Steven Spielberg Interview
Steven Spielberg Interview
Your film is gloriously old fashioned - I wondered when you were making the movie, if you were dipping into childhood memories of heroes like John Ford?

Steven Spielberg

Yes of course, John Ford, Howard Hawks, Raoul Walsh, David Lean, you know, Lewis Milestone, Victor Fleming, Michael Curtiz - my heroes. It goes beyond just American directors. But I think part of it was the inspiration of your country. This could only have been shot in England - this is the most British film I’ve ever made. I once thought that Empire of the Sun was a British film but I think I disqualified that after I heard the reaction last night at the Odeon on Leicester Square.

The works of John Ford, How Green is My Valley, The Quiet Man, very evocative, you know, he made beautiful landscapes, and he included the land as part of his storytelling and how could you not include Devon and Dartmoor and how could you not include Luton Hoo and the Duke of Wellington estate where we shot so much of the picture. The land serves as a character and in a sense that’s what the old directors did, they went and they just featured the land they were standing on. It’s kinda fun when you get to put a wide angled lens on it, not just shoot close ups for an entire movie.
What made Jeremy Irvine stand out? Presumably you looked at lots of potential Alberts?

Steven Spielberg

Hundreds. Literally hundreds of potential Alberts, and what made Jeremy stand out was that ineffable quality that certain exceptional people have that just rise above the rest. There were hundreds of very interesting actors and newcomers and nobody had the heart or the spirit or the communication skills that Jeremy had. Even in silence, even in his crude video tape test that we did through our casting director here in London, Jeremy just got better and better and better.

And I’m accustomed to working with actors who have no experience, I mean you can just look back into my career at E.T. and Drew Barrymore, and Christian Bale from Empire of the Sun had never made a movie before. So I really trust the authenticity of real people, and my job is get them to be themselves in front of the camera. Often what happens is that you get a newcomer in front of the camera and they freeze up or they imitate actors and other performances that they’ve admired and they stop becoming themselves, and so my job as the director is to always return them to what I first saw, which is simply an uncensored human being.

I didn’t want Jeremy to be a character actor, I didn’t want Jeremy to be someone he wasn’t, I simply wanted him to be the person he is today and he did a wonderful job playing himself.
My job as the director is to always return them to what I first saw, which is simply an uncensored human being...
It’s a story of love but also a story of war. Why do you always keep coming back to those?

Steven Spielberg

Well I don’t often mix my metaphors so this is what makes this movie both a story of love and a story of war. But I don’t see this really as a war story. This isn’t Saving Private Ryan, this isn’t Band of Brothers. In the movie there’s only about 12-15 minutes of combat, from the cavalry charge to the fighting in the Somme. This is not really that kind of a film. I wanted families to see this picture together, there’s hardly any blood in this movie at all, and unlike Saving Private Ryan where I was trying to make the movie as brutally authentic as I possibly could, I took a different approach to this story.
You’ve had such a wonderful career. Could you tell us what the turning point was?

Steven Spielberg

The turning point in my career was Jaws. Because I was a director for hire before Jaws and after Jaws was such a big hit, I could do any movie I wanted and Hollywood just wrote me a cheque. I wanted to make this crazy movie about flying saucers, and nobody wanted to make it before Jaws, and I tried to get them to make this crazy film and people thought I was crazy and they wouldn’t give me the time of day. And the second Jaws was a hit everybody said’ What about that flying saucer movie you had, do you still want to make that?' So Jaws, for me, was the turning point.
What is your decision process when choosing a script, because your portfolio of movies is so diverse?

Steven Spielberg

How I choose my movies - they choose me. That sounds glib but it's true, I don’t go through a tortuous intellectual process to decide what to direct. I know when I want to direct the second I read something and hear a story, I just know when it grabs me in a certain way that I want to direct it. I then spend the next four to six months trying to talk myself out of it. It’s hard!
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Content updated: 14/10/2019 16:51

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