CinemaCon: Frank Marshall Named International Filmmaker of the Decade

2016
Frank Marshall is honored at CinemaCon, the annual exhibition industry convention and trade show in Las Vegas, as “International Filmmaker of the Decade“.

In 1981, Marshall and
Kathleen Kennedy
co-founded Amblin Entertainment with Steven Spielberg, producing many successful films such as Gremlins (1984), Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) and the Back to the Future trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990).

As a producer, Marshall has received five Oscar nominations for Best Picture for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Seabiscuit (2003), The Sixth Sense (1999), The Color Purple (1985), and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

His feature film directing debut was the thriller Arachnophobia (1990).

After ten years at Amblin, Marshall and Kennedy formed their own production company, the Kennedy/Marshall Company.
Marshall
took over as sole principal, when
Kennedy became president of Lucasfilm in 2012.

He also produced the record-breaking film Jurassic World (2015) and Steven Spielberg’s The BFG (2016).

CinemaCon: Frank Marshall Named International Filmmaker of the Decade

Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford Reuniting for Fifth ‘Indiana Jones’

2019
Anything Goes: Indiana Jones Returns…

On March 15, 2016, Walt Disney Studios announce a 5th Indiana Jones film to be directed by Steven Spielberg, starring Harrison Ford, set to premiere July 19, 2019.

Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall will produce the as-yet untitled project (with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg serving as Executive Producers). 

Ford tells the BBC he took the role under two conditions:

“I’ve always thought there was an opportunity to do another. But I didn’t want to do it without Steven [Spielberg]. And I didn’t want to do it without a really good script. And happily we’re working on both. Steven is developing a script now that I think we’re going to be very happy with.”

Other actors have not yet been cast. Regular crew members include:

Screenplay
David Koepp

Original Music
John Williams 

Cinematography
Janusz Kaminski

Film Editing
Michael Kahn 

Special Effects
Industrial Light & Magic (ILM)

More about Indiana Jones…

Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford Reuniting for Fifth ‘Indiana Jones’

2016

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.

Watch the trailer

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:

“I don’t miss Melissa yet because I haven’t had the chance to mourn her, because she is still with me. I’m not saying that in a supernatural way, because Melissa is alive in every single frame of The BFG. She has been with me all through this process and she is as tangible as if she were sitting next to me. What I’m not looking forward to is when I finish with The BFG and I have to face the fact that Melissa is no longer with me.”

“Melissa could do something most of us could not. She observed people without judging them. The only other people I can think of who observe with curiosity and without judgment are children. And I think that’s why she understood them and wrote them better than anyone else.”

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:

“They loved the privacy and secrecy of his own special giant-speak. And they also loved that this little 8-year-old girl can tell a 26-foot-tall giant what to do.”

The BFG is the first Disney-branded film directed by Spielberg and the first with a female lead since The Color Purple (1985). Spielberg explains why the story appealed to him:

“It’s a story about friendship, it’s a story about loyalty and protecting your friends and it’s a story that shows that even a little girl can help a big giant solve his biggest problems.”

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. 

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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.

Spielberg notes: 

“It was very important for us to be loyal to the language, and the great writer Melissa Mathison, who also wrote E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, wrote The BFG.”


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  … … … …
. Yummy

Glumptious… … … . .
Scrumptious 

Golden Phizzwizard … . A
wonderful dream

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
gruesome vegetable
only found in Giant Country

  

Splitzwiggled  … … … Caught

Swalloped … … … … Swallowed

Swigpill … … … … . . Swill

Swizzfiggling … … … . Deceiving

Telly-telly
Bunkum Box  . Television

Trogglehumper… … . . A horrible nightmare

Whiffling
… … … … . 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: 

“That’s the beauty of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, as brought to life by recent Oscar winner Mark Rylance: You believe. No matter how fantastical the tale (and it gets pretty out-there at points), this splendid Steven Spielberg-directed adaptation makes it possible for audiences of all ages to wrap their heads around one of the unlikeliest friendships in cinema history, resulting in the sort of instant family classic “human beans” once relied upon Disney to deliver.”

Screenshots: © Disney Enterprises, Inc., DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media

2015
Walt Disney Pictures releases first teaser trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming fantasy adventure film The BFG (2016). It’s the first time Spielberg directs a live-action 3D film.

The talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg – unite to bring Dahl’s classic children’s book The BFG to life. The screenplay is written by Melissa Mathison who also penned Spielberg’s E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982).

The film tells the imaginative story of a young
girl
and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant
Country. The BFG (Mark Rylance), while a giant himself, is a Big
Friendly Giant
and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country, e.g. Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement).
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. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a precocious
10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious
giant who has brought her to his cave, but comes to realize that
the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a
giant before, has many questions. Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen
(Penelope Wilton) and warn her of the precarious situation, but
they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary (Rebecca Hall),
that giants do indeed exist. Together, they set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

After his impressive portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies (2015), Mark Rylance once again plays a major role in a Steven Spielberg film. Principal photography for The BFG begins just three months after Bridge of Spies wraps.

Filming locations are: Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada), Blenheim Palace, Woodstock (Oxfordshire, United Kingdom), Buckingham Palace, Westminster (London, United Kingdom), Skye, Highland (Scotland, United Kingdom).

The film’s score is composed by John Williams. Other regular Spielberg-collaborators are: Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, Editor Michael Kahn, as well as producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. The stunning visual effects are created by Weta Digital.

The film is a co-production between Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media

Release dates

2015
Colin Trevorrow’s
highly imaginative and entertaining Jurassic World, the  fourth installment of the Jurassic Park series, is set twenty-two years after the events of Jurassic Park (1993). Its story takes place on the same fictional island of Isla Nublar, where a fully functioning dinosaur theme park has operated for ten years until a genetically modified dinosaur, Indominus rex, breaks loose and runs rampant across the island.

The film stars Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard. The supporting cast includes Vincent D’Onofrio, Ty Simpkins, Nick Robinson, Omar Sy, and Irrfan Khan. Jurassic World is a co-production between Amblin Entertainment and Legendary Pictures, with Frank Marshall and Patrick Crowley serving as producers and Steven Spielberg attached as executive producer. For the first time, Kathleen Kennedy is not involved as a producer of a Jurassic Park film, due to her commitment to produce Star Wars – The Force Awakens (2015).

Originally, Universal Pictures intends to begin production on a fourth Jurassic Park film in 2004 for a summer 2005 release, but the film remains in “development hell” for over a decade while the script goes through revisions.Steven Spielberg suggests to writers Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver to explore the idea of a functional dinosaur park. When Colin Trevorrow signs on as director in 2013 (replacing the producer’s original choice Brad Bird who has to drop out due to scheduling conflicts), he follows this idea while writing a whole new draft with Derek Connolly, over a couple of weeks. As their script changes turn out to be more large-scale than expected, Universal executives decide to push the film’s release from June 13, 2014, to an unspecified future date. Delaying the film allows Trevorrow and Connolly more time to work on the script, as Spielberg feels that it needs improvement.

Before his death in 2014, Sir Richard Attenborough is approached about reprising the role of John Hammond; original cast members Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern are also contacted but due to the delays, no actor from the original cast appears in the film – except B. D. Wong (who reprises his role as Dr. Henry Wu from the first Jurassic Park film). Similar to the character of Marcus Brody in the fourth Indiana Jones installment, John Hammond can be seen as a statue in Jurassic World to honor the actor who played the role. Jeff Goldblum’s character Dr. Ian Malcolm can be spotted on the cover of a book that is read on the monorail ride in to the park.

For the male lead role of Owen Grady, a Velociraptor expert and trainer, several actors are considered (including Armie Hammer, Henry Cavill, Josh Brolin, John Krasinski, and Jason Statham) before Chris Pratt ends up chosen for the role. Bryce Dallas Howard steals his show as the film’s brilliant female lead, Claire Dearing, Jurassic World’s operations manager.

Principal photography rolls from April to August 2014, primarily in Louisiana while also using the original Jurassic Park filming locations in Hawaii. Once again the dinosaurs are created through computer-generated imagery by Industrial Light & Magic (with Phil Tippett and Dennis Muren consulting) and life-sized animatronic dinosaurs built by Legacy Effects, a company created by the alumni of Jurassic Park veteran Stan Winston who passed away in 2008.

The film’s impressive production design is created by Ed Verraux who first collaborated with Spielberg as a production illustrator on Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). The gyrosphere is Spielberg’s idea. According to Colin Trevorrow, Spielberg “wanted to create a way for people to get up close and personal with the animals, to make it a self-driving, free-roaming experience. It loads on a track, but once you’re out there, you actually get to navigate around the valley”.

Colin Trevorrow pitches his idea of having the Mosasaurus feed on a shark to Spielberg who loves the idea but suggests that when the animal grabs the shark the whole bleacher section should submerge underwater using a hydraulic system so that the audience will be able to see the Mosasaurus feeding underwater.

Colin Trevorrow states that the Indominus rex is symbolic of consumer and corporate excess. It is “meant to embody [humanity’s] worst tendencies. We’re surrounded by wonder and yet we want more, and we want it bigger, faster, louder, better. And in the world of the movie, the animal is designed based on a series of corporate focus groups.” Fittingly, the product placement in Jurassic World is Colin Trevorrow’s way to satirize the corporatization of popular entertainment, in a nod to Spielberg’s original film which made fun of the merchandizing business. Jurassic World bustles with references to other films. For instance, the pterodactyls attack on the visitors, filmed from bird’s eye view, is a homage to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963).

The musical score for Jurassic World is composed by Michael Giacchino, who incorporates themes from John Williams’ previous Jurassic Park scores.

Jurassic World premieres on June 10, 2015, 22 years after the original. The film receives positive reviews, with film critics praising its visuals, action scenes and musical score.

The film is (unfairly) accused by some for the ‘sexist’ portrayal of its female lead, Claire Dearing, who is seen running around in high heels for most of the film. Colin Trevorrow reacts to these criticisms by saying:

‘The real protagonist of the movie is Claire, and we embrace her femininity in the story’s progression. (…) There’s no need for a female character that does things like a male character, that’s not what makes interesting female characters in my view. Bryce and I have talked a lot about these concepts and aspects of her character.’

Paul Bullock (fromdirectorstevenspielberg.tumblr.com) drives the point home in his review of Jurassic World:

“The film (…) sees her as a human being, regardless of her gender. At the start of the film, she’s cold and unfeeling. She views the dinosaurs as assets, the park patrons as walking dollar signs, and her nephews as an inconvenience. Her experiences in the park teach her humility and the real value of life. She ends not as a mother, not defined by her gender, but as a rounded, compassionate human being who understands the need to reach out to other human beings and connect with them. (…) Claire is an amalgam of the three core male characters from Spielberg’s film. She has Grant’s lack of connection, Malcolm’s irresponsibility, and Hammond’s inability to see the bigger picture. All those characters develop, becoming better, or at least different, people, and Claire does the same. Yet, when talking about Grant, Malcolm, or Hammond, we don’t consider them solely through their gender.”

In a record-breaking opening weekend, Jurassic World grosses $500 million worldwide, eventually becoming the highest-grossing film of 2015, with over $1.6 billion in box office revenue.

After the film’s huge success, Steven Spielberg and Colin Trevorrow  develop the story for a trilogy of which Jurassic World is the first part. The first sequel is scheduled for release on June 22, 2018.

2012
The Producers Guild of America (PGA)
honors Steven Spielberg with the David O. Selznick Achievement Award. The award is presented to Spielberg at the 23rd Annual Producers Guild Awards ceremony at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles. A special tribute highlights all the films that Spielberg has served as a Producer/Executive Producer (videoclip).

In their statement, Producers Guild Awards co-chairs Paula Wagner and Michael Manheim say: 

“As one of the most prolific filmmakers of all time, Steven’s continued genius, imagination and fearlessness in the world of feature film entertainment is unmatched in this industry. Steven has produced some of the most iconic films in the history of cinema and we have no doubt he will continue to bring thrilling adventures, emotionally moving storylines, thought provoking characters and cult classics to audiences across the globe. We’re extremely proud to recognize Steven’s contributions to the producing craft as well as the entire film industry with the David O. Selznick honor.”

Accepting the award, Steven Spielberg says: 

“David O. Selznick is a true legend in the producing field, and I am tremendously honored to be associated with his name and to join the company of so many distinguished filmmakers who have received this accolade. I am extremely grateful to the Producers Guild.”

The award has a rich and distinguished history with past recipients including such legendary producers as Stanley Kramer, Saul Zaentz, Clint Eastwood, Billy Wilder, Brian Grazer, Jerry Bruckheimer, Roger Corman, Laura Ziskin, Kathleen Kennedy & Frank Marshall, John Lasseter, and Scott Rudin.

2011
Steven Spielberg
’s touching World War I drama War Horse is based on Michael Morpurgo’s 1982 children’s novel of the same name. The film is produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, with executive producers Frank Marshall and Revel Guest.

Michael Morpurgo tries to adapt his book into a film screenplay, working for over five years, but nothing comes out of it. However, the novel is successfully adapted for a stage play by Nick Stafford in 2007. The film cannot be told solely through the horse’s viewpoint (as in the book), so most of the film is based on the narrative approach of the stage play. Unlike the play, which features puppet horses, the film uses real horses as well as practical effects (and extremely limited computer-generated imagery).

In 2009, film producer Kathleen Kennedy attends the stage play in London’s West End and tells Spielberg about it. Eventually DreamWorks acquires the film rights to the book. Spielberg goes to see the stage play in early 2010 and meets some of the London cast, admitting to being moved to tears by their performance.

DreamWorks executive Stacey Snider suggests Richard Curtis to work on rewrites for the drafts that Michael Morpurgo and Lee Hall have turned in. Curtis produces more than a dozen drafts in three months, working closely with Spielberg who is set to produce the film. Excited by the results, Spielberg finally decides to also direct – while he is waiting for the animations of his other 2011-release film, The Adventures of Tintin, to be completed.

After having hundreds of young boys read for the lead role, resulting in some speculation, that Eddie Redmayne might have been cast for it, Spielberg chooses relatively unknown stage actor Jeremy Irvine instead, describing his performance as “very natural, very authentic.” It is his first film role, and he has never ridden a horse prior to War Horse.

The film’s brilliant cast includes British, French and German actors (playing characters of their respective nationalities), among them Emily Watson, David Thewlis, Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Marsan, Toby Kebbell, David Kross, and Peter Mullan. Robert Emms, lead actor in the London stage play, is cast as David Lyons. In addition to the main cast, some 5,800 extras are used in the film. Michael Morpurgo can be seen in a cameo role at the auction – as he is visiting the set several times.

Principal photography lasts for about 64 days, beginning with the cavalry charge, where the British cavalry, 130 horses in total and many hundreds of extras, charge the German machine gun lines. It is is filmed at Stratfield Saye House in north Hampshire, and results in one of the most devastating war sequences directed by Spielberg.

As Jeremy Irvine remembers: 

“It was terrifying. The smoke and the smell and the taste of the guns firing. It’s not difficult to act scared in that situation. There’s no doubt this was deliberate: not only to have the film look great, but to have that effect on the actors. It was an eye-opening scene.”

Tom Hiddleston recalls Spielberg’s advice: 

“He said, ‘Give me your war face, and the camera’s going to move across, and as you feel it come up in front of you, I want you to de-age yourself by 20 years. So you’re 29, and when you see those machine guns, you’re 9 years old. I want to see the child in you.’ And I just thought that was one of the most astonishing acting notes I’d ever been given.“ 

Emily Watson also praises Spielberg’s directing: 

"On set, he’d come in, in the morning, and say, ‘I couldn’t sleep last night. I was worrying about this shot!’ Which was great! He’s human and he’s still working in an impassioned way, like a 21-year-old, trying to make the best out of everything.”

When Kathleen Kennedy sends Spielberg photographs of the various countryside locations she has scouted for him, he decides to cut other elements of the story to enable more filming in Dartmoor, Devon. Spielberg: “I have never before, in my long and eclectic career, been gifted with such an abundance of natural beauty as I experienced filming War Horse on Dartmoor.”

After working on James Cameron’s Avatar (2009), production designer Rick Carter, Spielberg’s long-term collaborator, joins the War Horse crew. This time, he does not have to create a new reality, but rather to take a living landscape and make it as much a character in the film as any human being – or horse.

The famous horse’s image from the final scene, shot against the saturated red sky, looks like a nod to epics like Gone With the Wind (1939), but according to cinematographer Janusz Kamiński, the resemblance is unconscious: "I didn’t even know there was an image similar to that!” Kamiński acknowledges that he used John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) as a template for his exterior filming, paying particular attention to Ford’s panoramic sky, landscape and terrain.

After having directed six films with World War II themes, Spielberg tackles his first film dealing with World War I. Sequences in the barbed wire trenches recall World War I classics such as Lewis Milestone’s All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) and Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957).

During filming, fourteen different horses are used as the main
horse character Joey, eight of them portraying him as an adult animal,
four as a colt and two as foals. Up to 280 horses are used in a
single scene. An animatronic horse is used for some parts of the scenes where Joey is trapped in barbed wire (the wire is rubber prop wire). Working with horses – on this scale – is new to Spielberg

“When I’m on an Indy movie, I’m watching Indiana Jones, not the horse he is riding … Suddenly I’m faced with the challenge of making a movie where I not only had to watch the horse, I had to compel the audience to watch it along with me. I had to pay attention to what it was doing and understand its feelings. It was a whole new experience for me.”

Michael Kahn edits War Horse during
filming
in his trailer on set. Kahn and Spielberg cut the scenes digitally on an Avid, rather than on film.

Visual effects for the film are created by London-based company Framestore. According to Spielberg, the film’s only digital effects are three shots lasting three seconds, which were undertaken to ensure the safety of the horse: “That’s the thing I’m most proud of. Everything you see on screen really happened.”

Spielberg comments on the film score composed by John Williams: “I feel that John has made a special gift to me of this music,
which was inspired not only by my film but also by many of the
picturesque settings of the poet William Wordsworth, whose vivid
descriptions of the British landscape inspired much of what you are
going to hear.”

The film opens to positive reviews, with Roger
Ebert
saying the film contains
“surely some of the best footage Spielberg has ever directed”. He writes: “The film is made with superb artistry. Spielberg is the master of an
awesome canvas. Most people will enjoy it, as I did." 

War Horse is a financial success, grossing $177 million worldwide (against a budget of $66 million). The film receives six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture – winning none.

2008
Steven Spielberg
’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the fourth installment in the Indiana Jones series created by George Lucas, produced by Frank Marshall, and starring Harrison Ford. Released nineteen years after the previous film, the story acknowledges the age of its 64-year-old star Harrison Ford by being set in 1957

The cast includes Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent, and Shia LaBeouf (the girl who punches him in the diner scene is Sasha Spielberg).

When George Lucas and Steven Spielberg finally decide to develop a fourth adventure, expectations are as high as the risks of failure. So, the plot device has to be carefully chosen. All previous installments have centered around religious artifacts. Lucas comes up with the idea of Indy versus creatures from outer space, locating the story in the era of trashy sci-fi films from the 1950s. Jeb Stuart and Jeffrey Boam both write drafts but Spielberg and Ford are not thrilled by the story. When Roland Emmerich’s Independence Day (1996) hits theaters, Spielberg tells Lucas that he is not interested in doing another alien invasion film. 

Years later, in 2000, when Ford, Lucas, Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy meet during the AFI’s tribute to Ford, they all agree they should do the next Indiana Jones film. Lucas somehow convinces Spielberg to use aliens in the plot by saying they are not “extraterrestrials”, but “interdimensional” beings – a concept inspired by the superstring theory. He also suggests to add the crystal skulls as he originally wanted to feature them in an episode of his Young Indiana Jones tv series. M. Night Shyamalan and Tom Stoppard are asked to write drafts for an intended 2002 shoot, but due to Lucas’ involvement in the Star Wars prequels the production start is postponed.

In 2003, Frank Darabont who has also been writer and director of Young Indiana Jones episodes, delivers a script for the film – which might as well be called Indiana Jones and the Curse of Development Hell. Darabont’s script is actually titled Indiana Jones and the City of Gods and contains most of the ideas that end up in the final film. According to Darabont, Spielberg loves the script, but Lucas vetoes it. Yet another writer is hired: Jeff Nathanson turns in the next drafts in 2005, titled The Atomic Ants. They are rewritten by David Koepp who collaborates with Raiders of the Lost Ark screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan on the dialogues between Indy and Marion. Koepp subtitles his script Destroyer of Worlds, based on the J. Robert Oppenheimer quote. Spielberg and Lucas eventually change the title to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

David Koepp creates uber-villainess, Soviet agent Irina Spalko (portrayed by Cate Blanchett). Blanchett is eager to play a villain and visibly enjoys adding her distinct portrayal to the Indiana Jones legacy. Spalko’s bob cut is Blanchett’s idea, with the character’s stern looks and behaviour recalling evil Rosa Klebb in the second James Bond film From Russia with Love (1963). However, Koepp is not able to make the best possible use of her part (after a strong entry, her role is reduced to bit appearences, getting involved in a less-than-exciting fencing match with Indy’s son, instead of Indy himself). An adequate showdown between her and Indy is missing in action. Nevertheless, Spielberg praises Blanchett as his favorite Indiana Jones villain:

”Of all the villains I’ve been able to work with in the Indiana Jones movies, I can say she’s my favorite. And I think Cate made her that way.”

When all knowledge about everything is at her hands, Irina Spalko utters the orgasmic words, “I want…to know!” in a nod to Joan Crawford’s “I want…to see!“ in the TV episode Eyes (1969), Spielberg’s professional debut as a director.

In response to passionate requests from fans, Karen Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood: Unfortunately, the grand surprise entry that Darabont has written for her, is not used in the film. In Darabont’s script, we follow an unknown lady entering a nightclub in Peru:

"We’re too far away to see her face, and in any event she’s obscured by a stylish wide-brimmed hat that matches her white tailored skirt suit. (…) She comes up behind Indy as the bartender sets down his martini. She makes her presence known by plucking an olive with a white-gloved hand and dropping it in Indy’s drink. Indy turns, looking up at her. A frozen beat. His expression going slack. For a moment his brain refuses to accept what he’s seeing; it’s literally the last person he ever expected. (…) She looks fantastic, not to mention dumbstruck at the sight of Indy her smile fades … and she hauls off and punches him in the mouth.“

In the inevitable drinking contest, Marion asks Indy about his old flame Willie Scott who, according to Indy, "moved out to Hollywood to be a star. Last I heard, she fell in love and married some bigshot director.“

Compared to this, Marion’s entry and subsequent scenes in the film version remain below their potential. The same can be said about Marion’s son, Mutt Williams. In his lackluster portrayal, Shia LaBeouf does not nearly manage to convey the same rivalry between father and son, as demonstrated in the legendary verbal exchanges between Ford and Connery in The Last Crusade (1989). Even worse, Mutt does a Tarzan-like stunt, swinging on vines with a horde of monkeys – a scene that many Indy fans would like to erase from their memories.

Koepp expands the part of muddleheaded Professor Oxley, brilliantly played by John Hurt (Darabont had him in mind when writing the script), and adds "triple-agent” George “Mac” McHale (Ray Winstone) to the story. In Darabont’s screenplay, Indy’s father has a small part, but this has to be dropped when Sean Connery decides not to reprise his role – though he is seen on a photo on Indy’s desk. Indy’s friend Sallah is to appear at the wedding scene but John Rhys-Davies declines as he feels his character deserves a more substantial role in the film. Charles Stanforth (played by Jim Broadbent), dean of the fictional Marshall College and Indy’s friend. succeeds Marcus Brody, whose actor, Denholm Elliott, died in 1992. As a tribute to Elliott, the filmmakers put a portrait and a statue on the Marshall College location. 

When Indy is suspended from his duties at the College because of alleged Communist ties, Stanforth shows some backbone and resigns, muttering “I don’t recognize this country anymore!“ This is Spielberg’s twofold comment on the climate of political repression against communists during the 1950’s McCarthy era and excessive Homeland security measures of the present day, directed against potential terrorist activities. 

Spielberg shoots a sequence from Darabont’s script to indulge in a bizzarre snapshot of the 1950’s of his childhood (videoclip): Indy flees into a "typical“ suburb which has actually been constructed to be blown up in a testing of the atomic bomb. When Indy realizes that the family sitting in front of the TV set are mannequins and the countdown for the bomb is started, he climbs into a heavy-duty refrigerator (Spielberg’s favorite set piece in many of his films) which ultimately saves his life. This crazy digression – a great example of Michael Kahn’s masterful editing – is one of the film’s highlights but polarizes fans, leading to the term “nuke the fridge“.

Spielberg asks fans not to criticize George Lucas for this sequence:


“What people really jumped at was Indy climbing into a
refrigerator and getting blown into the sky by an atom-bomb blast. Blame
me. Don’t blame George. That was my silly idea. People stopped saying
"jump the shark”. They now say, “nuked the fridge”. I’m proud of that.
I’m glad I was able to bring that into popular culture.“


And he adds:

The Nuke The Fridge was the greatest thing to come out of “CRYSTAL SKULL!”

Part of the fun are the many film references that can be found in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, e.g. American Graffiti (1973), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), The Wild One (1953), Vertigo (1958), and Star Wars – A New Hope (1977), with Indy having “a bad feeling about this“. Not to forget the reappearance of the Ark of the Covenant from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

To keep aesthetic continuity with the previous films, Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński studies Douglas Slocombe’s style from the previous films. Spielberg on their approach to the film’s visual style: 

"I still wanted the film to have a lighting style not dissimilar to the work Doug Slocombe had achieved, which meant that both Janusz and I had to swallow our pride. Janusz had to approximate another cinematographer’s look, and I had to approximate this younger director’s look that I thought I had moved away from after almost two decades." 

Initially, Spielberg wants to rely on traditional stunt work as well as practical sets and effects. However, during filming ILM does more CGI work than anticipated, and a total of about 450 CGI shots make it into the film. Spielberg prefers not to shoot the film in digital format and does not want it to be released that way.

John Williams describes composing for the fourth Indiana Jones installment as "like sitting down and finishing a letter that you started 25 years ago”. He reuses Indiana’s theme as well as Marion’s from the first film, adding new motifs for Mutt, Spalko and the skull.

The film premieres in Cannes on May 18, 2008 (the first Spielberg film since 1982’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to launch the Cannes Film Festival), and is released worldwide on May 22, 2008 to generally positive reviews from critics, although audience reception is more mixed. It is a huge financial success, grossing over $786 million worldwide, against a budget of $185 million. Spielberg describes the film as “the sweet dessert I give those who had to chow down on the bitter herbs I used in Munich.”

Unlike any other previous Indiana Jones film, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull does not receive any Academy Award nominations. It is the last film in the series to be distributed by Paramount Pictures, as Walt Disney Studios becomes the distributor of future films, after its acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012.

2006
The dream is over
as the US economic crisis affects the film industry: Twelve years after its founding, DreamWorks SKG (coming close to bankruptcy twice) is sold to Viacom, parent company of Paramount Pictures, for $1.6 billion – with Spielberg remaining “principal partner” of DreamWorks.

Spielberg’s collaboration with Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald ends. For his next projects, he returns to producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall.

2002
Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity
is a fast-paced action spy thriller starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, a man suffering from extreme memory loss, trying to discover his true identity amidst a CIA conspiracy.

A co-production between Universal Pictures and Kennedy/Marshall Company, the film is based on Robert Ludlum’s novel, and adapted for the screen by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron. The cast includes Franka Potente, Chris Cooper, Clive Owen, Julia Stiles, and Brian Cox.

Liman scraps much of the content of Ludlum’s novel, in order to modernize the material and to conform it to his own beliefs regarding United States foreign policy. Parts of the film’s conspiracy story are inspired by Liman’s father’s job in the National Security Agency (NSA) under Ronald Reagan. Liman’s father’s was involved in the investigation of the Iran-Contra affair.

For the lead part, Liman approaches a wide range of actors, including Brad Pitt, who turns it down, as well as Russell Crowe and Sylvester Stallone. Matt Damon, who has never played such a physically demanding role, insists on performing many of the stunts himself, including hand-to-hand combat and climbing the safe house walls near the film’s conclusion.

With his background as a small-scale indie filmmaker, Liman often operates the camera himself to create what he believes is a more intimate relationship between himself, the material, and the actors.

The Bourne Identity receives a positive critical and public reaction and succeeds at the box office, grossing $214 million worldwide, against a budget of $60 million. It is followed by The Bourne Supremacy (2004), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007), and The Bourne Legacy (2012).

Charles Taylor of Salon.com acclaims the film as “entertaining, handsome and gripping, The Bourne Identity is something of an anomaly among big-budget summer blockbusters: a thriller with some brains and feeling behind it, more attuned to story and character than to spectacle“.

Spielberg on the quick editing applied in contemporary action film franchises:

"My movies have never been frenetically cut, the way a lot of action is done today. That’s not a put-down; some of that quick cutting, like in ‘The Bourne Ultimatum,’ is fantastic, just takes my breath away.“