Larry King Live
Steven Spielberg Discusses His Career in Movies and
Aired December 8, 1999 - 9:00 p.m. ET
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LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, the world's most famous
director. If I have to tell you who he is, you have a
problem. And he's with us for an hour, next on LARRY KING
It's our millennium month on LARRY KING LIVE, and what a
great honor to have as our special guest tonight Steven
Spielberg. Easily -- not only one of the great directors
in the world, but easily the best-known, and of course, I
guess, kind of the king of Hollywood. An Academy Award
winner, finally, he much deserved all of his attention.
And he's a return visit -- comes here every five years.
Is that the deal?
STEVEN SPIELBERG, DIRECTOR: The deal is every five years.
KING; Every five years.
Why do you direct?
SPIELBERG: It's what I know how to do.
KING: Were you that way as a kid?
SPIELBERG: Yes, I was directing everything when I was a
kid, I was directing my family, my siblings.
KING: You go there, you stay here.
KING: Is a director, Steven, a storyteller?
SPIELBERG: A director is first and foremost a storyteller
before everything else. And to tell a story you have got
to have, you know, access to be able to move things
around in -- not just in your world, but in your life.
And I think that's why we all tend to be a little bit
bossy as people.
SPIELBERG: Yes, I think so.
KING: In private life as well?
SPIELBERG: Yes, a little bit bossy.
KING: You take it with you?
SPIELBERG: A little bit, yes.
KING: It's your game, though, isn't it? Film is the
director's ball game?
SPIELBERG: Well, I think...
KING: What we see is what you want us to see?
SPIELBERG: What you see is what I can pretty much
interpret through me from what the writer writes, because
I have always said that without a screenplay, without a
story, without a writer we have nothing. We can't do
anything without the writer.
KING: He's the key? Or she?
SPIELBERG: The writer, she or he, that's the key for me.
KING: But the actor is the vehicle that you use, right?
SPIELBERG: I am a vehicle. The actors are a vehicle. We
all interpret the thoughts and the wishes of the writer.
KING; Did you ever want to do theater?
SPIELBERG: No, no.
SPIELBERG: To me it's too limiting. It's too, you know,
locked into the proscenium, although I think that there
have been directors in theaters that almost made it look
like a movie, made a play look so cinematic. But it's not
something I have been seeking in my life for myself. I
appreciate theater. I go to it all the time, especially
when I am back East, but it's not something right now I
want to do.
KING: There's so much to talk about so we'll be all over
KING: How have you handled fame?
SPIELBERG: Well, by kind of...
KING: Most directors we don't know walking down the
street -- you, we do.
SPIELBERG: No. Yes, it's actually good to be a director
and not know who the director is. That's also a nice
feeling, being able to be a film maker in a kind of an
anonymous, you know, lifestyle.
KING: And most, with few exceptions, are anonymous, right?
SPIELBERG: Most of them are anonymous, and I envy most of
SPIELBERG: Because -- it's just I was never meant to be
in front of the camera, and I wind up being more in front
of the camera than most other directors. And it's
something -- like talking to you right now -- and it is
something that we all do when we sell a movie. I have
nothing to sell today except to say hi to you. But we do
a lot, and it puts a lot of us in front of the camera
when most of us would prefer to be in the other side.
KING; You were in front once. Weren't you in a Blue's
SPIELBERG: Yes, yes last couple of scenes I had one or
KING; Why did you do that?
SPIELBERG: Just because I was a favorite to the director,
and to John and to Danny Akroyd.
KING: Did you like it? Did you like being in front of the
camera? Did you like doing your scene?
SPIELBERG: No, it was horrible. For one thing I had no
control. You know, you hit your mark, you say your lines,
they give you a sandwich, you go home. That was it.
KING: Are you your own worst critic? By that I mean are
you a perfectionist?
SPIELBERG: I don't know if you can call me a
perfectionist. I try to -- I'm the hardest -- I am not a
critic of myself, but I am hard on my own ideas. The
choices that I make before I select one out of ten
choices I -- takes me a while. That process -- I am
pretty hard on myself in that process.
KING: So you get lots of scripts?
SPIELBERG: I am not talking about choices that way, I am
talking about choices about where the camera goes, so to
KING; Oh, those kind of choices.
SPIELBERG: Those kind of choices.
KING; And so there's the most difficult...
SPIELBERG: And how to tell the story, you know, and how
to frame the shot, and what to tell the actors, you know.
I prepare diligently before I go on to the set every
morning. I do as much homework, I like to think, as the
actors do when they come to meet me halfway.
KING: You were very young when you got an initial break.
You did a TV thing, right?
SPIELBERG: I was a kid...
KING: "Duel" was television, wasn't it?
SPIELBERG: ... I was in my early 20s.
Yes, "Duel" was for TV, but I got a break long
before that since Shineberg discovered me -- you know,
the former head of Universal.
SPIELBERG: He discovered a short film I'd made called Amblin, which I had made while I was in college -- not
part of a university program, I did it independently.
KING: That led to Amblin Entertainment?
SPIELBERG: It led to Amblin. I got some financing from a
man named Dennis Hoffman, who gave me the money to
realize my little dream to make this short film. And from
there Sid Shineberg saw the film and gave me a contract.
So it was in a sense a Cinderella story.
KING; Were you a film major in school?
SPIELBERG: I would have been film major except the
university I was in -- which at that time it was not a
university, it was a state college.
SPIELBERG: Long Beach State.
KING: Long Beach.
SPIELBERG: And Long Beach did not have a film program, so
I made my films outside of the college.
KING: And what are the big film programs now, NYU,
SPIELBERG: USC, UCLA, NYU -- there's a number of them.
They're all pretty, you know, good.
KING: Do you look at youngsters a lot?
SPIELBERG: Yes, every year I look at...
KING: You do?
SPIELBERG: ... dozens and dozens of short films, yes.
KING; To see who has got that...
SPIELBERG: To see who is out there -- who is out there
and, you know, and who's...
KING: What are you looking for?
SPIELBERG: Looking for somebody that, you know, makes me
interested in watching 20 minutes without turning it off
at minute number seven. You know, I just want to get
through a film from beginning to end. And I want to --
and I get through all of them, by the way. But some of
them, it's a struggle to get past a minute of a three-minute
film. Other films, after 30 minutes of a short movie, I
want another 40 minutes. You know, come on, give me more.
I mean, that's what I look for.
KING: How did you get "Duel"? How did that come
SPIELBERG: My secretary got me "Duel." This is
a true story.
KING: Tell me.
SPIELBERG: My secretary at the time had read in "Playboy"
a short story written by Richard Matheson called "Duel."
And she said, "You ought to direct this." I was
doing TV at the time, said Shineberg, give me this break
KING: What kind of things were you doing?
SPIELBERG: I shot the pilot -- I was one of the three
directors that did the pilot for the "Night Gallery"
series, I shot the first "Columbo."
KING: You did?
SPIELBERG: Yes, the first "Columbo" on the air
with Peter Faulk, and Jack Cassidy and Martin Milner were
in that one. And "Marcus Welby, M.D.," and
"Marshall" -- television shows like that.
And then my secretary read this short story, and said you
ought to direct this. And then what she didn't know --
what I didn't know -- was it was already in preproduction
at Universal. They were looking for a director, and she
made a phone call for me. I met the producer, George Eckstein, showed him some of my TV work, and he hired me.
KING: Was that nervous for you? I mean, this was going to
be a big production, right?
SPIELBERG: This was, for me -- I could already -- I
already knew that this was in my DNA, to make "Duel."
I just didn't know if I could convince George Eckstein
that it was in my DNA, or it was really necessarily going
to benefit him to hire a first time TV movie director.
And he was -- took a big chance on me.
KING: Does the director -- do you know right away if you're
looking at something -- yes, I want to do this?
SPIELBERG: Yes, I do until the next morning, you know.
Sometimes I'll read something and say, yes, that's great,
I want to do this. And then, you know, you let the
sobriety of a 24-hour cycle pass, and you read it again,
you say, well, wait a second, there's some flaws here.
And then you start looking at it more critically.
KING; Have you turned down something you later regretted,
a script where you said yes, no, no, yes, no?
SPIELBERG: Sure, sure, yes.
KING; Someone else did it,and then you said I wish I
would have done it.
SPIELBERG: Sure, "Rainman."
KING: You turned down "Rainman"?
KING; Barry Levinson did it.
SPIELBERG: Barry Levinson did it.
KING: Do you remember why you turned it down?
SPIELBERG: I turned it down because I had a commitment to
do the third "Indiana Jones" movie with George
Lucas, and George sort of called me on my marker, so to
speak, and said we need the film now. And I jumped out of
"Rainman" to fulfill my promise to George.
KING: We'll take a break. He's with us for the full hour
in our millennium month. Bill Clinton next week, and
Gerald Ford, and Ted Turner, and Jim Carrey, too.
Tomorrow night, we're going to have Mrs. Trump aboard,
the first Mrs. Trump.
Steven Spielberg -- here's a scene from "Saving
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SAVING PRIVATE RYAN")
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SAVING PRIVATE RYAN")
TOM HANKS, ACTOR: I'll see you on the beach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Why are we so fascinated -- since that's the clip
we've showed, we'll jump to that -- with World War II?
SPIELBERG: Well, we should be, I mean, and we should have
KING: Why weren't we five years ago?
SPIELBERG: Well, we should have been. Five years ago, 20
years ago, 40 years ago, we should have been.
I mean, World War II was certainly fodder for many
stories during the effort itself as an effort to raise
money for the war.
KING: All the movies in the '40s.
SPIELBERG: Right. Exactly. And therefore, they were very
gung- ho and very, you know, patriotic and anti-fascist
as they should be, but they never showed the reality of
what those kids were experiencing firsthand overseas, and
I think we got a little more cynical, which was good,
after Vietnam, because I think Vietnam sobered everybody
up as to what war was, and then the first great war film
that came out in the post-Vietnam era for me was "Platoon."
KING: Did you think "Saving Private Ryan" now
changed the way war movies will be done? Do you think it's...
SPIELBERG: I don't know if it'll change the way they'll
be done, but I hope there are more war stories told about
that generation, the one that Tom Brokaw calls, sort of,
the greatest generation. I think he's right. They really
were. And you know, because they -- these kids that went
off to fight this war didn't have the media that will
inform you about how -- you know, what to expect. You
know, they went into that war, you know, farmers, and
KING: They were 18 and 19.
SPIELBERG: ... and green grocers.
And they were 17, 18 and 19-years-old. And they were
innocent kids, but they had a tremendous work ethic. A
lot of them had to work to put other brothers and sisters
through college, and they went off and saved the world.
KING: And as you have also discovered, as Brokaw
discovered with -- not only with World War II, but the
Holocaust as well, not many of them want to talk about it.
SPIELBERG: Yes, very similar to the Holocaust survivors
is what I found a lot of the veterans of the real action,
I mean, the veterans of major firefights, who saw their
buddies wiped out.
KING: If you were at D-Day.
SPIELBERG: You know, exactly, they were less -- more
reluctant to speak about it.
KING: Why do you think?
SPIELBERG: Because I think it just brings up a lot of
memories that they would rather, you know, store away in
the darkest recesses, and they don't want to -- I know
the Holocaust survivors have told me, many of them, have
said the reason I don't tell my grandchildren about what
happened to me is I don't want to share my memories, The
stories were too horrible, I don't want to share that
with young people. Although I believe they must be shared
in order for to us progress and become better human
beings in the next century.
KING: Was "Ryan" a difficult shoot?
SPIELBERG: It was not -- logistically, I have to surprise
you by saying no.
SPIELBERG: Logistically it wasn't as difficult as I looks
on the screen, but it was emotionally very, very
difficult more everybody, because we all, you know, were
pretty much believing what we were doing.
KING: But it looked so difficult, like that opening 30
SPIELBERG: Well, it took a lot of time. The opening 30
minutes took almost a month to shoot. Just that, let's
see, 24 minutes, 24, 25 minutes took about a month to
KING: Do you have all of that in your head, Steven, as a
director? Some directors map everything out. Do you know
where you wanted to go?
SPIELBERG: You know, It's interesting, because in the
case of Omaha Beach, I've done a lot of research about
that must have been like. And all I could do as a
journalist is, you know, make some tremendously audacious
assumptions about what war is like. And so what I did
with that sequence, and subsequently, the whole movie, I
shot the whole film in continuity. You know, one of my
first shots was in the boats heading for the beach. And
every single day of that production, we were making
progress, but by inches, working our way up to the sea
wall, then up the passes, to the top of Omaha Beach.
KING: So you knew you wanted to do that?
SPIELBERG: Absolutely. But I knew that I needed to have
the experience of telling a story about virtual war. I
needed that experience to be in sequence the way a GI
dogface would actually experience that in real life. And
we had advisers. Dale Direa (ph) was just -- Stephen
Ambrose, Dale Direa incredibly helpful with their writing
and their personal first-time experience.
KING: You have in the course of a brilliant career filmed
violence, right? I mean, you've touched it in various
areas -- an "Indiana Jones" kind of violence.
KING: Is that harder to do, to produce on the screen that
which shocks us, moves us, scares us?
SPIELBERG: I think it is difficult to do -- I think it's
difficult exploring the violence without artifice, you
know, trying to get to the quickness of violence, to the
eminent moment of impact of a bullet that kills you, and
to throw it away and move on to something else as opposed
to exploring it, and exploiting it and allowing it to
become somewhat balletic, and I think the difference
between "Private Ryan" and other things I've
done, like the "Indiana Jones" movies, is that
in the "Indiana Jones" films, you know,
violence was meant to be entertaining. And basically..,
KING: We laughed at it?
SPIELBERG: We laughed at it. And basically, in "Private
Ryan" and "Schindler's List" violence was
meant to be informative, and it was meant to be more...
KING: Does that mean you're going that way and we are
liable in the future to see less "Indiana Jones"-type
SPIELBERG: No, no, I promise you that -- I won't become...
KING: You're not going to leave entertainment.
SPIELBERG: No, no, no, I am not going to become a
historical -- a history teacher with a camera. I am not
really looking to turn my career in that direction. I was
lucky enough to have found two highly compelling stories
that happened to be about history, the Holocaust and
World War II. And these are subjects I was interested in
all my life. This is not like a dilettante having an
interest on a Monday morning, and then making a movie and
then forgetting about it the next day. I've devoted my
life, actually my philanthropic life has been devoted in
the direction of Holocaust studies and retrieval of
KING: I know. But that doesn't mean you might not make a
SPIELBERG: It absolutely does not mean -- I would love to
do a comedy, a musical, another "Indiana Jones"
film. I am not trying to, you know, be a dry historian
KING: We'll be back with more of Steven Spielberg, and we'll
talk about "Schindler's List" and "Shoah"
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "SCHINDLER'S LIST")
LIAM NEESON, ACTOR: Finish the page and leave one space
at the bottom.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: The list is an absolute good. The
list is life. All around its margins lies the cuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Steven Spielberg. We saw the scene
from "Schindler's List," and you told me during
the break that's your best, right?
SPIELBERG: Yes, that's...
KING: You tried to top it, but you're not going to be
able to top it, you think?
SPIELBERG: I hope I will someday, but right now, it
intimidates me when I look at it, so I don't look at it.
KING: Why -- you don't look at it?
SPIELBERG: No, I don't see "Schindler's List."
KING: All right. Why? Why did it do that much to you? Why
is it your best?
SPIELBERG: Well, I think it's the most honest thing I
have ever done. I think it's the most honest acquittal of
a subject by taking my own impulses to upstage the
subject, and where I force myself into the background of
the subject matter. And I think that's the first time I've
ever done that before and I think it really benefited the
KING: Did it affect actors doing it? I remember when they
did "Holocaust" for television. Some actors
told me they had an awful tough time putting on the
SPIELBERG: It was very tough. It was very tough -- you
know, I hired German actors to play, you know, you know,
you know, German soldiers and SS Nazi soldiers, and it
was very tough for them to put on the uniform. They
disdained the Swastika, they hated the Eagle, and they
hated the uniforms they wore. But they were actors and
they did their jobs, but they confessed to me how they --
every morning they just did not look forward to putting
KING: Mr. Fiennes had to have the toughest time, right,
to play evil?
SPIELBERG: You know -- you know something? I think actors
really, really, you know, prefer the -- the evil villain
than the leading man, and I think Ray found a tremendous
opportunity and a challenge to play, you know, Amon Goeth.
KING: And made a career of it.
SPIELBERG: And -- well, he was deserving of career. He's
one of the greatest actors we have and I feel very lucky
to find him.
KING: And from this came Shoah, which we did a lot the
last time you were on. Will you briefly explain to us
what Shoah is and what you're doing?
SPIELBERG: Well, what I did after "Schindler's List"
was I wanted to try to recapture the -- the oral and
visual histories of the survivors of the Holocaust, and
so what I did was I formed videographer teams that
eventually wound up in 57 countries in 32 languages,
where we, you know, asked for survivors who were willing
to talk to us, to speak to us about their experiences, so
in turn they could become educators and we could
disseminate this information, get it out to the schools
and hopefully and eventually change the whole system of
social studies in America. KING: How many have you done?
SPIELBERG: Fifty thousand, over 50,000.
KING: And they're all in that special Shoah place we got
a tour of?
SPIELBERG: Well, yes, exactly. And they're -- and you
know, they're also going to be in some repositories
around the world, including the Yad Vashem and the Simon
Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance here in Los Angeles.
KING: Are they edited?
SPIELBERG: They're not edited. They're absolutely -- we
will not edit the tapes. They are between two and five
hours long and they are purely the -- unless there's a
bathroom break, it's absolutely -- the only time we stop
is for a rest or a bathroom break -- is the -- these are
the recollections of these survivors.
KING: How many survivors are there? Do we know how many?
SPIELBERG: I don't think we actually have a number, a
consensus about that. We estimate there are still about
150,000 survivors alive today.
KING: How many have you looked at of all those tapes?
SPIELBERG: Oh, my God, I haven't even scratched the
SPIELBERG: We have 50,000 tapes and I haven't even
scratched the surface.
KING: Personally, you do look at them?
SPIELBERG: I do look at them, but I haven't even
scratched the surface.
KING: Do you think we learned from it?
SPIELBERG: We have to learn from it. We have to, you know,
make our -- children learn from this more than older
people, children will look at this and they will learn
from this. I really believe that if we get enough
information out there into the schools about all kinds of
intolerances, not just the Holocaust, but also
intolerances having to do with the history of slavery in
this country and the history of the genocide of the
Native Americans, you know, and all of the very out-of-kilter
ways that we don't tolerate the differences in humanity,
if we can get this into the schools, I think this can
stop a Columbine from happening, I really do.
KING: Are you optimistic?
SPIELBERG: I am optimistic. KING: As we go to break,
Steven Spielberg won an Academy Award for "Schindler's
List." He also won one in 1998 for the best
documentary, "The Last Days." Here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE LAST DAYS")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: They told us that we were going to
get a number, a prisoner's number, but of course, we
expected to get a prisoner's number on our clothing or
somewhere. And they set up these tables, and at each
table sat a few girls with these huge books opened in
front of them, and we presumed that they are going to put
name in it and the number that they're going to give us.
And then we realized that they are putting this number on
our flesh, on our arms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: It's our millennium month on LARRY KING LIVE, and
it's -- Bill Gates by the way, is going to be with us New
It's a great pleasure to have for the full hour tonight
the great Steven Spielberg. That "great" gets
bandied around a lot, but it certainly applies to him.
Tom Lantos, the congressman, was one of those in "The
Last Days," right?
SPIELBERG: Tom Lantos is one of the survivors who brought
our cameras back to Hungary to revisit his memories.
KING: Is there more to do on this subject, do you think?
SPIELBERG: There's a lot more to do on the subject.
SPIELBERG: Yes, and I am going to -- I am going to sort
of limit my involvement to the Shoah Foundation and to
the recapturing of and the dissemination of this
information of these testimonies around the world. But I
think there's other movies to be made about the "Holocaust,"
other filmmakers that could certainly tackle the subject.
KING: The story has not fully been told?
SPIELBERG: The story will never be fully told. No matter
how many films or documentaries are made about this, the
story must be told again and again and again.
KING: Do we, do you think, understand that unanswerable
question maybe: why?
SPIELBERG: No. I can -- I tell you, like all of us have,
this has been something that -- I was asking that same
question when I first took on the challenge of making
"Schindler's List" into a movie, and I cannot
figure out why. I don't know how it happened.
KING: We're also still fascinated by it. Whenever you see
the Swastika on a screen, you don't hit the clicker,
right? For some reason.
SPIELBERG: You don't hit the clicker because it certainly
touches, you know, a very dark side of humanity, of human
history, and in that darkness, there is something
compelling about wanting to...
KING: It draws you in.
SPIELBERG: It draws you into the darkness to take a look
at it, and thank God people are looking. There's a
wonderful documentary out that BBC made maybe a year ago
called "The Nazis." It's a six-part, six-hour
documentary, which might come the closest to attempting
an explanation of why this kind of evil during the
technological revolution of the 20th century -- it's a
very compelling documentary.
KING: What's that revolution, as we go to other areas,
done to film making?
SPIELBERG: What's the revolution of film making -- what's
made dinosaurs possible in 1993?
KING: "Jurassic Park."
SPIELBERG: "Jurassic Park," and Jimmy Cameron's
KING: Can you almost do anything now?
SPIELBERG: You can do anything now. You can do anything
but replicate a human being, a natural person, and I
thank God for that, because I don't think that we should
ever go there, so to speak. Don't go there.
KING: So we're not going to...
SPIELBERG: I wouldn't go there. I would not be interested
in doing that.
KING: Do a DNA and create someone on screen or...
SPIELBERG: No, taking the digital technology and -- where
I could easily hire an actor, instead hire a computer.
You know, that's a place I'm not...
KING: Do you think that's going to come?
SPIELBERG: I think...
KING: We can make a computerized Al Pacino? You don't
have to hire him?
SPIELBERG: You'll never get a computer to act as well as
Al Pacino, but physically someday you'll be able to --
they'll be able to, you know, replicate or simulate what
a human person looks like and almost convince you, the
viewer that, that is a real person not a digitized
confection from a computer.
KING: What do you think of what Pixar is doing with
"Toy Story?" SPIELBERG: Well, it's brilliant,
because they're not trying to replicate the way people
look. They're trying to tell stories through this new
technology. And I think the secret of Pixar, you have to
understand this, it's not so much the technology, because
they have great artists there and great directors, it's
their story telling.
KING: Great stories.
SPIELBERG: It's the John Lasseter group that know how to
direct, and know how to write and can tell stories, and
that's why these "Toy Story" movies are
KING: We're only halfway through with Steven Spielberg.
He's with us every five years, so you can mark it down.
We'll be back with more after this scene from "Jurassic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JURASSIC PARK")
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: What is that?
SAM NEILL, ACTOR: Turn the light off. Turn the light off.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Turn the light off!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL")
DREW BARRYMORE, ACTRESS: He said phone.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Home.
HENRY THOMAS, ACTOR: You're right. That's E.T.'s home.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: E.T. home phone.
BARRYMORE: E.T. phone home.
THOMAS: E.T. phone home. E.T. phone home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Did you ever feel, Steven Spielberg, that you were
kind of -- not shunned -- that this town was sort of
jealous in all those years you weren't acclaimed? I mean,
the public acclaimed you, but the town didn't acclaim you.
Were you bitter?
SPIELBERG: No. Bitter I wasn't.
KING: Angry, no? SPIELBERG: No, I wasn't angry. I was
sort of philosophical and kind of thought, well, OK. I'm
young still. I can -- there are a few more films left in
Maybe someday -- I would always play on the premise of
maybe someday. But the only time I had any tinge of I
really wanted something, the only time I really felt like
I really wanted something was for "E.T." That
was the one time that I just sat there, saying, "Oh,
man, I would have loved to have won for that film."
KING: Therefore, you were disappointed?
SPIELBERG: Yes, yes, sure.
KING: Why do you think -- who won that year?
SPIELBERG: Well, you know who won that year? One of my
closest friends won that year, Richard Attenborough when
he made "Gandhi." So, that made the medicine go
down in a good way, because I love Richard.
KING: Did George C. Scott have point: Academy Awards are
in a sense unfair? How do you compare "E.T."
with "Gandhi"? Apples and oranges.
SPIELBERG: You can't compare any of these films together,
but I think it's still absolutely very highly principled
that one film is going -- is going to be selected over
the entire course of a year that produces over 250 films.
And I think if your nominated, I think if you're one of
five nominees in any category -- whether it's art
direction or supporting actor or best picture -- it doesn't
matter -- you are five out of 250 or more. That is an
honor itself. You should take that home and take that to
KING: Nominees deserve more than just being...
SPIELBERG: Nominees deserve to feel so good about the
nomination that they should look at a nomination like you
would look at a win.
KING: David Brown told me when he saw "Sugarland
Express" -- was it "Sugarland Express"?
Was that your first?
SPIELBERG: First feature film.
KING: He knew he wanted you for "Jaws."
KING: Did you want to do "Jaws" right away?
SPIELBERG: I did.
KING: How old were you?
SPIELBERG: I was about 25, around there.
KING: Now that seemed an impossible film to make, to make
SPIELBERG: Yes. I didn't think it wasn't a possible film
to make and it turned out to be an impossible film to
make. It really did.
KING: You still wonder how you did it?
SPIELBERG: Yes, and I'll you something: It's the only
time I've been in the middle of a movie wondering if I
could actually inflict a serious bodily injury upon
myself and get myself relieved. I mean, I got to that
point where it was like being in a kind of war zone. It
was madness, trying to make a film on the water and
trying to, you know, second-guess the ocean and the
currents and the winds...
KING: Making contraptions.
SPIELBERG: ... and the waves, and all with a mechanical
contraption that had never been made before in the
history of Hollywood.
KING: How about also being 25 and telling all of these
people what to do? Was that a little tough or not?
SPIELBERG: You know, it wasn't then. There was no real
age identity at that point. Nobody said, hey, you're 25
and I'm 60 and I've maid a hundred more films than you
KING: Did you feel that?
SPIELBERG: I didn't -- I did when I first began directing
Joan Crawford when I was like 21, 22. I began feeling
that when I was directing my first thing on television,
"Night Gallery." But I didn't later on.
The industry, the craftspeople, the technicians
immediately kind of like thought it was cool, and it didn't
KING: So the fact that "Jaws" got made...
SPIELBERG: That was the miracle, that the film got
finished was the miracle. And the postscript to that is
the film made a lot of money.
KING: Did you realize it would?
KING: No? Because that -- lines were...
KING: ... stretched everywhere.
SPIELBERG: I couldn't tell. I mean, I was on that picture
for nine months, making that movie, shooting the movie
for almost nine months, over 160 shooting days. And after
that, you get -- you so lose your objectivity that all
you can see are the flaws. All you can see are the
moments where the shark looks like this large stale
turkey floating on the surface. You know, the shark
became debris for me. And I didn't understand how it
could be scary.
And one of the things that benefited the movie was the
shark didn't work for so many months that I resorted to
Hitchcock-ian rule, which is basically shooting the water
and suggesting the shark without showing it: having the
pier go out and turn around by itself and come back again.
KING: Oh yes.
SPIELBERG: All those -- I was forced into making those
creative choices because I didn't have a shark to use.
KING: And selection of pretty good music.
SPIELBERG: And Johnny Williams did a signature theme for
that movie, which I think is his most famous signature
theme of all the things he's ever composed for.
KING: And all you have to do is hear it once and...
SPIELBERG: You hear it once, and you say you're to -- you're
in deep trouble.
KING: Do you look at those that -- do you look at "1941"
or "Always" and say, I failed, or do you say, I
did good work, public didn't buy it?
SPIELBERG: Yes, I do.
KING: Which one?
SPIELBERG: I look at "Always" -- I look "Always"
-- I look at that and I say, you know, I'm really proud
of that picture, and I'm sorry the public didn't -- didn't
-- it wasn't their cup of tea. But it was my cup of tea
at the time. And when I see it -- I saw it as recently as
a year ago and I thought it was even better a year ago.
And "'41," I can understand how that film didn't
succeed. That film was just a big, you know, rally of
noise and destruction. It was a demolition derby.
KING: Good idea.
SPIELBERG: It was a good idea. Universal (UNINTELLIGIBLE)
put a lot of money into letting me break things. I broke
things for almost -- that was the longest shoot of my
KING: Really. Longer than "Jaws"?
SPIELBERG: Almost 180 days of shooting in that picture.
And today -- that film in those days cost about $24
million to make, in 1978, '79. I think that was it. Was
it -- '78 I think. But today, that film would have cost
as much as "Titanic" and it would have gone to
the bottom, which "Titanic" didn't.
KING: We'll be back with more of Steven Spielberg. Here's
a scene from "Jaws."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "JAWS")
ROY SCHEIDER, ACTOR: Smile, you son of a b*tch.
(GUNSHOT & EXPLOSION)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Steven Spielberg, our guest for the
Let's get into a little family life. It's the second
marriage. It's worked very well, one would gather, with
KING: How goes the boy from the first marriage?
SPIELBERG: The boy goes well.
KING: How old is he now?
SPIELBERG: The boy is 14-years-old, if you can believe
KING: He was bar mitzvahed?
SPIELBERG: Didn't get bar mitzvahed.
KING: Didn't get bar mitzvahed?
SPIELBERG: But he always has time, because you know, in
Judaism you can be bar mitzvahed -- Kirk Douglas tomorrow
is celebrating his 83rd birthday being bar mitzvahed.
KING: I'm going.
SPIELBERG: And the only reason I can't do -- I hope I can
say this to Kirk: Kirk, I can't go because Johnny
Williams is scoring a millennium project, and I have to
be their on the scoring stage, otherwise I would be there...
KING: What's the millennium project?
SPIELBERG: On the mall, at the Lincoln Memorial.
KING: Oh, you're doing that?
SPIELBERG: I'm not doing the whole two hours. I'm only
doing a tiny 16-minute version with John Williams, where
John has written 16 minutes of wonderful musical
celebrating the last hundred years, and I'm producing
KING: Was this at the president's request?
SPIELBERG: It was my idea for the 16-minute musical thing,
and the president and first lady thought it was a good
KING: And how many children do you have with Kate?
SPIELBERG: With Kate I -- let's see, well, Katie and I
have -- together, we have...
KING: Got to think about it?
SPIELBERG: Well, we have two adopted children.
KING: That you both adopted?
SPIELBERG: That we both adopted, and then we have her
daughter, and my son, Jessica and Max, and then we have
four, five, six, seven -- three between us.
KING: Why did you adopt, since you could have children?
SPIELBERG: You know, it's interesting, Kate and I just
felt that we could just love and adopt a child as much as
a biological one, and we...
KING: And has it worked out that way?
SPIELBERG: It's worked out brilliantly.
KING: Bob Constantine (ph) once wrote, "I have four
children. Two are adopted. I forget which two."
KING: Does it come to that?
SPIELBERG: You know, it's interesting, I have two African-
American children, and I forget which are adopted -- it
does come to that.
KING: Why did you choose to adopt African-American
children since, I mean, you will know that they will have
some problems just by the nature of the white-black thing,
in this country, sadly? SPIELBERG: You know, I think we
fell in love with the child. We didn't fall in love with
the race. We didn't fall in love with the face or the
KING: You didn't go out looking for a black child?
SPIELBERG: We fell in love with the inside of the child,
because Katie became a foster mom before we ever adopted,
and I think we fell in love with this foster miracle.
KING: So you weren't saying, I want a black child or I
want an oriental child, I want...
SPIELBERG: We fell in love with a child who happened to
KING: How has it worked? How does it work among the
SPIELBERG: Well, all of our kids are color blind. I say
if you want to eliminate that as a social issue, just if
every family in America would adopt one minority child,
you know, you would just eradicate all of those racial
issue hatred issues.
KING: And having a lot of kids, is that fun when you're
also a kind of workaholic -- or certainly we read about
you as an workaholic?
SPIELBERG: Well, yes, but you know, I also pick and
choose. Like you know, I was -- for a year, I made three
movies in 12 months. I made, you know, "Lost World,"
"Amistad" and "Saving Private Ryan"
all in a 12-month period of shooting.
SPIELBERG: And I am still off. And I am off now. I mean,
I took two years off. I told Kate I can work for a year
straight and be a workaholic that year, I'll take two
years off, and I'm going two years and a couple of months
KING: Do you know much about...
SPIELBERG: When I say "off," I don't mean off
from work. I mean off from physically directing.
KING: You produce films, right?
SPIELBERG: And I am involved in Dreamworks as a co-founder
and a producer there, yes.
KING: I want to ask you about that. When you have adopted
children, do you learn a lot about them? I mean, do you
know what their parentage was and what kind of health
problems the parents may have had? You have to look out
SPIELBERG: Look into all the -- it's one of the kindness
you have to pay to your children, your adopted children,
to find out everything you possibly can about their
medical history, and their background and everything,
KING: Do you come up with theories about environment
KING: It's great age-old argument that's never been
answered: What's the affect on a child?
SPIELBERG: Well, I think the environment in the home is
the most important effect that any of us could have on
our children, and the second tier, the next level, is the
educational institutions that your children are involved
in, the public school system, who your teachers, how safe
are your schools, you know, whether they're retaining,
not just memorizing, but whether they're actually
retaining in their lives, and I think that's more
important than genes.
KING: We're going to ask about Dreamworks after this.
And as we go to break, a scene from another great
Spielberg movie, "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK")
HARRISON FORD, ACTOR: Take this. Wave it at anything that
KAREN ALLEN, ACTRESS: Oh, my God, this whole place is
FORD: Jesus. Where did you get this? From him?
ALLEN: I was trying to escape, no thanks to you.
FORD: How hard were you trying?
ALLEN: Well, why the hell were you?
FORD: Watch it. Watch it.
ALLEN: What are you doing?
FORD: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fire!
ALLEN: How the hell are we going to get out of here?
FORD: I am working on it. I am working on it.
ALLEN: Well, whatever you're doing, do it faster.
Where are you going?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Steven Spielberg.
How did Dreamworks come about, that you, and Geffen and
Katzenberg would form this out-of-nowhere company?
SPIELBERG: Well, I think what happened was Jeffrey had
this idea one day.
KING: It was Jeffrey's?
SPIELBERG: It was Jeffrey's idea to do this.
KING: He was at Disney.
SPIELBERG: He was at Disney, but he knew what he didn't
know. You know, the handwriting for him was on the wall
there, and he was being dismissed from the company. And
after his dismissal, he came over to see me. And...
KING: And you were with who then?
SPIELBERG: Just myself.
KING: Just you? Amblin.
SPIELBERG: Amblin, which was a kind of a company that
served all the studios, based at Universal, but pretty
much servicing everybody. And Jeffrey suggested, he said,
you know, "Wouldn't you like to be an owner, not
just a renter?"
And I began thinking about it. I began saying, yes, I
think I'm kind of old enough to take that concept
seriously and it was very compelling to know that we
could green light our own movies and distribute our own
mistakes, make our own mistakes.
KING: You have a television division.
SPIELBERG: We have a TV division. We have a feature film
division. We have a digital, you know, animation division.
You know, we have videotape division. We're...
KING: And Geffen's part is what?
SPIELBERG: A music division, of course, you know...
KING: And that's Geffen's?
SPIELBERG: ... Moe Austin (ph) and Lenny and Michael
Geffen's part is he is our consigliere. He is our
complete, you know, equal partner. He makes a lot of
creative decisions, what direction he wants the company
KING: All right. How do three successful, don't-need-the-money,
creative people work together? SPIELBERG: Well, you know,
better than the press reports us.
KING: Tell me.
SPIELBERG: We get along great. I knew David longer than I
knew Jeffrey. I knew David before Dreamworks, for almost
20 years. And I had known Jeffrey for, you know, like 12
years before we formed Dreamworks. And we just got along
KING: What happens when you disagree, which has to happen?
SPIELBERG: In the movie division, if we disagree, you
know, whatever I say, they'll do. But in other divisions,
like music and like animation, Jeffrey's in charge of
animation. If we have a disagreement over television,
Jeffrey's ideas will supersede my own, because Jeffrey
has more experience in TV than I.
KING: And Geffen in the music then?
SPIELBERG: And Geffen -- and only music, but Geffen also
is our spiritual adviser.
SPIELBERG: Among everything else, David is responsible
for so many decisions that are made creatively inside the
KING: Why? Because he's...
SPIELBERG: He's got a great imagination. He's got great
ideas. And he is kind of our -- sometimes I think he's
our mother and father at times.
KING: How do you come up with the name?
SPIELBERG: Dreamworks? Well, I think just because I've
always believed that I -- I dream for a living. You know?
And Jeffrey works for a living. So kind of like
KING: Is it -- is your whole business, in a sense --
Anthony Quinn once said to me, basically, we're all
children. We just get to act it out.
SPIELBERG: Yes. Boy, it's a brilliant quote. And it's so
true. It's so true.
KING: You are a child, right?
SPIELBERG: I think this industry keeps all of us young.
KING: There's a 9-year-old in there. How old are you,
SPIELBERG: Right now -- I'm not a 9-year-old. No, I lost
that years ago. I think there's still, though, there's
still a 24-year-old in there somewhere.
KING: So therefore, you're never going to stop doing this,
SPIELBERG: No. I can't imagine.
KING: What's it like to not have -- or what does it do to
you to not have financial worries? That which most people
have you don't have.
SPIELBERG: Well, you know, there's other worries in life
KING: Well, you have health worries.
SPIELBERG: You always have health concerns. I've got so
many children. As a matter of fact, three of them threw
up this morning.
SPIELBERG: I mean, all three of them just -- I mean, this
little bug went through the house. They were throwing up
this morning. So two of the three stayed home from school.
And Theo was convinced he had to go to school anyway.
You know, there's always concerns about how are we
raising our kids. Are we making -- are Kate and I making
the right choices for our children? I mean, our biggest
worry is how our kids are being brought up in this world.
And the greater worry is, What kind of a world are we
bringing our children up to -- to exist in?
KING: Isn't there a tendency, especially I know in our
faith -- the desire for them to have more than we have?
So how do you deal with that, because nothing's more
important than the children doing well?
SPIELBERG: Well, you know, there's nothing more important
than the value system of our children, you know, and
knowing right from wrong. I'm not just being pollyanna
here. But I think we get to the point where we have to
get back down to black-and-white basics. You know, can
they distinguish right from wrong? You know, what kind of
influences are sort of invading their little psyches
today that are going to come out in a negative way in
five or 10 years?
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with
Steven Spielberg. Here's a scene from -- how many have
you made? "Close Encounters." Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "CLOSE ENCOUNTERS")
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Spielberg: God, so much to talk about. Maybe you'll
come back in less than five years.
SPIELBERG: I promise you.
KING: Promise. You're having a good time, right? OK.
Reported in "Daily Variety" -- by the way, you
just told us that you're going to do another "Indiana
SPIELBERG: Eventually, a fourth...
KING: You'll work with Harrison again.
SPIELBERG: If Harrison and I aren't too old, yes. If he
can still jump and I can still yell, yes.
KING: So you've done how many with him? You've done three
SPIELBERG: I've done three with Harrison and three with
KING: Those are the two actors you work with the most...
KING: ... and obviously, are very comfortable with.
SPIELBERG: Yes, completely.
KING: You like Hanks too.
SPIELBERG: I'm looking to do six or seven with Hanks.
KING: And you love "Green Mile," right?
SPIELBERG: I've seen it four times. I love it.
KING: Four times?
KING: All right. "Daily Variety" reports you're
expected to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) whether to direct Tom Cruise
in "Minority Report," a futuristic thriller.
SPIELBERG: Yes. I'm making "Minority" and I
have a lot of movies I'm -- remember, I haven't worked
now in almost 2 1/2 years. So I'm about to go into a
large work spurt.
KING: So you will direct Tom Cruise?
SPIELBERG: I want to direct Tom in "Minority Report"
and there are several other things.
KING: How about "A.I.," based on Stanley
SPIELBERG: That is something I'm not sort of ready to get
KING: And how about "Memoirs of a Geisha"?
SPIELBERG: And I'd love to that movie. I'm hell-bent on
making that one too.
KING: As a director?
SPIELBERG: Yes, as a director. I have a big appetite now.
KING: What is -- what is -- the futuristic thriller is
SPIELBERG: "Minority Report," futuristic
thriller written by Philip K. Dick, who wrote "Blade
KING: Oh. Looking forward to working with Cruise?
SPIELBERG: Can't wait. We've been friends for a long time.
Sort of like the Hanks scenario where Tom and I were
friendly for so many years. And we got a chance to work
together on one picture. And the same thing with Tom. We're
finally having an opportunity to collaborate.
KING: And finally, Steven, is it tough being legendary
SPIELBERG: I'm not young anymore.
KING: How old are you?
SPIELBERG: I'm 52.
KING: By today's standards -- I mean, you've got a lot of
SPIELBERG: Yes, yes. It's only uncomfortable when they
stick my name with people who are legendary and do
deserve it much more than I do, that I have to see my
name with them it's a little bit embarrassing.
KING: Spielberg, Hitchcock.
SPIELBERG: It's a little bit embarrassing.
KING: Thank you, Steve.
SPIELBERG: Thank you very much. Thank you.
KING: I'm Larry King. Our guest has been Steven Spielberg.
Thanks for joining us. See you tomorrow night on our
millennium month. Good-night.
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