What happens when two of Hollywood’s most creative minds team up to make a movie? The answer is Super 8, written and directed by J.J. Abrams (Star Trek, Lost) and produced by Steven Spielberg (credits unnecessary, don’t you think?) opening in theaters on June 10. In the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, the two filmmakers come together at Abrams’ office in Santa Monica for a wide-ranging discussion about their recent collaboration and their surprisingly long history of working with each other. The relationship began nearly 30 years ago when Abrams — then a teenage wannabe filmmaker growing up geeky in Los Angeles, along with his best friend Matt Reeves (who co-created Felicity with Abrams and directed Cloverfield) — were hired to repair the 8mm Spielberg shot during his youth. “I remember working on this one film and getting to the credits where it said: ‘Written and directed by Steve Spielberg.’ Not ‘Steven.’ Steve Spielberg!” recalls Abrams. “I told Matt: I am totally going to cut one of these ‘Steve Spielberg’ frames out of this film and keep it for myself, but Matt talked me out of it.”
“People only called me Steven after my first screen credit,” replies Spielberg. “I prefer Steve, but those days are long gone.”
Abrams and Spielberg talk about the films they made as kids and their passion for science fiction. Abrams says that his interest in the genre was largely fueled by Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial, but he doubts that a movie like Close Encounters would even get a green light in Hollywood today. “It’s the story of a man who abandons his family for aliens,” Abrams says. “Moreover, the last 15 minutes, the main characters don’t do anything. They’re just observing the aliens. There are all these reasons why the movie shouldn’t work — and it couldn’t work more perfectly.”
Spielberg, for his part, views Close Encounters much differently now than he did while making it. “I would not have written it that way today, now that I have seven children,” he says. “I would never write a story today that encourages the father and husband to abandon his family.”
For more of our interview with Abrams and Spielberg, plus a guide to the young stars of Super 8, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands June 10.