Friday, 23 July 2010

JJ Abrams spills a few Super-8 details

At San Diego Comic-Con yesterday JJ Abrams took to the stage at Entertainment Weekly's Visionaries panel and spoke about Super-8 his upcoming collaboration with Steven Spielberg.

While revealing nothing about the top-secret project's storyline, he does confirm that the film will hark back to the days of Spielberg's Amblin output from the 1980s and also reveals that he was once hired by Spielberg at the age of 16.

Cinematical has the story, and provided quotes from the panel.

"When I was 16 years old, Matt Reeves and I did a Super-8 film festival in LA," Abrams the crowd in Comic-Con's Hall H. "The LA Times wrote a story about it that came out the next day, and we got a phone call that day from Steven Spielberg's assistant, who at the time was Kathleen Kennedy." He explained that Spielberg wanted the duo to repair some of his childhood films whose splices had fallen into disrepair over the years. "We said, we've got finals, but we could probably make time to repair Steven Spielberg's movies. So we repaired the movies and they gave us $300, which was when I knew why they got us to do it."

Abrams indicated that he brought Super-8 to Spielberg precisely because he knew the seasoned filmmaker honed his talents using the format. "A couple of years ago, I called Steven and I had an idea for a movie called Super-8 and I pitched it to him and he was very excited about it, which I knew having in a weird way working on those movies. I had a sense what he had done as a kid.

"I would love to show you footage but we haven't shot any," he said. "My favorite thing about the movie though is that someone will go to the theater and see the trailer and hopefully go, oh my God, that looks bitchin', and have no idea they will be starring in it."

Abrams described Spielberg as "beyond helpful" and hinted about the tone of the film: "It's impossible to work with him and not constantly reference the work he has done. You don't want to sound like a sycophant, but it's been incredible. Constantly referencing Spielberg's work. He's been beyond helpful, and movie is very much in the spirit of those Amblin films."

Read the full report here

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Spielberg/Cameron/Zemeckis: the Empire interview

In the August edition of Empire, the magazine's Steven Spielberg guru Ian Freer sat down with Spielberg, James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis to discuss 3D, motion capture and The Future of Movies.

I've scanned in the pages and the can be viewed as a PDF by clicking on the picture above.

New interview - Spielberg on Rockwell

Anyone who has seen one of the special features on a DVD or Blu-ray of Steven Spielberg's films will notice that Laurent Bouzereau is his documentarian-of-choice. Since 1995 Bouzereau has been on the set of every Spielberg film and has also taken charge of the retrospective documentaries for, among others, E.T. and Jaws.

So it's no surprise then that when the Smithsonian wanted interviews with Spielberg and George Lucas for their current Norman Rockwell exhibition - Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg - they turned to the prolific Frenchman.

His interviews - running 12 minutes long - play on a constant loop at the exhibition and give some insight into the film-makers' love of the iconic American artist.

Now the Smithsonian's own blog Eye Level has posted an excerpt from the interview, and in it Steven Spielberg calls Rockwell "the great American storyteller".

Laurent Bouzereau : What was your first encounter with Norman Rockwell?

Steven Spielberg: Whenever my dad would bring home a Saturday Evening Post, Norman Rockwell's work was often the cover art. So often, in fact, that I looked forward not even to opening the Post to see what was inside. I was mainly interested in seeing what story this painter was telling on the cover.

LB: What do you think he managed to capture that was universal?

SS: Rockwell in a way pushed a benign but important agenda of a kind of community, a kind of civic responsibility and patriotism. And he did this in one frame, with one image. And he did it, like Rashómon, from many different approaches to the same theme, which was tolerance of the community, of each other, of parents, of presidents, of Boy Scouts, of our veterans, and of soldiers fighting abroad. He was really one of the greatest Americans that this country has produced since, maybe, Samuel Clemens.

LB: Rockwell was almost like a filmmaker because he cast people to pose for him. He did sketches just like a filmmaker does storyboards. Can you comment on that?

SS: Norman Rockwell was the great American storyteller. And he did his storytelling in a flash; he did it with a single image. And he invites you to explore that image. He draws you into that image, and he invites you, once it makes an impression on you, to question why, simply question why. And as you answer your own question, there are clues throughout all of his paintings. In The Jury Room, you wonder how long have they been trying to convince the only holdout, who happens to be the only woman, to change her mind? You can guess by her position, her straight back, and by the schleppyness of all the other jurors who have found comfortable positions around the table. But then you look on the floor and see all of these cigarette butts, and you understand that this has been going on so long that perhaps she is going to hang that jury.

LB: Talk about Twelve Angry Men. I love the source light in The Jury Room. It's important to you, isn't it—that detail of where he places light in his painting?

SS: Rockwell had a really wonderful sense of source lighting. It was very evocative of the mood that he was trying to communicate. He would use a window, often a single source of light, and he'd be very true to that source. But he would also add a lot of fill light, which is what frequently happens when you light a movie set. You can just imagine Rockwell having fill light, but using his brushstrokes to allow us to get into the shadows, then letting those figures pop and separate themselves from the canvas by outlining them or backlighting them or top lighting them. That's why his paintings are so snappy.

LB: I also love the mischievousness in the painting Pardon Me, where the boy is stepping on the girl's feet while dancing.

SS: I think Rockwell was a great humorist. So many of his paintings are evocative of the humor of the times, innocent humor, not raunchy humor like we have today, but innocent humor like stepping on a girl's toes at the dance. This is something we've all done when we were younger, and we still do at my age. This was Rockwell extolling the virtues of this 1940s, '50s, and '60s innocence, which is how he saw America. Simple values and simple moments. . .

LB: Boy on a High Dive is both funny but so evocative of a little boy facing the biggest challenge of life, with that big blue sky behind him, but no view of the water. What's your take on it?

SS: I've always loved that painting. It means a lot to me, because we're all on diving boards hundreds of times during our lives, taking the plunge or pulling back from the abyss. For me, that painting represents every motion picture just before I commit to directing it. Just that one moment, before I say, "Yes, I'm going to direct that movie." For Schindler's List, I probably lived on that diving board for eleven years before I eventually took the plunge. So that painting spoke to me the second I saw it. When I saw that the painting was available to add to my collection, I said, "Well not only is it going in my collection, but it's going in my office so I can look at it every day of my life."

LB: The Connoisseur is an interesting painting because you have this old man, so obviously an older generation, looking at a Jackson Pollock, the next generation. Can you equate that to the way you felt when you started in the film business?

SS: The Connoisseur is a fascinating painting for me. On the one hand, Rockwell actually had to do a Jackson Pollock. He had to get that drip effect on that canvas. That means he had to completely change the paradigm of his style to accomplish a Jackson Pollack and a very convincing Jackson Pollock, before going back to his sort of conventional human characters. For me that represents how an artist can suddenly change his style and be unrecognizable in one form in another medium and then return to the style that we're familiar with. So personally, it speaks to whether a filmmaker can also have more than one style throughout his or her career.

LB: If Rockwell had been a filmmaker, do you think he'd have been a good one?

SS: I think if he had been a filmmaker, he'd have been a great filmmaker, and he would have been a famous filmmaker. But thank God he wasn't a filmmaker; thank God he painted pictures to inspire other filmmakers to do better work. I think that's what Rockwell has done for all of us who love him and appreciate his paintings. He has made us better artists.

The interview can be found here along with a separate chat with George Lucas.

(In case you're wandering what Steven Spielberg is up to in the picture at the top of this story, he's not doing a gang sign - he's recreating Rockwell's painting Shadow Artist).

The Telling Stories exhibition continues at the Smithsonian until January 2, 2011.

Friday, 16 July 2010

War Horse 'to begin shooting in August on Dartmoor'

As Steven Spielberg's World War One drama War Horse gears up to begin filming, the UK's Daily Mail has spoken to the book's author Michael Morpurgo about the adaptation.

He reveals that filming is due to begin in August and may take place on Dartmoor, an isolated, windswept moor in England. (This would make it the first Spielberg-directed film to shoot in the United Kingdom since Saving Private Ryan).

The book tells the moving story of a horse sold to the cavalry and then shipped to France during the First World War, and his young owner's mission to bring him home.

"I know they are filming on Dartmoor and in London,' said Mr Morpurgo, who used his home village of Iddesleigh, near Winkleigh, North Devon, as the location for part of the novel. "I am excited and I hope to go on set and see it."

The author said he was thrilled that Oscar winner Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy were working together on the production.

"They made ET, Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan," he said. "They have made the most exciting films and I am hoping they will do something wondrous with War Horse."

Last month Empire revealed that Emily Watson, Peter Mullan, David Thewlis and Benedict Cumberbatch have all signed on for War Horse, while relatively unknown young actor, Jeremy Irvine, will take the lead.

War Horse traces the friendship between Joey, a farm horse sold into the British army and sent off to serve on the battlefields of France during World War 1, and Albert (Irvine), his young owner. Watson and Mullan play Albert’s parents. Cumberbatch will play military man Major Stewart.

Rounding out the internationally diverse cast are Niels Arestrup (A Prophet, The Diving Bell And The Butterfly) as the grandfather of a young French girl (Celine Buckens) who takes Joey in, plus Nicolas Bro, David Kross, Leonard Carow, Rainer Bock, Robert Emms and Patrick Kennedy. Also in talks to join the cast are Tom Hiddleston and Stephen Graham.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Spielberg's new EA game?

It's probably best to take this news with a pinch of salt, as the source seems random at best.

According to a CV posted by a video game producer, Steven Spielberg is allegedly still developing a game for EA. I say take this news with a pinch of salt because this could easily be a project that has long since dropped off the development radar (or could even just be a prime example of someone getting a bit "creative" on their CV).

Whether this is the World War 2 "James Bond meets Medal of Honor" game that has been on the drawing board since before 2006 is unclear.

So, in conclusion: Spielberg might still be working on his EA game. (But he might not). And the EA game could be set in World War 2. (But it might not).

I hope this has cleared up the situation for you...

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Spielberg's A.I. on Blu-ray in October?

A.I. Artificial Intelligence may be one of the most divisive films in Steven Spielberg's filmography, but few would disagree that it's one of his most beautiful. Which is why reports that it could be on the verge of a Blu-ray release are such good news.

The folks over at are today claiming that the 2001 Warner Bros film could be released in Europe on October 15. That's according to German retailers. What this means for a US release is unclear however, as the domestic rights are held by Paramount.

For Spielberg fans and Blu-ray owners, 2010 has been a good year. Hi-def versions of Saving Private Ryan, Minority Report and War of the Worlds have all hit the shops in the last few months.

They join Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as the only Spielberg-directed films currently available in HD.

Here's hoping that Jaws gets the full 1080p treatment soon (it's the 35th anniversary after all, it would only seem right!)

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Spielberg/Lucas Rockwell exhibition

Telling Stories, an exhibition of Norman Rockwell art owned by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, has just opened at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington (it goes on until January 2, 2011) and a few articles have appeared speaking to the two men about the iconic American artist.

Take a look at the Smithsonian's website for an excellent slideshow of the men's works plus information how the collection came about.

Telling Stories
is the first major exhibition to explore in-depth the connections between Norman Rockwell’s iconic images of American life and the movies. Two of America’s best-known modern filmmakers—George Lucas and Steven Spielberg—recognized a kindred spirit in Rockwell and formed significant collections of his work. Rockwell’s paintings and the films of Lucas and Spielberg evoke love of country, small town values, children growing up, unlikely heroes, acts of imagination and life’s ironies.

Rockwell was a masterful storyteller who could distill a narrative into a single frame. His pictures tell stories about the adventure of growing up, of individuals rising up to face personal challenges, the glamour of Hollywood and the importance of tolerance in American life. He created his pictures with strategies similar to those used by filmmakers.

The exhibition is based on new research into Rockwell, his work and the relationships between the artist and the movies. It showcases fifty-seven major Rockwell paintings and drawings from these private collections.

A 12-minute film, co-produced by the museum and filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau, will be shown continuously in the exhibition galleries. It features interviews with Lucas and Spielberg that reveal their insights into Rockwell’s art and why certain works appealed to them.

The LA Times spoke to Spielberg and Lucas On June 27 and they discussed his influence on their work.

Spielberg picks "ET" as the movie he's made that's most closely connected to Rockwell in sensibility.

"I certainly thought a lot about Rockwell when I was making 'E.T.,'" he says.

"'E.T.' I think comes closest to Rockwell's America, because it's centered on a family in need of repairs, and there's such a hopefulness there. But that's where it stops — I don't think Rockwell has a single alien in his repertoire."

So would someone who knew both filmmakers walking through the Smithsonian galleries be able to guess which pictures belong to Lucas and which to Spielberg?

"Maybe not," says Spielberg. "George and I have been best friends since the '60s, and we're so similar in so many ways."

Lucas agreed, for the most part. "We have the same tastes, the same feelings, the same sensibilities. Looking at one artist, we tend toward the same thing," he says. "That's why we were so compatible making movies together."

There's only one real difference when it comes to Rockwell, Lucas offers. "If it's a more expensive, important painting, it's probably Steven's."

CBS carried a report on the collection on July 4, and their website also has a slideshow with quotes from Steven Spielberg about Rockwell's painting Boy on a High Dive, which usually hangs in his office.

When asked if it were his favorite Rockwell painting, Spielberg said, "Well, let's put it this way: This is the Rockwell that, every time I'm ready to make a movie, every time I'm ready to commit to direct a movie, that's me - that's the feeling in my gut, before I say 'yes' to a picture. Because every movie is like looking off a three-meter diving board, every one."

Finally, you can view a BBC video about the news report on the exhibition here.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

New Jaws making-of book to be released

In another article commemorating the 35th anniversary of Jaws, Reuters returned to Martha's Vineyard and interviewed the locals about their Jaws experiences during filming in 1974.

It's all very interesting and well worth read - especially the bit about a new Jaws book coming out soon.

Documenting the impact of the film on island history has been a full-time job over the last two years for Matt Taylor, who is polishing a 300-page account of how "Jaws" was made.

The book, titled "Martha's Vineyard Remembers Jaws," includes about 800 never before published photographs of the production snapped by islanders, and 65 interviews with those closest to the filming. It is set for release this fall.

This is something I'd never heard of, and a search of Amazon pulls up no such book. However, after a bit of digging (well, typing "Martha's Vineyard Remembers Jaws" into Google) I found this site.

While the site doesn't give a definite release date for the book, it does say that the book will come with a DVD of 8mm footage shot during filming by resident Carol Fligor. A forum site here seems to have got a few quotes from Jim Beller, who is compiling photos for the new book. He says:

I can't wait for all the JAWS fans to finally see this! Wait 'till you read all of these new stories & info that no one's heard before. And wait until you see the hundreds & hundreds of images that we've managed to get in the last couple of years!!The book will be sold in stores on Martha's Vineyard & through our big website which we are working on now. It's being published through VINEYARD STORIES who do a number of books & coffee table books about Martha's Vineyard.

That's all I've got just now, but I will try to find out more about this exciting new Spielberg book.

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Shark Is Still Working - Martha's Vineyard screening on Tuesday, July 13

The Vineyard Gazette has published a great article to publicize the forthcoming Martha's Vineyard premiere of The Shark Is Still Working, Erik Hollander's documentary love letter to Jaws.

The film is currently doing the rounds around the country (last week there was a frankly awesome sounding screening for fans in the middle of Lake Travis in Texas)
so check it out if you can. I haven't yet, but I've been dying to since I first heard about its creation a few years back.

Anyway, back to the Martha's Vineyard newspaper article. As well as promoting the screening of the documentary it also interviews some of the locals who took part in the film, including islander Carol Fligor, whose home movies are featured in The Shark Is Still Working.

“They’re strictly home movies. Nothing professional,” said Mrs. Fligor humbly from her home in Edgartown this week. In the early 1970s, she lived with her family next door to the Kelley House, where many members of the cast and crew lived during filming. When her children were asked to be movie extras, she tagged along, packing a video camera for her amateur recordings. She ended up taking such good care of all the young extras on the set that the film crew volunteered to pay her for her participation. “So it was $20 a day. No big deal. But I had fun being a part of it, and my kids enjoyed it too,” Mrs. Fligor said.

In the years that have followed, her kids also enjoyed revisiting her live footage of the experience. She remembered one “awfully cute” shot she caught down in Edgartown. “I was taking a picture of the back of Richard Dreyfuss, and he happened to turn around and spotted me. So he presented himself with a big bow,” Mrs. Fligor said.

The footage has been well-loved over the years, to put it mildly. “Let me tell you, it has been torn apart,” she said. But she’s thrilled that the people behind the documentary found a way to restore it for the film and preserve the legacy of a memorable experience in her life.

“When we knew that The Shark Is Still Working was going to be in New York this winter, my husband and I went to see it. It was interesting, and it was fun. I continue to be enthusiastic about keeping the spirit alive,” Mrs. Fligor said.

Skip across and read the full article, and let me know if you're planning on going to the screening on Tuesday.

The Pacific storms Emmys

Congratulations to the cast and crew of the Steven Spielberg-produced HBO mini-series The Pacific for its record haul of Emmy nominations.

The 10-part World War 2 drama scooped 24 nominations - the most-ever for a cable series.

The Envelope scored a few quotes from producer Gary Goetzman, who lamented the fact that no actors managed to garner some noms.

"I don't know if they're not known enough at the time or it's the nature of being in uniform with a helmet," Goetzman said. "People don't associate the name with the character. It's the one thing that saddens us.... These kids got us here, and we appreciate all their great work."

Find the full list of winners at the official Emmys site.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Night Skies script

OK now that I'm getting the hang of this blogging business, I thought I'd post something quite cool.

Night Skies is a project Steven Spielberg worked on in the late 1970s and was meant to be an unofficial sequel to Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Written by John Sayles, it was the antithesis of the feel-good CE3K formula - basically, When Aliens Go Bad.

The script tells the story of extraterrestrials terrorising the inhabitants of a small farm and would have taken Spielberg back to the scare tactics of Jaws. It never got made though, and Spielberg siphoned off elements of Night Skies in some of his future films - most blatantly in ET (the script ends with the friendliest of the aliens, Buddee, being left behind on earth) but also the suburban terror of Poltergeist and Gremlins.

According to Joseph McBride in his wonderful biography on Spielberg, the film was to have been directed by cartoonist Ron Cobb and preproduction started at Columbia in April 1980.

But in the end the film was never made and Spielberg lost interest in the evil aliens concept (one he wouldn't revisit until War of the Worlds in 2005).

In later years, Spielberg claimed he might have "taken leave of my senses" in attempting to follow-up Close Encounters of the Third Kind with such a dark film.

But read the Night Skies script for yourself and see what you think.

Super 8 trailer

I know this trailer for the JJ Abrams-directed and Steven Spielberg-produced Super 8 has been released for a couple of months now, but I'm posting it a) because it really cool, and b) I wanted to see how easy it was to post video on this site. (If you cannot see the video, assume that I'm finding it really hard...)

Isn't that just what you want a trailer to do? Reveal a little, tease a LOT. A perfect example of trailer-making.

What's known about the film is that JJ Abrams also wrote the screenplay, it will begin filming in the fall of 2010, it's reminiscent of Steven Spielberg's Amblin films of the 80s (although I'm detecting a Close Encounters of the Third Kind vibe) and it has a budget of $45-50 million. No doubt the veil of secrecy will lift just a bit once the filming begins, although JJ Abrams last top secret project, Cloverfield, managed to keep everything under wraps right up until release. Who knows if that will happen this time. (Part of me hopes it will).

The viral marketing campaign for Super 8 is in full swing and people have already discovered secrets within the trailer. A great site called Super 8 News is compiling a list of all the discoveries and it's worth visiting, if only to marvel at the detective abilities of the geek community.

Welcome to Spielberg News!

This is the first post at what I hope will be a new and exciting place for fans of Steven Spielberg to come to find out the latest news about the Oscar-winning director.

I'm completely new to blogging so it may take a bit of time for me to get to grips with this posting business, but hopefully you'll bear with me and soon we'll have a site to be proud of.

Ever since the great shut down I haven't been able to find a place on the web that compiles all the latest developments surrounding Steven Spielberg's work. I really hope this can be that place.

I've no idea how this is going to work (or even IF it will work...) but I'm going to see how it goes.

It's an exciting time for Spielberg fans as he's about to start shooting his World War One drama War Horse (release: August 10, 2011) and he's also working to complete his first motion-capture movie Tintin (release: Oct/Nov/Dec 2011).

As Spielberg fans know, he always has a ton of projects on the table (I haven't even mentioned his alien invasion TV series Falling Skies or the top secret JJ Abrams film he's producing called Super 8) so at least there should be plenty stuff to fill the blog with.

I'd like this site to become a bit of a community, with fans contributing stories that I may have missed (and there will be plenty!) so email me with any tips or news you might have.

But in the meantime, I'm going to try to post my first items... Wish me luck!