When it comes to film collaborations, nothing quite compares to Steven Spielberg. In a story that clearly belongs in movie folklore, Spielberg’s earliest association came during his youth where he happened to be in the company of Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian De Palma and George Lucas. Collectively and individually, these directors would go on to re-define the Hollywood production system, moving from a studio controlled and business entity to a film school generation fulfilling and indulging in passion projects, gritty realism and experimental art.
While their cinematic interests and visions were different, the movie brats collaborated on each other’s scripts, film projects, shared the same writer in Paul Schrader and even filming as second unit camera men; Spielberg in this example helped Scorsese with his breakout feature film Taxi Driver. It was his work with George Lucas, however, that arguably changed the face of Hollywood blockbusters.
Spielberg reportedly secured a $40 million bet with Lucas, each betting 2.5% of the gross profits of their respective films for Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The bet was supposed to alleviate Lucas’ own fears about Star Wars, thinking Spielberg had made the better film with Close Encounters but Spielberg was right to put faith in Lucas’s project and ultimately had the last laugh as Star Wars went on to become the global phenomenon that still exists today.
In a friendship that started out as admiration of their respective breakout projects (Lucas’ THX-1138 and Spielberg’s Duel), Lucas returned the favour by working with Spielberg on the Indiana Jones franchise, paying their own tribute to 1930s adventure serials that influenced their youth. Over the years as Lucas became heavily involved with Lucasfilm and ILM, Spielberg relied on his visual effects company to bring a T-Rex to life in Jurassic Park in which Lucas received a special thanks accreditation on the film.
Spielberg has relied on familiar acting talents. Harrison Ford famously starred in all of Spielberg’s Indiana Jones films with number five expected to arrive in 2020. He even had a cameo appearance in E.T. the Extra Terrestrial but his scene was cut from the final film. Tom Hanks shared the screen in four appearances – Saving Private Ryan, the underrated Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal and 2015 release Bridge of Spies. Actor Mark Rylance has recently joined Spielberg’s elite club with his work in Bridge of Spies, The BFG and the upcoming 2018 release Ready Player One.
But Spielberg’s greatest creative work has come from behind the camera. In Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm and currently shaping Star Wars for the next generation), she’s worked and produced on nearly all of Spielberg’s films including E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, The Color Purple, every instalment of the Indiana Jones franchise, Lincoln and The BFG. In the video editing department, Michael Kahn has worked on nearly every major Spielberg film (with exception of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial), a choice which Spielberg calls one of the best decisions of his life. That editing journey started back in 1977 on the production of Close Encounters in which Spielberg openly admits that the last twenty-five minutes of the film was the most challenging directing and editing work he has faced in his career.
Arguably the most popular and recognisable collaborator though is composer John Williams. As a long-time contributor to Spielberg’s films, Williams’ music always finds that central belief that reinforces the director’s vision. Williams captures that full musical and emotional spectrum whether it’s the threatening danger in Jaws or that dinosaurs can comes back to life in Jurassic Park. He’s sitting out Spielberg’s upcoming Ready Player One next summer, with Alan Silvestri subbing, but there’s no doubt Spielberg’s pictures wouldn’t be nearly as wonderful if not for Williams’ timeless, legendary scores.
As fans of his work, the continuing adventures of Spielberg will always have a continuous network based upon trust, friendship and a passion for creating movie magic. Long may he continue.
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