Baker’s original storyboards, while Kubrick’s preliminary scenario guided him throughout his composition of the script. In addition, Spielberg told Pearlman, “Stanley was with me in spirit every day on the set. ” Jude Law, an Oscar nominee for best supporting actor for his 1999 picture The Talented Mr. Ripley, told Peter Biskind that Spielberg rang him in the spring of 2000 to offer him a part in A. I. : “He had just decided A. I. was the next one he was going to make. ” Spielberg had just finished the screenplay based on the Kubrick scenario. “He filled me in on the whole history of it and how he’d become involved with Kubrick and how after Kubrick’s death” he believed that the torch had been passed to him to make A. I. , “and get it out for 2001 and sort of close the circle. ”
   So Law met with Spielberg that same weekend, read the script with him, “and got on board. Just to be in the world of Kubrick and Spielberg combined, I would have been happy with either—but to have them both . . . !” In the film Law plays opposite the child actor Haley Joel Osment, another Academy Award nominee for best supporting actor, for his 1999 film The Sixth Sense.
   Spielberg and Kubrick both got their share of awards. Spielberg accepted a Golden Lion for Career Achievement at the Venice Film Festival in 1993, while Kubrick was accorded the same prize four years later at Venice. In 1997 the Directors Guild of America bestowed its Life Achievement Award on Kubrick, and he responded with a videotaped acceptance speech, in which he referred to Spielberg. Kubrick apologized for not being present in person: “I’m in London making Eyes Wide Shut. At about this time I am probably in the car on the way to the studio. ” He then recalled a recent conversation with Spielberg, who, said Kubrick, summed up the experience of directing a movie profoundly: “He thought the most difficult and challenging thing about directing a film was getting out of the car. ”
   Like the Venice Golden Lion, the Britannia Award for Excellence in Film was conferred by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in Los Angeles (BAFTA/LA) on both Kubrick and Spielberg. The honor, which is given for extraordinary contributions to the artistry of cinema, was bestowed on Kubrick in 1999. The award was then renamed the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award; Steven Spielberg was the first honoree to receive the Stanley Kubrick Britannia Award, in the fall of 2000. BAFTA/LA stated that there was no one more deserving of the award than Spielberg, “whose very name evokes a generation of brilliant, unforgettable motion pictures. ” Prince Edward, Duke of York, presented the award to Spielberg.
   In his acceptance speech Spielberg said,“The Britannia Award is very special to me this year, as it is named in honor of Stanley Kubrick. ” He went on to say that he was just finishing principal photography on A. I. , “and I am doubly honored to be directing Stanley’s vision and receiving this award. ” In speaking of A. I. , Spielberg stated that “I tried to infuse enough of myself ” in the picture, “while retaining enough of Stanley. ” Richard Corliss says of Osment’s portrayal of David, the android boy “He lets humanity seep into him: that’s . . . enough to make any mother love him. Not to mention his two fathers, Spielberg and Kubrick. ”
   One of Spielberg’s well-wishers at the ceremony was actor Harrison Ford, who wondered,“What’s left in life for you except a knighthood?”The following January, Spielberg was summoned to the British Embassy in Washington to be knighted “for his extraordinary contribution to the entertainment industry. ” Spielberg summed up his lifelong esteem for Kubrick when he said that people who care about movies have always known that, when you saw one of Kubrick’s films, “you committed yourself to its being part of your life. ”The screen credits of A. I. end with a dedication to Kubrick.
   ■ Baxter, John, Stanley Kubrick: A Biography (New York: Carroll and Graf, 1997);
   ■ Bernstein, Jill, et al. , “Stanley Kubrick: A Cinematic Odyssey,” Premiere, August, 1999, pp. 85–93, 98–100;
   ■ Biskind, Peter, “Jude Law,” Vanity Fair, December, 2000, pp. 336–344, 365–368;
   ■ Corliss, Richard, “A. I. : Spielberg’s Strange Love,” Time, June 25, 2001, pp. 60–62;
   ■ Brode, Douglas, The Films of Steven Spielberg (New York: Carol, 1995);
   ■ Derry, Charles,“Steven Spielberg,” in Film Directors Encyclopedia, ed. Andrew Sarris (Detroit: St. James Press, 1998), pp. 481–486;
   ■ Dunkley, Cathy, “Kubrick Award Recipient Spielberg,” Hollywood Reporter, November 6, 2000, pp. 3, 22;
   ■ Higgins, Bill, “BAFTA Hails Spielberg,” Daily Variety, November 6, 2000, p. 19;
   ■ Hodenfield, Chris,“The Rolling Stone Interview,” in Steven Spielberg: Interviews, ed. Lester Friedman and Brent Notbohm (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2000), pp. 70–83;
   ■ Howard, James, Stanley Kubrick Companion (London: Batsford, 1999), McBride, Joseph, Steven Spielberg: A Biography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997);
   ■ Nelson, Thomas, Kubrick: Inside a Film Artist’s Maze, rev. ed. (Bloomington: University of Indiana Press, 2000);
   ■ Pearlman, Cindy, “A. I. : Latest ‘Intelligence’ on the Kubrick-Spielberg Project,” Chicago Sun-Times, June 24, 2001, sec. D, pp. 1, 2;
   ■ Schruers, Fred,“They Sing the Body Electric: A. I. ,Premier 14, no. 10 (June 2001): 51–53, 107;
   ■ Taylor, Philip, Steven Spielberg (New York: Continuum, 1992).

The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick. . 2002.

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  • Spielberg, Steven — ► (n. 1947) Director de cine estadounidense. Películas: Tiburón (1975), Encuentros en la tercera fase (1977), En busca del Arca Perdida (1981), E.T. (1982), Indiana Jones y el templo maldito (1984), El imperio del Sol (1987), Indiana Jones y la… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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