NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 17, 2013

Honest, Abe

Actors, writers attest to the virtues of Steven Spielberg

By Luaine Lee
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

---- — It looks like Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” is hot on the track for an Academy Award, proving that the director’s alchemy is still spinning straw into gold.

In spite of his success Spielberg admits that he’s still a nervous wreck before a film is released.

“We’re all scared, actors especially and people who do plays and films. It’s the one thing we share in common and success does not distill how scared we can get,” he says.

“Every movie I make, it’s like I never worked before.”

At 66, Spielberg has reached a point where he’s not only a mentor but an inspiration to those who work with him. Daniel Craig confesses he was reluctant to don James Bond’s Savile Row suits when he was offered the first of his three 007 movies.

“I asked Steven Spielberg, who I was working with at the time, and I said, ‘Look, would you work with me again if I did James Bond?’ And he said, ‘Yes, of course I’d work with you again.’ And I thought, ‘Fine, that’s good to know.’”

Screenwriter David Koepp, who’s worked with Spielberg on several films, including “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” and “War of the Worlds,” says he likes the exclusivity that Spielberg provides.

“The nice thing about working with Steven Spielberg is that you pretty much only work with Steven Spielberg. Because of his success, he’s able to exclude everyone from the development process,” Koepp said. “I just firmly believe that the best stuff comes from the lowest number of people in the room.”

George Clooney credits Spielberg for his decision to star in his hit television series, “ER.”

“I had a deal at Warner Bros. They offered me another pilot at NBC,” Clooney recalled. “I wanted to do ‘ER’ because it was Spielberg and Michael Crichton and a two-hour movie. If it didn’t go at the very least I could say I worked with them. That’s a coup for an actor coming from ‘Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.’”

Holly Hunter, who starred in Spielberg’s “Always,” has high praise, too.

“I didn’t feel I was working for him. I felt like I was acting with him,” Hunter said. “He’s my cohort, my partner. There is no hierarchy in a way. He’s in the trenches with me. I don’t feel alone when I’m on the set with him. He conspires with actors.”

For Matt Bomer (“White Collar”) the inspiration came when he was just a kid.

“When I was 4 or 5, I went to a Steven Spielberg movie and realized that’s what I wanted to do. I didn’t want the attention, I wanted to be part of the storytelling process,” he said. “I wanted to be part of the good story. I wanted to be movie people and wanted to be part of stories that were affecting people. I remember coming home and asking my mom to get me a red hoodie (like the boy in “ET”). I think it was probably because I saw a young character carrying a movie and being at the center of a fascinating story.”

Diablo Cody, who wrote the underdog hit “Juno,” later worked with Spielberg on “The United States of Tara.”

“What’s so amazing about Spielberg is what a visionary he is,” Cody said. “He came to me before the movie (“Juno”) came out. So he hadn’t seen it. He had a good instinct. He’d read the script and wanted to work with me. So you can imagine my shock because I had no success at that point. I’m still living in Minnesota and Steven Spielberg wants to talk about doing a TV show? I just thought, ‘This is ridiculous.’”

Spielberg’s producers called Cody.

“I dealt with them first. Then one day they said, ‘You know, you have to talk to Steven now. We’re going to call him and put him on the phone and you have to explain what you’ve been working on,’” Cody recalled. “Oh, my God, I almost passed out. I still get nervous talking to him and I see him all the time. That was more than I could handle.”

Richard Dreyfuss, who not only made “Close Encounters of a Third Kind” with Spielberg, but also the classic “Jaws,” said, “Steven is a real simple beast. He is a teller of tales. One doesn’t have to believe in God or the devil or resurrection, you don’t have to believe in anything, just sit yourself down and listen to a great story, and within that great story there will be a little moral, a little reason. And I don’t think there’s any more to it than that.”