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From the horse's mouth (or at least his director's): Spielberg outtakes

Posted by Mark Feeney  December 17, 2011 02:23 PM

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jeremy-irvine-steven-spielberg-war-horse-set-image.jpg(At left: Steven Spielberg directing Jeremy Irvine in "War Horse.")

In the Movies section, there's a long Q&A by me with Steven Spielberg. The interview is pegged to "War Horse," one of two new Spielberg films about to open. The other is "The Adventures of Tintin." Based on Michael Morpurgo's 1982 young adult novel and the 2007 stage adapation, the movie is about the plight of a horse, Joey, who's requisitioned by the British Army during World War I and how his young owner, Albert (Irvine), refuses to give up the hope of being reunited with Joey, and vice versa.

Spielberg had a lot to say, not all of which made it into the newspaper. Here are some outtakes.

Responding to a question about how he's changed as a director over the past four decades, Spielberg basically said he hadn't. Then he thought of a single notable exception:

dreyfuss.jpg"I can give you one example of something I wouldn't do at my age now, but that I did -- blindly -- when I was in my late 20s. That was when I made 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' I let a man, overwhelmed by his obsession with these sightings, abandon his wife and kids. . . . He leaves the planet Earth and gets on the ship and goes away. I don't think I could have made that choice after all my children had been born into this world. I think if I've changed at all, I wouldn't have made 'Close Encounters' the same way. I wrote it, I have to take full responsibility for that."

Spielberg says in the interview that "War Horse" is not primarily a World War I movie. Even so, the question has to be asked: What does  he consider to be the greatest World War I movie?

lew ayers and paul griffith.jpgClearly, "All Quiet on the Western Front," Lewis Milestone's film, that's the greatest one. I like  "Wings," too, the silent movie which William Wellman directed. I quite like that. And, of course, the most contemporary and most interesting World War I movie, by Stanley  Kubrick, is  "Paths of Glory." I like that movie a lot.

Favorite horse movie?

"I think 'The Red Pony,' John Steinbeck story, turned into a film [directed by Milestone]. Not the one that was made about 25 years ago, but the one that was made in the '40s [below right].

If he were starting out today, would he still go into film?red pony.jpg
I think everybody is earmarked to do something. Maybe they discover it late in life, maybe they even can change their occupation. But I think this is just something that I was supposed to be doing. Certainly, I look around and think, is there anything else I could be doing? The answer quickly comes back, absolutely not. Nothing else I'm qualified to do [laughs]!"

On the project he's currently filming, an Abraham Lincoln biopic:

"It's a huge challenge. There hasn't been a movie made about LIncoln, really, since Henry Fonda starred in 'Young Mr. Lincoln' in the '30s, the Darryl Zanuck production. Lincoln, as a character, has appeared in many things since, but not with the focus on him. I guess we'll have to wait and see how Lincoln is as a vampire killer [in Timur Bekmambetov's adaptation of Seth Grahame-Smith's novel], and see how many vampires he gets to kill! But in terms of real history, which I revere, to make the first serious movie about Lincoln since the 1930s is a great honor. And to work with Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln is an even greater honor."

82d31871-fc0d-42ae-988f-0318d98160c5.jpg


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Ty Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.

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