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Worldcrunch

Steven Spielberg Returns To War, And Settles Back Into Director’s Chair

A sit-down with the legendary director-producer who has lately spent most of his time back behind the camera. Spielberg says he has more free time now that his kids have left him a virtual empty nester. His latest release is War Horse, an epic World War I tearjerker.

Article illustrative image Partner logo Steven Spielberg at the 2011 San Diego Comic-Con International (Gerald Geronimo)

It was Spielberg v. Spielberg. For three years, ever since the last Indiana Jones release, Steven Spielberg was kept extra busy wearing his “studio boss” hat, managing the split between his DreamWorks studio and Paramount, securing the finance capital coming in from India and inking a distribution deal with Disney. He also happened to produce a basketful of new movies (Transformers III , Super 8 and Cowboys and Aliens ), as well as television series.

But now the maker of E.T., Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan is back where he is both most comfortable, and happiest: the director’s chair.

Spielberg, 65, has two big movies out this winter: Tintin, inspired by the legendary Hergé comic strip, and War Horse, a movie based on the 1982 Michael Morpurgo bestseller of the same name. It is the story of special horse taken from the splendid English fields of Devon to the bloody trenches of World War I to help fight for the British cavalry. The horse winds up captured by the Germans, but along the way manages to use both his intelligence and kindness to change whomever he comes in contact with.

That it is left to an animal to bring some measure of humanity to war is the paradox that moved Spielberg when he read the book, and later saw the story played out in a London theater. Indeed he was working with Peter Jackson in post-production of Tintin when he saw the World War I-era play, and knew right away it would be his next film. And the legendary director didn’t stop there: as soon as he finished War Horse, he launched into a project that has been on the shelf for years: Lincoln, a depiction of the final months in the life of Abraham Lincoln, with Daniel Day-Lewis in the role of the U.S. president. A late 2012 release is expected.

During a pause in shooting for Lincoln, we caught up with the man who may be the most successful movie director of all time, to find out about his latest effort to hit the big screen, as War Horse looks positioned for Oscar nominations with a cast that includes Emily Watson, Peter Mullan and Jeremy Irvine. 

LA STAMPA: Three films in one year. What’s happening? Do you feel you have to make up for lost time, or is the fear of no longer having the time to do everything?
SPIELBERG: No, it’s only a coincidence. For me, my children always came before my work, but now they’re older, out of seven, six are out of the house, and that leaves me with much more time at my disposal. This is also just a period where I’ve wound up with great screenplays in my hands, and so I continue to work and to have that desire within me. Sure, I do other things, but my great passion remains directing.”


What was it about this story set 100 years ago that felt relevant?
It’s a film that could have been made in 1940 or 1960. But what struck me is the story of an animal able to magically connect with people. These are people who don’t get along, who arrive from different places and histories, who are on opposing sides of the front line of war; and yet this horse manages to unite a father and a son, German soldiers and British soldiers.


After Saving Private Ryan, why something now from World War I?
I was interested in depicting a world at war before the great technological revolution, when horses were companions to the soldiers in the trenches, and provided real support to the troops. After 1918, these animals returned to graze in the fields. And maybe that’s where they should have always stayed. The truth is that I don’t consider this a war film. In fact, it’s clearly an anti-war film. And one of hope.”

This is also a film that recalls the David Lean classics or Gone With The Wind.
It’s not that I set out to make a film classic -- and what does that really mean anyway? But it is true that I wanted the film have scope. I was able to shoot in some of the most breathtaking locations in England. I wanted the film to breathe, and see that the countryside became one of the protagonists. And so maybe in this way, there is a nod to classics like those of Akira Kurosawa or Howard Hawks or John Ford.

Read the original article in Italian

Photo - Gerald Geronimo

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