'When Steven Spielberg is enthused, which is often, his sentences pick up speed and momentum, the words seemingly unable to leave his mouth fast enough, coming in a long unpunctuated sentences that have you worried he’s going to forget to breath. We are sitting in the conference room of his production offices at Amblin Partners, a two-story baked adobe building that looks a little like a cross between Fred Flintstones cave and a Mexican resort chalet, situated in a quiet corner of the Universal lot surrounded by lawns, palm tress and slightly fake-looking boulders. On one wall of the conference room sits three Norman Rockwell originals and the famous Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane, mounted inside a protective glass case. Downstairs are an editing suite, a screening room, complete with candy and refreshments, a daycare centre, and a restaurant-sized kitchen. Spielberg arrives tailed by a small team of assistants and assorted PR personnel waiting on his every word, like President Bartlett surrounded by his staffers in the West Wing. He is dressed in a rather natty suede jacket, his grey hair combed neatly, one of those men who never quite escaping the impression of having the finishing touches to any outfit provided by his wife. He sits down opposite me and clasps his hands together, a smile on his face, thumbs towards the ceiling with an attitude that says: what’s next. You get the sense of a formidable, fast-processing, if friendly, intelligence, courteously shutting down the 20 other things he has on the go in order to pivot his attention to you. “Because I’m so compartmentalized in my thinking, I can think ahead a lot,” he tells me. “I can think very deeply forward and that’s my problem. It’s a blessing and it’s a curse.” When he was a child, his mother would tell him that his grandparents were coming to visit from Ohio, saying “its something to look forward to, they’re coming in two weeks…” He would count down with her. “Its something to look forward to, they’ll be here in a week.” Arguably, the countdown never stopped. Looking forward turned into the Spielberg occupation par excellence; from it derives his signature genre (sci-fi), his signature tone (optimistic), his signature narrative mode (Hitchcockian suspense), even his signature shot (an expectant face in close-up). While completing post-production on his Roald Dahl adaptation The BFG, and getting ready to shoot the virtual reality sci-fi thriller Ready Player One, while also in talks with Tony Kushner on another script, screenwriter David Koepp recently exchanged emails with him about ideas for a fifth Indiana Jones sequel. “I said I know you’re mixing and prepping and doing big interviews,” recalls Koepp. “Do you have the head space for it? You may be trying to do air traffic control in your head right now.’ He wrote back and said, ‘Let me worry about the air traffic control, you circle and chatter.’ Okay, here you go. I dumped all my ideas on him. Yeah, there’s a remarkable amount of head space.” It goes beyond multi-tasking — it actually calms him down, keeps him from the monomania of falling too in love with whatever it is he’s doing, or thinking it the best he’s ever filmed. It can also trip him up — literally. On the set of The BFG, a film about the friendship of a kindly giant and a little girl that mixes live action and motion-capture animation and frequently requiring directing on three different scales at once, the floor was festooned with snaking camera cables. “He was always tripping,” says star Mark Rylance, who plays the BFG, when I ask him which aspect of the director’s behavior he would zero in on if he were ever asked to play him. “It’s a hazardous place with the cables and stuff anyway but he has a tendency to trip. We would laugh and him and he would laugh too. His mind is so full of ideas, full of thoughts in his head. I asked him once what your element — earth, water, air, or fire — would you believe he said air? If you did the exercise where you try and locate a person’s centre of gravity, it would not be down here, it would be up in his heart and in his head, you know.” ' — from my Spielberg profile for The Guardian
Jul 16, 2016
PROFILE: STEVEN SPIELBERG
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