In 1999, Steven Spielberg took home the Oscar for Best Director for “Saving Private Ryan.”
Eight years later, the iconic filmmaker is taking time to reflect on all of his work in a brand new documentary.
“When a film’s time had come, I know it. It doesn’t mean it will be a success. I just know when it’s ready for me to commit to direct,” Spielberg says during “Spielberg On Spielberg,” which airs on Turner Classic Movies On July 9. “I intuitively know it. I think it’s been 75 percent right and 25 not, so I’m just going with odds.”
It’s that remarkable instinct, which helped, makes Spielberg arguable the most successful director of all-time. And in the new documentary, he said his “go with your guy” attitude served him well on his break-out hit “Jaws,” when right before filming, the original mechanical shark broke.
“I had to improvise a Plan B which was basically to make the film as scary as I could by suggesting the shark,” he reveals. “If the shark had been working that first day, the way my storyboards were, I had the fin in that shot. Had there been evidence of the shark, I promise the audience wouldn’t have leapt out of their seats when the shark came out.”
“That shark not working when we needed it probably added $175 million to the box office because I think what’s scary about that movie is the unseen,” he added.
In the TCM special, the three-time Oscar winner looks back on his astonishing 30-plus-year career from the early years to his mega hits, to revealing his friendly rivalry with director George Lucas, which dates back to “Close Encounters” days.
“George hung out with me for a couple days and looked around and said, ‘Your movie is going to be so much more successful than ‘Star Wars,’” Spielberg said. “He said he’d give me two percent of ‘Star Wars’ if I gave him two-and-a-half of ‘Close Encounters’ and I said, ‘Sure, I’ll gamble on that.’ ‘Close Encounters’ is a meager success story and ‘Star Wars’ is a phenomenon and I was the happy beneficiary of a couple points which I’m still seeing money on today.”
While “Jaws” and “Close Encounters” turned him into a household name, Spielberg said “E.T.” and “Schindler’s List” are the two films he’d like to be remembered for, singling out “E.T.” as his most spiritual and “Schindler’s List” as his most personal projects.
“It was emotionally a devastating experience to put those images on film,” he continued. “Kate [Capshaw] was there and my kids were there and I can recall saying, ‘Thank God I have these people in my life to get through it.’”