2016
Amblin Partners
Executive Kristie Macosko Krieger is the new “Kathleen Kennedy” in Steven Spielberg’s inner circle of creative collaborators.

Krieger served
as head of worldwide publicity at the USC Shoah Foundation, before she joined DreamWorks in 1997, starting a stellar career.

Back in 2012, when George Lucas pondered about making Kathleen Kennedy co-chair of Lucasfilm he felt obliged to first call Spielberg. “He wasn’t technically her boss—it was just
about friendship.
It was kind of like, ‘Oh, by the way,
Steven, I’m going to marry your wife.’ ”

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 production The BFG (2016) has probably been the last 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:

“If I’m stuck in a Turkish prison, she is my first phone call.”

When preparing Lincoln (2012), Spielberg made Macosko Krieger his co-producer, before she was assigned as producer of Bridge of Spies (2015) and executive producer of The BFG (2016).

She is currently producing Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018) and a film adaptation of the New York Times best-seller “Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek” written by Maya Van Wagenen.

Photo:

© 2016 Amblin Partners

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2015
Star Wars: The Force Awakens premieres in Los Angeles. More than 5,000 guests attend the world premiere in all three theaters on Hollywood Blvd.: Dolby Theatre, Chinese Theatre and El Capitan Theatre.

Before the screening, director J.J. Abrams thanks George Lucas, the mastermind behind the Star Wars universe, and his longtime mentor Steven Spielberg. “It is an honor to be here
with you at this incredibly low-key premiere
,” Abrams quips.

Then he speaks directly to Spielberg:

“I owed you everything already
before you lobbied for me to get this movie. Dude, I’m tapped
out.”

Abrams thanks the Star Wars crew before bringing the stars onstage. Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford all receive standing ovations.

Celebrity guests attending the premiere include directors Ava DuVernay, Ryan Coogler, Colin Trevorrow, Edgar Wright, Jon Favreau, and Roland Emmerich.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the 7th installment in the main Star Wars film series. The cast includes Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Peter Mayhew, Simon Pegg and Max von Sydow

J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan, co-writer of the original trilogy films The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), rewrite an initial script by Michael Arndt

George Lucas serves as creative consultant during the film’s early production. Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy is overseeing production (budget: $245 million). 

John Williams, who created the music for the previous six films, returns to compose the score.

The film breaks many box office records, becoming the highest-grossing installment of the franchise, with a worldwide gross of more than $2 billionStar Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens receives five Academy Award nominations

Two sequels, Episode VIII and Episode IX, will be released in 2017 and 2019 respectively.

2015
According to Forbes, Steven Spielberg’s “net worth” is $3.6 billion, with a “self-made score” of 8 out of 10.

On the list of the world’s billionaires, Spielberg ranks #481, far behind his friend George Lucas (#309). Films directed by Spielberg have grossed more than $9 billion worldwide.

Four of them are still in the top 20 of All Time Box Office champions (adjusted for inflation):

#4: E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982)
#7: Jaws (1975)
#16: Jurassic Park (1993)
#20: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

2013
Steven Spielberg predicts an ‘implosion’ of the film industry
– if several megabudget movies in a row turn disastrous at the box office.

His statements spread like wildfire in the media. They are made at a roundtable during an event
touting the opening of a new USC School of Cinematic Arts building.

George Lucas agrees that massive changes are afoot, including film exhibition morphing into a Broadway play model, whereby fewer movies are released; they stay in theaters for a year and ticket prices are much higher. Lucas and Spielberg tell USC students that they are learning about the industry at an extraordinary time of upheaval, where even proven talents find it difficult to get movies into theaters.

Some ideas from young filmmakers “are too fringe-y for the movies,” Spielberg says. “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown. There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

Lucas laments the high cost of marketing movies and the urge to make them for the masses while ignoring niche audiences. He calls cable television “much more adventurous” than film nowadays: “I think eventually the Lincolns will go away and they’re going to be on television.” Lucas says. “The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller.”

When Spielberg is asked if he planned to make original content for streaming companies such as Netflix, he replies: “I have nothing to announce.”

Just two months after Spielberg’s prediction, Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger (estimated budget: $225 million) bombs at the box office, followed by other big-budget box office disappointments.

2012
George Lucas sells Lucasfilm Ltd. to The Walt Disney Company
– announcing his retirement from producing large scale blockbuster films and instead re-focusing his career on smaller, independently budgeted features

Disney is paying $4.05 billion, approximately half of it in cash and half in stock, for rights to the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. 

The deal includes Lucasfilm’s post production businesses, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) and Skywalker Sound, and a suite of cutting edge entertainment technologies.

Kathleen Kennedy becomes president of Lucasfilm and serves as executive producer on the new Star Wars films, starting with Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015). Lucas continues as a creative consultant

The deal follows Disney’s acquisitions of Pixar studios for $7.4 billion in 2006 and Marvel comics for $4.2 billion in 2009.

With the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney, Lucas is currently Disney’s second largest single shareholder after the estate of Steve Jobs

Lucas announces to give half of his fortune to charity as part of an effort called The Giving Pledge led by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett to persuade America’s richest individuals to donate their financial wealth to charities.

2011
Steve Jobs dies
at his home in Palo Alto, California due to complications from a relapse of pancreatic cancer.

Apple and Pixar each issue announcements of his death. Both Apple and Microsoft display their flags at half-staff throughout their respective headquarters and campuses. Bob Iger orders all Disney properties, including Walt Disney World and Disneyland, to fly their flags at half-staff.

Governor Jerry Brown of California declares Sunday, October 16, 2011 to be “Steve Jobs Day.” On that day, an invitation-only memorial is held at Stanford University. Those in attendance include Apple and other tech company executives, members of the media, celebrities, close friends of Jobs, and politicians, along with Jobs’s family. Bono, Yo Yo Ma, and Joan Baez perform at the service. Steve Wozniak, George Lucas, Bill Gates, and President Barack Obama all offer statements in response to his death. Jobs is buried in an unmarked grave at Alta Mesa Memorial Park, the only non-denominational cemetery in Palo Alto.

In 2015, Danny Boyle directs the biographical drama Steve Jobs, starring Michael Fassbender – based on Walter Isaacson’s biography Steve Jobs as well as from interviews conducted by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.

2010
Steven Spielberg
and George Lucas, both major collectors of Norman Rockwell’s paintings, share them with the public

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington DC, Telling Stories is the first major exhibition to explore in-depth the connections between Norman Rockwell’s iconic images of American life and the movies.

A 12-minute film (videoclip), co-produced by the museum and Laurent Bouzereau, is shown in the exhibition galleries. It features interviews with Lucas and Spielberg that reveal their insights into Rockwell’s art and why certain works appealed to them. 

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
Martin Scorsese
’s The Departed is a remake of the Hong Kong crime-thriller Infernal Affairs (2002). The Departed stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg, with Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, and Alec Baldwin in supporting roles.The screenplay is written by William Monahan

Throughout the film, Scorsese uses an “X” motif to foreshadow death in a manner similar to Howard Hawks’ classic film Scarface (1932). Examples include shots of cross-beam supports in an airport walkway when Costigan is phoning Sgt. Dignam, and the taped windows of the building Queenan enters before being thrown to his death. On many occasions, Director of Photography Michael Ballhaus has to shoot with very little light, walking a thin line between what you can still see and what you cannot see anymore.

A critical and commercial success, the film wins several awards, including four Oscars at the 79th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film Editing. Wahlberg is nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

The film marks the first time Scorsese wins an Oscar after six previous losses. He is presented with the Oscar by his long-time friends Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg (videoclip). Many feel that Scorsese deserved the Best Director award years earlier for efforts such as Goodfellas (1990), Raging Bull (1980) or Taxi Driver (1976).

Steven Spielberg casts Ray Winstone for the part of George “Mac” McHale in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008).

2006
The 29th annual Kennedy Center Honors awards five performing arts icons for their lifetime contributions to American culture: 

Musical theater composer and producer Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, conductor Zubin Mehta, country singer, songwriter, and actress Dolly Parton, Motown singer, songwriter, producer Smokey Robinson, and film director and producer Steven Spielberg are saluted by stars from the world of the performing arts at an invitation-only gala performance in Washington DC

Liam Neeson introduces honoree Steven Spielberg, as Tom Hanks chats about Steven’s love of making movies, beginning as a child.

Members of the Kennedy Center’s national artists committee, as well as past Honorees, made recommendations of possible Honorees.

In 2015, George Lucas is among the honorees to be saluted at the Kennedy Center Honors.