NEW YORK – Like any of his leading men, Steven Spielberg seems calm, cool and collected. But the cool can evaporate if you start talking technology.
Instead of über-geek, Spielberg’s just a giddy fan of the future. He talks about his new film Minority Report. But he's also adamant about why he never wants to see a movie about Sept. 11. And on a lighter note, he says he can't grasp some of today's technology. But Spielberg's granddaddy of all summer movies is where I am compelled to begin the interview.
McCuddy: Do people still come up to you and say, 'I don't go in the ocean anymore because of Jaws?'
Spielberg: (Smiles) Yeah, they do. They come up to me and they shake their finger at my face and they say that.
McCuddy: And what about you?
Spielberg: I don't go to the ocean. I'm not a good swimmer so that's my excuse. (Laughs)
McCuddy: You really don't go to the ocean?
Spielberg: No. I'm not an ocean guy.
McCuddy: And that was before the movie as well as after?
Spielberg: Absolutely. That actually made me right to direct the movie because I already had a fear of the ocean before I began shooting Jaws so I brought all those fears with me.
McCuddy: You had a moment on that film when the shark broke down. Have you had any moments like that since then?
Spielberg: You can't make sure everything works. Basically it's Murphy's Law. You know, when something breaks down it breaks down. I've had things break down on every movie I've ever made, nothing as severe as the shark breaking down as long as it did, but on every movie I've had technical problems. You have to be patient with it. You've got to let the experts come in and fix it and then you resume.
McCuddy: Are you happier with more technical toys to play with? Compare it to the old days when you just had imagery. I'm thinking of that Night Gallery scene you directed with Joan Crawford where you just shattered some glass and had the image of going blind shown by blurring the lens.
Spielberg: I think I still do that today. You know, the only tool added to all our tool kits is the digital tools that we now have that can make dinosaurs, spaceships and a world in Minority Report. And that's a new added tool.
McCuddy: Can Santa give too many toys to that bag?
Spielberg: No, Santa can't give too many toys to the bag. You've got to make sure that you know when to use the ball-pen hammer and the mallet, you know?
McCuddy: 'Hold 'em or fold 'em' as [Kenny] Rogers would say.
Spielberg: Exactly! Or the sledgehammer. It's up to you now. You've got all the weapons at your disposal, it's up to you to choose what you need to get the job done.
McCuddy: What do you look forward to in filmmaking in the next 50 years?
Spielberg: In 50 years I think the most exciting thing is going to be that I think audience sizes are going to increase. I think we're going to have larger screens. I think we're almost going to be surrounded by image. I think sound is going to become holophonic, meaning all around everywhere, above you, below you, all sides of you, for every individual in an audience. But I think that the shared experience of going to a movie and sitting with strangers is not going to change.
McCuddy: We've tried interactive movies and they didn't work. Why?
Spielberg: I don't think audiences want that. I think audiences want to surrender themselves when they see a film. And they can then buy a computer game, work in PlayStation 2, and then they have control of the world they're in and are navigating in, hearing that story being told, almost telling themselves the story of the video games. But in movies, I really believe we're social animals and I think we want to surrender ourselves all at once to a good story being told to us.
McCuddy: That collective feeling of all going into a dark room.
Spielberg: Yes, that won't change in 50 years.
McCuddy: Can you program your own VCR?
Spielberg: (Laughs) No! It still flashes midnight! Or noon!
McCuddy: Is that true?
McCuddy: But you have 20 people to come in and make it flash midnight now.
Spielberg: No, I don't have 20 people, I have me. I'm the one who has to fix it. I don't know how to fix these things. I don't tape anything anyway on the VCR.
McCuddy: What worries you about the future?
Spielberg: The environment worries me. How long are we going to be able to breathe the air? What's our world going to be like for our children, based on what's happening right now with terrorism and the threat of nuclear terrorism?
McCuddy: Is Sept. 11 a movie subject?
Spielberg: Not for me it isn't. Sept. 11 was a day of infamy and I personally wouldn't want to revisit it in a way that isn’t a documentary or a news program like HBO did. But I wouldn't want to ever, ever recreate it or see a movie that attempts to recreate it.