Laurent Bouzereau has vivid memories of his first close encounter with Steven Spielberg. “It was 30 years ago,” the author and documentary filmmaker tells Yahoo Entertainment. “I was commissioned to make a documentary about it 1941, and it was so interesting that I got to know him through one of his least popular films. I remember him saying, “Please make sure you include all the bad reviews in the documentary!” There was something humbling about him admitting that maybe it wasn’t the film he had originally envisioned.
That first meeting launched Bouzereau’s three-decade career as Spielberg’s resident documentary filmmaker, compiling making-of reports on films like… Jaw, Jurassic Park and last The Fabelmans. Now he brings all of his first-hand knowledge to the tome “Insight Editions.” Spielberg: The first 10 yearsa lavishly illustrated deep insight into the director’s formative beginnings from 1972 duel until 1982 AND (Click here to read an exclusive excerpt from the book covering the 1977 favorite, Close encounters of the third kind.)
For the record, Bouzereau is also, in a way, a character in the book. Each chapter alternates a separate analysis of a Spielberg film with an extensive question-and-answer session with the filmmaker himself. “For me, the idea was to embrace a decade in which I fell in love with films, fell in love with America and recognized the talent of a director I wanted to meet,” says the French-born Bouzereau. “That’s why I limited it to this decade.”
And the author insists he is not thinking of a sequel. “I wasn’t thinking about Spielberg’s next ten years at all,” he says with a laugh, referring to the ten-year period it encompasses Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Empire of the Sun And Hook. “As with my documentary work, I am most interested in the origins of things. The first ten years of a career are very formative and set the tone for what is to come.”
1. You Close encounters The chapter reveals two fascinating details. Firstly, Spielberg originally wanted to cast Steve McQueen – but didn’t – as Roy Neary. And you also write that if he were making the film today, he wouldn’t allow Roy to abandon his family at the end. Do you think the film would have worked if any of these things had been different?
That’s really difficult to answer because I like to take the films as they are and want to reflect them in the spirit of the respective artist. Steve McQueen was an incredible actor, so it would be crazy for me to say it was a bad film with him.
But Richard Dreyfus is an exceptional actor and I can’t imagine anyone else in this role. There’s something extremely familiar about him, and I don’t know if Steve McQueen has the same side of him. Also the fact that he couldn’t cry on screen! He explained this to Steven, and it probably shows that he would have been wrong for the role. It definitely makes it a different film.
As for Roy’s choice, I think Steven told that story back then, and it’s wonderful that he wouldn’t make that decision now. And by the way, it’s the choice that Elliot makes AND He stays at home and becomes the man of the house. So in a way, Steven has made the transition in between Close encounters And AND Roy has left home and abandoned his family, but Elliot decides to stay with his mother and siblings. These two films are very closely related and say a lot about the man who made them.
2. 1941 is a very interesting film in Spielberg’s early filmography because it was his first encounter with failure. What does he think about this film now?
To be exact, 1941 was not a financial disaster. But the reviews were definitely terrible – I had to license them all for my documentary. I remember seeing the film when it was playing in Paris and watching it almost every weekend because it felt like it was the last film shot that way, with miniatures and special effects on set in the tradition of big Hollywood spectacles where you could tell it was filmed on a stage. And that was it!
1941 is in a way about the artificiality of cinema. You can tell they’re all miniatures, but who cares? That’s it allegedly look. In my opinion, the artificiality of cinema should be celebrated – there is no need to try to reproduce reality. We see this in the news! I’ve always had a fondness for the film and the most spectacular thing for me is the music by John Williams. It’s one of my favorites he’s ever done. There was an album, but it didn’t contain all of the music that was in the film, so I had to watch the film to hear all the different references.
3. Has The Fabelmans Has your perception of Spielberg’s early films changed because of what they reveal about his family?
I shot all the footage behind the scenes The Fabelmans, so I was there when he made the film. Something [screenwriter] Tony Kushner said of the film that Steven had been hiding stories about his family and the history of himself for years, and this was the first time he had truly embraced them in a very autobiographical way.
When I saw the film together, I definitely felt that. But at the same time, the boy isn’t “Spielberg” – he’s a “Fableman,” so there’s an extra layer of movie magic. You definitely see echoes in something like that AND The difference to The Fabelmans is that there is no alien to hang your story on and it all feels very real.
When I re-watched the interviews I conducted with him for this book, I discovered that all of these films are linked by the theme of home in the truest sense of the word. In duel, You have a husband who is threatening to never go home. In The Sugarland ExpressYou have a couple trying to reconnect with their child and build a home.
In the meantime, Jaw is about a man who has left his home in New York and is trying to build a new home that is threatened by the shark. Roy leaves the house Close encounters, 1941 is about an attack on the homeland and then there is “ET, call home.” One could say that these films have in common the original and poignant desire to explore the homeland and the characters surrounding this theme, but on a canvas that is supernatural, science fiction and even history. And I find that really interesting.
Click here to read an exclusive excerpt from Spielberg: The First 10 Years
Spielberg: The first 10 years is available now from most major booksellers, including Amazon.