After Disney acquired the company and Kennedy became president of Lucasfilm in 2012, there was no denying: Spielberg had to find a replacement for his trusted long-time producer and co-founder of Amblin Entertainment. The Disney productionThe BFG (2016) has probably been thelast Spielberg-directed film, with Kennedy attached as producer – unless Spielberg is hired by her to direct Indiana Jones 5 for Disney.
Spielberg must have seen it coming: Fifteen years ago, he made Kristie Macosko Krieger his assistant on A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001). For Catch Me If You Can (2002), she became Spielberg’s associate and continued to prove her skills and trustworthiness on projects such as The Terminal (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), and Munich (2005).
Meanwhile, Kathleen Kennedy showed extraordinary commitment to mentoring the next generation of female executives. Macosko Krieger must have been among them. Asked about Kathleen Kennedy, she says:
Steven Spielberg’s The BFG is a 3-D fantasy adventure film adapted from Roald Dahl‘s classic children’s book, The BFG. It is co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media.
The screenplay is written by Melissa Mathison who also penned the script for E.T. – The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Fittingly, the tagline and typography of The BFG’s poster evoke Spielberg’s masterpiece E.T.
This is the final film written by Melissa Mathison before her death in 2015. It is dedicated to her as a tribute. Spielberg about his collaboration with Mathison:
The BFG is a Big Friendly Giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. In contrast, giants like Bloodbottler and Fleshlumpeater are twice as big and at least twice as scary. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a 10-year-old orphan girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming. Together, they set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.
Spielberg had read Roald Dahl’s book to his then-young children. He recalls:
The film stars Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance, Penelope Wilton, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Rafe Spall and Bill Hader.
The BFG marks Spielberg’s second collaboration with Mark Rylance who won an Academy Award for Bridge of Spies. (2015). Rylance plays the title role via motion-capture – a process of recording movement and mimics of actors that Spielberg previously applied in his film The Adventure of Tintin (2011).
Spielberg tries to convince Gene Wilder to do a cameo in the film, but Wilder declines. He appeared as the title character of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) which is based on another story written by Roald Dahl.
Principal photography takes place between 23 March 2015 to 16 June 2015, with filming locations in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada as well as in Scotland and England.
Development for the film project goes back as far as 1991 when producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy set up a deal with Paramount Pictures. Robin Swicord and Nicholas Kazan write a screenplay in 1998 (revised by Gwyn Lurie
in 2001), with Robin Williams in mind for the title role.
In September 2011, DreamWorks picks up the film rights to the book, with Kennedy and Marshall set to produce, and Melissa Mathison as screenwriter. Originally, John Madden is supposed to direct but in April 2014, Steven Spielberg takes the helm (Madden remains attached as executive producer). After Walden Media agrees to co-finance and co-produce the film, Walt Disney Studios joins The BFG as a co-producer and co-financier.
Regular Spielberg collaborators include: Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski, Editor Michael Kahn, Composer John Williams, Production designer Rick Carter, and Costume designer Joanna Johnston. Visual effects are created by Weta Digital.
The BFG is produced by Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer with Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Michael Siegel, Frank Smith and Naia Cucukov serving as executive producers.
Roald Dahl’s books, which also include “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” “James and the Giant Peach” and “Matilda,” are currently available in 58 languages and have sold over 200 million copies worldwide.
Originally created as a bedtime story, “The BFG” was Dahl’s own favorite of all his stories and is made into a live action film for the first time, marking Dahl’s 100th birthday.
Roald Dahl created the fantasy language Gobblefunk, which is spoken by the BFG. Here is a glossary of some of his words:
Cannybully … … … . . Cannibal
Chatbags … … … … . Chatterbox
Chidlers… … … … . . Children
Crickety Crackety … … Sound of cracking bones
Delumptious… … … . Delicious
Despunge … … … … Deplore
Earbursting … … … . . Loud
Figglers … … … … . . Fingers
Frobscottle … … … . . Carbonated soft drink where bubbles float downwards rather than upwards
Frumpkin Fry … … … Pumpkin Pie
Giggler … … … … . . Little Girls
Glummy … … … …
Glumptious… … … . .
Golden Phizzwizard … . A
Hippodumplings… … . Hippopotamus
Hipswitch … …
… … Hence/Straightaway
Human Beans … … … Human Beings
Humbug … … … … . Humble
Humplehammers … … Something that is very big
Jabbeling… … … … . Babbling
Jiggyraﬀes… … … … Giraﬀes
Majester … … … … . Majesty
Murderful … … … … Murderous
Phizzwizards … … … . Happy dreams
Rummytot… … … … Nonsense
Rumpledumpus . .
… . . Rumpus
Scrumdiddlyumptious . . Scrumptious
Scuddling … … . .
… . Scurrying
Skumping … … … … Worried
Sloshfunking . .
… … . . Like godforsaken
Snozzcumber … … … A
only found in Giant Country
Splitzwiggled … … … Caught
Swalloped … … … … Swallowed
Swigpill … … … … . . Swill
Swizzfiggling … … … . Deceiving
Bunkum Box . Television
Trogglehumper… … . . A horrible nightmare
… … … … . Going off to somewhere
Whizzpopper … … … Fart
Whopsey… … … …
. Adjective similar to little or trifling
The BFG has its world premiere out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14 prior to its U.S. opening on July 1. E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982) also premiered on the Croisette. Just like E.T., Spielberg’s The BFG receives standing ovations.
In his Cannes review, Variety critic Peter Debruge writes:
Annotations to Spielberg’s superb portrait of the Cold War era
Now that Bridge of Spies has received six Academy Awards nominations (facing tough competition), I want to invite all of you who have watched it to follow me on my quest for some fascinating details that can be found in the film…
Abel is the story’s pivot point – he is the first person we see in Bridge of Spies. In the first shot, the camera tracks back slowly,
revealing Abel in in a threefold representation:
– as a reflection in a mirror – as a film character – as a self-portrait painting.
shot deals with a typical Spielberg theme: “reality“ vs. perception. It
is inspired by a painting of Spielberg’s favorite artist, Norman
Rockwell: Triple Self-Portrait (1960). Right in the beginning, Spielberg poses the central question: Who is Rudolf Abel? Is
he “a threat to all of us, a traitor“, a mean-spirited spy who seeks to
„drop bombs on us“? Or is he “a good soldier serving a foreign power“
or an “artist“ as Donovan calls him?
B. Range of communication
the first couple of minutes, Spielberg decides to refrain from any
spoken words. Abel listens to the ringing phone, picks it up but does
not talk before hanging up. The sequence underlines another of
Spielberg’s favorite topics in this film: communication, its opposite
and its absence.
preceding film, Lincoln, demonstrated that persistent negotiations lead
to mutual agreements that help to solve pressing issues of society.
Bridge of Spies is not different: With his disarming words, Donovan
builds bridges on his quest for basic rights that are endangered during
the Cold War era. He wants to keep espionage “chess figures” from being
Dysfunctional communication: The film
displays several variants of it, e.g. talking without listening (CIA
agent Hoffman), talking in different languages, intimidation,
interrogation, suppression of free speech, misinformation, propaganda…
The film’s most harrowing symbol for the lack of communication is the
Berlin wall, the very opposite of a bridge (and communication).
Silence: One of the film’s themes is secrecy. On the one hand, it’s the spy’s
pledge not to talk about any detail of their missions, on the other it’s
Donovan’s professional discretion as an attorney which is tested by the
2. Standing Man
Abel tells his attorney Donovan a story about a “stoikiy muzhik“, a
“standing man“ (unshaken by his adversaries). Later, Abel compares
Donovan to that man. In the final iconic image on the Glienicke Bridge,
Donovan is literally depicted as a “standing man“.
makes a point of having several people in the film repeatedly use a
handkerchief, cleaning their nose. First, it’s Abel in prison, then it’s
Donovan catching a cold in Berlin. Finally, it’s CIA agent Hoffman.
Maybe Spielberg wants to tell us that they are all human beings, sharing
the sniffles (regardless of the nations they live in and their
different points of views).
4. Transistor Radio
manages to get a radio into the Soviet spy’s cell, so Abel can listen
to a broadcast of a Shostakovich concert. Silently listening to the
broadcast, Donovan and Abel share the music, which is a fundamental way
of communication between different nations and convictions. The
first film Spielberg centered around music as nonverbal communication
shared by different species was Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The radio in Abel’s cell happens to be a
portable transistor radio, an innovation at that time. Spielberg’s
father Arnold designed the first transistor computer at RCA.
another level, it’s a nice nod to Spielberg’s father who was the
director’s main inspiration to tell the story about the incidents in
Bridge of Spies. Arnold Spielberg was on an
exchange visit to the USSR in 1960 when the U-2 spy plane crisis
occurred, resulting in tremendous fear and hostility between the two
nations. Steven Spielberg recalls the story as told to him by his
West Berlin, Donovan and agent Hoffman walk past a cinema where one of
the movies playing is Eins, Zwei, Drei. It’s the German title of the
Cold War comedy One, Two, Three (1961), directed by Billy Wilder, one of
Spielberg’s mentors. The film is about an American business executive
who, like Donovan, must cross over into East Berlin and negotiate with
Soviet officials for the release of a political prisoner.
Verdammten (The Damned), a 1969 (!) Italian-German film directed by
Luchino Visconti, about a wealthy German industrialist family who are
doing business with the Nazi Party. The film was given an X rating.
– Spartacus (1960), directed by Spielberg’s friend Stanley Kubrick. A film about
Ancient Rome, featuring a prime example of a “standing man“.
According to a Variety obituary, he escaped from his native Hungary after the 1956 Russian invasion and slowly worked his way up, starting with low-budget exploitation
films. He got his break with Robert Altman’s stylistically daring Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971), in
which Zsigmond applied a limited palate of desaturated colors.
He later worked for directors such as Michael Cimino, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, George Miller and Brian De Palma.
Within just over a week, the film community loses another of its greatest cinematographers: Zsigmond follows two-times Academy Awards winner Haskell Wexler, who worked on some of the landmark Hollywood films of the 1960s and ’70s but never collaborated with Steven Spielberg.