Spielberg’s first science fiction box office hit: Close Encounters of the Third Kind starring Richard Dreyfuss is a genre milestone and draws a worldwide crowd. The film celebrates coexistence and childlike curiosity with captivating, innovative imagery. Spielberg uses some motifs from his 8mm amateur film Firelight (1964).
According to Spielberg, the scene “Barry opens the door” (videoclip) is his master image that puts his entire filmmaking in a nutshell:
“I really believe that Close Encounters was probably the closest I’ve ever come to achieving a dream on film.”
Spielberg casts one of his directorial idols, François Truffaut, for the part of a language expert. Truffaut observes and admires Spielberg’s work on the set and urges him to do a film with children. Spielberg follows his advice and directs E.T. –
The Extra Terrestrial (1982).
First collaboration with editor Michael Kahn continuing to this day.
Spielberg selects Vilmos Zsigmond (The Sugarland Express, 1974) as his cinematographer and assigns some of his colleagues for additional shots: John A. Alonzo, William A. Fraker, László
Kovács, Douglas Slocombe and Allen Daviau.
Based on his famous 5-tone motif, John Williams composes a multifaceted score which culminates in a complex
synthesizer-supported concert. Until today, Close Encounters remains one of his favorite scores that he created for a Spielberg film. “It was more than just Cellophane going through a projecting machine, it had a kind of life.”
Trumbull – known for his work for Kubrick’s 2001 – A Space Odyssey (1968) – is responsible for the impressive special effects. Dennis Muren films the mothership sequence.
For the fist time, Spielberg is nominated for Best Director. Close Encounters receives two Academy Awards (Best Cinematography and Best Sound-Effects) out of six nominations.
Ebert, Chicago Tribune film critic, writes a report on the shooting of Close Encounters and conducts an interview with Spielberg on the top-secret set. Ebert will evolve into one of film criticism’s most loyal Spielberg admirers.
US President Jimmy Carter declares himself a UFO fan and watches Close Encounters twice.