Spielberg & Lucas: The EW Q&A
In a rare joint interview, the ''Indy'' pals have a friendly debate about overzealous fans, plot leaks, and changing technology
If they had a talk show, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg could name it The Bickersons, in homage to the hit comedic radio program from their early childhoods. They clearly love each other — but they also love to squabble. Arriving together for the interview, they immediately start a coy debate over who should sit where at the rectangular table in Spielberg’s production-office conference room. Lucas quips that having both of them across from the interviewer would be ”confrontational — that looks like it’s a union meeting.” Spielberg jovially declares, ”The table should be round. This is the wrong shape!” At last they settle with Lucas at the head (how alpha male is that?), and over the next 70 minutes, they jockey and jabber and cut each other off like kid siblings competing for attention at mealtime. Lucas plays things especially feisty, pounding the table for emphasis and cutting in so forcibly at one point that Spielberg says, ”George! Hold your horses!” The joshing continues in the hallway afterward. Asked by an associate why they overshot the scheduled hour, Lucas gets a big laugh: ”Well, Steven got angry that I was doing all the talking. So then we got into a fistfight.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So why resurrect Indy after all these years?
GEORGE LUCAS: We’re doing it to have fun. We’re not doing it to say, Oh, we’re gonna get an Academy Award, everybody’s gonna love us…. We don’t need the money. We’re only going to get aggravation. The fans think it’s gonna be the Second Coming. And it’s not the Second Coming. They’ve already written the story [in their heads], and lemme tell ya, it’s not that story. So they’re going to be very disappointed. I went through this with Phantom Menace. Believe me, I’ve been there, I’ve done it, I know exactly the way they react. And they’re very vocal about these things. We’re not gonna have adoring fans sending us e-mails saying how much they loved the movie. We’re gonna have a bunch of angry people saying, ”You’re a bunch of a–holes, you should never have done this. You’ve ruined my life forever. I loved Indiana Jones so much and now it’s ruined.” And all that kind of stuff.
STEVEN SPIELBERG: Uh, he needs to speak for himself here. [Laughter all around] You need to put in parentheses ”George Lucas is totally speaking for himself.” And I absolve myself of any connection with that last statement about fans not liking it.
LUCAS: All I’m saying is, I have been there, and I have walked through the valley of death on highly anticipated sequels.
Has the fan interest in Crystal Skull been intrusive? Steven, you shot some scenes outdoors, and bam, there was the action revealed on YouTube, in blurry, shaky camcorder footage.
SPIELBERG: People were seeing shots from my movie on computer screens all over the world before I got a chance to see the shots on a film-lab screen! Global dissemination at light speed — at warp speed.
LUCAS: Of course if you’d shot it digitally [on a protected soundstage], you wouldn’t have had that problem.
SPIELBERG: Oh, George, stop it!
How much did George nag you to shoot film-free, with digital cameras, the way he did on the Star Wars prequels?
SPIELBERG: All through three years of preparation. It’s like he was sending these huge 88 [millimeter artillery] shells to soften the beach, y’know? He never swears at me. He never uses profanity. But he calls me a lot of names. And in his creative name-calling, he topped himself on this one, trying to get me to do this digitally.
What did he call you?
SPIELBERG: I guess the worst thing he ever called me was old-fashioned. But I celebrate that. He knows me like a brother. It’s true, I am old-fashioned.
LUCAS: I think the word ”Luddite” came into it. In a very heated discussion.
SPIELBERG: I said I wasn’t, I was Jewish! [Laughter]
LUCAS: The end of it is, I said, ”Look, Steve, this is your movie. You get to do it your way.” And in the end, I didn’t force Steven to do it. That doesn’t mean I didn’t pester him, and tease him, and get on him all the time.
SPIELBERG: It was all 35-millimeter, chemically processed film…. I like cutting the images on film. I’m the only person left cutting on film.
LUCAS: And I’m the guy that invented digital editing. But we coexist. I mean, I also like widescreen and color. Steven and Marty [Scorsese] have gone back and shot in black-and-white [on Schindler’s List and Raging Bull, respectively]. I don’t get on their case and say, ”Oh my God, this is a terrible thing, why are you going backwards?” I say, ”That’s your choice, and I can appreciate it.”
SPIELBERG: Eventually I’ll have to shoot [and edit] movies digitally, when there is no more film — and I’m willing to accept that. But I will be the last person to shoot and cut on film, y’know?
NEXT PAGE: Spielberg and Lucas bat around the merits of film vs. digital, and not acting their ages
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is the editing part getting harder to do the old way, when the rest of the industry is using electronic editing on computers?
GEORGE LUCAS: He still uses a Moviola! One of these days, the belt will break on it. And he’ll go down to one of those repair places and they’ll say, ”Oh, I’m sorry, sir, we don’t sell those anymore.”
STEVEN SPIELBERG: We cut on a Moviola, and we preview on a KEM.
Wow — so wait, let’s get this right for our readership. A KEM is a so-called flatbed editing machine, which came into fashion around the 1970s as a replacement for Moviolas, which go back to the ’20s. And you and your editor Michael Kahn still use both?
SPIELBERG: I own about 30 KEMs. We cannibalize them for bulbs and parts. It’s like the Concorde in the last three years of its service.
LUCAS: Steven enjoys the look and feel of the technology that existed when he came into the movie business. He’s familiar with it, it’s comfortable, he likes it, he’s nostalgic about it. But he is not above, when we’ve got a problem, using new technology to say, ”I will solve this problem that way. I am not gonna just do it the old way for its own sake.”
SPIELBERG: Look, I will never take full credit for this, but I provided the opportunity for the very first digital [CG-character] shot in film history, in a movie I produced, Young Sherlock Holmes.
Right — the shot of the stained-glass window coming alive.
SPIELBERG: And I basically provided the opportunity for digital dinosaurs in the first Jurassic Park. So I may be a Luddite in my own personal preferences of the tools I need to make myself feel comfortable. But George and I have been on the cutting edge of all the technology that exists today.
LUCAS: When Steven works on his scripts, he does his work on a computer. I wouldn’t touch a computer. I do mine on nice yellow tablets with a No. 4 pencil, and I will not change.
SPIELBERG: This interview must seem like we’re in Bellevue.
You’ve both used John Williams as a composer on nearly all your films. How early does he start work on his themes?
SPIELBERG: The themes come to him when he sees the movie.
LUCAS: But it sounds like the music was first, and then we did the movie around it. It feels like that.
John Williams is 76 now, and you’ve both passed 60 yourselves. Is that alarming?
LUCAS: We just refuse to accept it. We are not gonna get gray. We are not gonna get old. We are as young as we’ve ever been, and we don’t recognize the fact that we’ve gotten older. Do we? [Laughs]
SPIELBERG: It’s true. I’ll never forget when I was making Jaws, [producer] David Brown said, ”I’m nearly 60 years old and I feel like I’m 24.” I’ve always felt that way about myself. I got to a point in my life where I was happy and satisfied, and had a burgeoning family and a wonderful career. I’ve always sort of time-locked and mind-blocked myself in my 30s, and that’s always the age I feel.
LUCAS: We still kid each other and cause trouble with each other. We still bug each other the same way. I think our relationship has stayed exactly the same.
Bonus! See the online-only continuation of EW’s conversation with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull