2017
Steven Spielberg’s The Kidnapping Of Edgardo Mortara, an adaptation of the 1997 book by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Kertzer, tells the story of a young Jewish boy in Bologna, Italy in 1858.

After having been secretly baptized, he is forcibly taken from his family to be raised as a Christian. His parents’ struggle to free their son becomes a pivotal event in the collapse of the Vatican as a secular power and an example of how a single human fate changed the course of history.

Mark Rylance stars as Pope Pius IX. This is his third collaboration with Spielberg – having won the Best Supporting Oscar for Bridge Of Spies (2015) and portrayed the title character in The BFG (2016). The cast is joined by Oscar Isaac (Star Wars: The Force Awakens).

The Bridge Of Spies producing team of Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger serve as producers.

The screenplay is written by Tony Kushner who also penned the scripts for Munich (2005) and Lincoln (2012). He gave a copy of David Kertzer’s book to Steven Spielberg who read it twice and was convinced it would make a great movie.

The Amblin Entertainment production is slated for early 2017 – when Ready Player One will have wrapped – with an intended release in the fourth quarter of 2017, a perfect slot for awards season…

Steven Spielberg has often released double-salvos of films in one year. Now he seems to turn into a kind of “Woody Allen”, bringing out one film per year: Bridge of Spies in 2015, The BFG in 2016, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara in 2017, Ready Player One in 2018, and Indiana Jones 5 in 2019.

Artwork: © Amblin Entertainment

2016 Oscars: Best Supporting Actor Won By Mark Rylance

In his acceptance speech, Mark Rylance salutes Steven Spielberg, calling him “one of the greatest story-tellers of our time”. 

“Unlike some of the leaders we’re being presented with these days, he leads with such love that he’s surrounded by masters in every craft.”

Out of its six nominations, Bridge of Spies wins only 1 Oscar – but an important one: It’s only the second Spielberg-directed film to win an Academy Award for one of its actors – following Daniel Day-Lewis for Lincoln (2012). Little by little, the Academy recognizes Spielberg’s craft as an actor’s director.

All nominations and wins of Bridge of Spies.

Mark Rylance plays the title role in Steven Spielberg’s The BFG (2016). Christopher Nolan casts Mark Rylance for his World War II film Dunkirk (2017). 

2016 Oscars: Best Supporting Actor Won By Mark Rylance

2018
Steven Spielberg
’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s best-selling novel Ready Player One is his first foray into the realms of science fiction since War of the Worlds (2005)
and the first Steven Spielberg-directed film project for Warner Bros. since A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001).


Set in the year 2044, the dystopian Ready Player One unfolds in a massive multiplayer online role-playing game called The OASIS (Ontologically Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation), a fake utopia that human beings come to prefer to the harsh reality of their lives. Young Wade Watts (or Parzival as he is known in The OASIS),
is devoted to the game, and manages to unlock the first clue to a
contest that promises the winner control of The OASIS and the massive
fortune of the games’ creator, James Donovan Halliday. Parzival has to compete against an armada of egghunters (”gunters”) who try to find Halliday’s “easter eggs”.

The story is
filled with references to

the 1980s – including films produced or directed by Steven Spielberg. However, Spielberg decides to remove most of those film references from the script:

I love the ‘80s, and I
think one of the reasons I decided to make the movie was that it brought
me back to the 1980s and let me do anything I want – except for my own
movies. I’ve cut most of my movies out of Ernie [Cline]’s book, except
for the Delorean and a couple of other things that I had something to do
with. I’ve cut a lot of my own references out. I was very happy to see
that there was enough without me! The ’80s was a great time to grow up.

Mark Rylance plays
James Donovan Halliday
(for this part, actors such as Gene Wilder and Michael Keaton were originally considered). Incidentally, James Donovan was the name of Tom Hanks’s character in Bridge of Spies (2015) which marked the first collaboration between Rylance and Steven Spielberg.

The cast includes
Olivia Cooke as Samantha Evelyn Cook / Art3mis, Ben Mendelsohn as the villain Nolan Sorrento, and Simon Pegg as Ogden Morrow, co-creator of The OASIS. T.J. Miller plays i-R0k and Win Morisaki portrays one of the top “gunters”, Daito. His pal Shoto is played by Philip Zhao. Another “gunter” called F’Nale Zandor is played by Hannah John-Kamen.
Wade’s mother Loretta is portrayed by Simone Kirby.

Following an open casting call, 19-year-old Tye Sheridan is selected for the lead part Wade Watts. For his debut in Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life (2011), Sheridan was chosen from a field of 10,000 boys to play the youngest son
of Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt.

During pre-production, Tye Sheridan tells Variety:

“It’s a new spin on cinema. A good third of the film takes place in a
virtual realm inside a video game. What I love about the film is that it
plays with some metaphorically bigger themes. I think it’s going to be a
milestone for cinema in its advancements and exploration of virtual
reality. I couldn’t be more excited and grateful to be a part of it.”

In a high six-figure upfront deal, the film rights to Ready Player One are purchased by Warner Bros. the same day Ernest Cline finalizes his publishing deal with Random House, one year prior to his debut novel’s publication.

Ernest Cline adapts his own novel into a screenplay, with Eric Eason and Zak Penn sharing screenplay credits. Zak Penn‘s story credits include The Avengers (2012). Eric Eason has written the screenplay for A Better Life (2011).

Adam Stockhausen who worked for Bridge of Spies (2015) returns as Production Designer. Other regular Spielberg-collaborators include Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger, Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, Editor Michael Kahn, and Composer John Williams.

Principal photography is scheduled to start in London in June 2016.

Avoiding a box office battle with Star Wars: Episode VIII, the release date of Ready Player One is moved from December 2017 to March 30, 2018.
Spielberg’s name above a film’s title usually guarantees mass audience appeal, but after Star Wars: The Force Awakens has earned more than $2 billion and becomes the third highest grossing movie in history – behind only Titanic (1997) and Avatar (2009) – Warner Bros.is wise enough to evade direct confrontation with the next Star Wars chapter.

Warner Bros. reacts after Disney shifted Star Wars VIII from May 2017 to Dec. 15. According to Variety, Warner Bros. is not running scared: The new date coincides with Easter, and there are no major competitors scheduled to open in April 2018, giving Ready Player One a comfortable slot.

Cover Art: © 2012 Random House

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
Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies
– a dramatic historical thriller written by Matt Charman and Ethan & Joel Coen – stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda. The supporting cast includes Austin Stowell, Domenick Lombardozzi, Michael Gaton, Sebastian Koch, and Burghart Klaußner.

This is Tom Hanks’ fourth film collaboration with Spielberg (their first in over ten years). Bridge of Spies allows Spielberg to finally do a genuine spy thriller… 

“I’ve always wanted to make a spy movie. This is not James Bond. Only James Bond can be James Bond. I’ve always been fascinated with the entertainment value of the James Bond spy series of movies, as well as the serious John le Carre spy novels, especially the Martin Ritt movie The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Also spy pictures like The Quiller Memorandum and The Ipcress File, and Torn Curtain by Hitchcock in the ‘60s.”

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Photo: © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

Click here for a photo gallery.

The story is based on James B. Donovan’s book “Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers” (1964) and Gilles Whittell’s book “Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War” (2010).

The film follows Brooklyn lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) who has to cope with the Cold War’s repercussions when he is given a mission to negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers, a pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. Donovan is determined to get the situation solved, declaring “The next mistake our countries make could be the last one.”

In the official video for the film, Spielberg talks about how significant the U-2 incident was to him. His father Arnold, an electrical engineer, was on an exchange visit to Russia in 1960 when the U-2 spy plane crisis occurred.“The Russians were putting the pilot Gary Powers’ helmet and his flight suit and the remains of the U-2 plane on show for everyone in Russia to see. A military man saw my father’s American passport and took him to the head of the queue and repeated really angrily to the crowd, ‘look what your country is doing to us.’”

“I never forgot that story,” he says, “and because of that I never forgot what happened to Francis Gary Powers.”

Read this fascinating account of historical facts vs. cinematic fiction.

Matt Charman writes the script and pitches it to DreamWorks. Steven Spielberg quickly decides to direct and has Joel & Ethan Coen revise Charman’s original script. On March 3, 2015, co-producer Marc Platt reveals the title to be Bridge of Spies.

Principal photography begins under the working title of St. James Place on September 8, 2014, in Brooklyn, New York City. Filming continues in DUMBO, Astoria, and Manhattan. In order to match the style of the 1950s, Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński chooses to film on 35 mm film using anamorphic lenses in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.

Further shooting is done at Babelsberg Studios in Berlin and Potsdam, Germany, and lasts there through the end of November. Filming in Berlin begins at the former Tempelhof Airport, for scenes that actually took place there, such as Donovan’s descending from a historic C-54 Skymaster. Another scene includes the prisoner exchange filmed on the Glienicke Bridge (also known as the “Bridge of Spies”) where the historical exchange actually took place in 1962.

The Glienicke Bridge is located near Wannsee, where the Wannsee
Conference
with Adolf Eichmann and the other architects of the Holocaust
took place – a fact that chills Spielberg twice as much during the winter shoot. The bridge is closed to traffic for filming over the last weekend of November. German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the set to watch the filming of these scenes.

To film crucial Berlin Wall sequences, the production team travels to Wrolcaw, Poland where parts of the Berlin Wall and surrounding areas are reconstructed – supervised by production designer Adam Stockhausen who has won an Academy Award for his contributions to Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone who has collaborated with Anderson and Stockhausen on Moonrise Kingdom (2012) immerses herself in Cold War fashion. Janusz Kamiński can finally work in his home country again, after he experienced his first collaboration with Spielberg on Schindler’s List (1993).

Production wraps in Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville, California. Francis Gary Powers, Jr., founder of The Cold War Museum and the pilot’s son, is brought on as a technical consultant and has a cameo in the film.

The film’s score is composed by Thomas Newman. It is the first time a Steven Spielberg film is not scored by John Williams since The Color Purple (1985). Newman replaces him due to Williams’ commitment to compose the music for J.J. Abram’s Star Wars – The Force Awakens (2015) and a temporary health issue.

The first poster for Bridge of Spies is released on June 4, 2015, with the first trailer appearing online the following day. In European film posters, the US flag is replaced by an abstract illustration of the Glienicke Bridge in the style of the 60s famous poster and title designer Saul Bass.

Bridge of Spies is produced by Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt, and Kristie Macosko Krieger and  distributed by Touchstone Pictures in North America, with 20th Century Fox covering the remaining territories.

The film has its world premiere on October 4, 2015, at the 53rd New York Film Festival. Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Amy Ryan, Mark Rylance, and Sebastian Koch attend in person. After the screening, Bridge of Spies gets the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation and opens to universal acclaim by critics and audiences.

Variety’s Kristopher Tapley praises Spielberg’s sturdy craftsmanship, Tom Hanks’ and Mark Rylance’s strong performances and the film’s story that he describes as “thematically potent, dealing in notions of idealism particularly
meaningful in the face of today’s perceived Constitutional slippery
slopes.”

The European premiere takes place in the Berlin Zoo Palast on November 13, 2015. Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan and Sebastian Koch attend the premiere.

Following the event, Steven Spielberg intends to travel to Paris to attend the French premiere of his film. However, the terrorist attacks in Paris put an end to these plans: 20th Century Fox cancels the premiere which was scheduled for November 15.

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Bridge of Spies grosses more than $162 million worldwide (against a budget of $40 million). 

For more behind-the-scenes information on the making of the film, jump to our Bridge of Spies Special.

1987
Empire of the Sun
: Spielberg’s film adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s semi-autobiographical novel features an excellent cast including Christian Bale as 11-year-old Jamie “Jim” Graham and John Malkovich as his “surrogate father” Basie. Miranda Richardson plays Mrs. Victor. Ben Stiller can be seen in a small part as Basie’s pal Dainty.

In the wake of the Japanese attack on Shanghai in 1937, young Jim is seperated from his wealthy parents and becomes a prisoner of war in a Japanese internment camp. As a preliminary study to his masterpiece Schindler’s List (1993), Spielberg tackles the topics of war, racism and imprisonment. Jim experiences the consequences of ideas that are based on class and race differences and has to struggle for sheer survival behind the barbed wire of the camp.

Whereas Spielberg has celebrated childhood and childlike curiosity in movies such as Close Encounters and E.T., he now feels “attracted to the idea that this was a death of innocence, not an
attenuation of childhood, which by my own admission and everybody’s
impression of me is what my life has been. This was the opposite of Peter Pan.
” He adds: “I made a movie to satisfy me, not the audience. It’s as dark as I allowed myself to get.”

Director of Photography Allen Daviau translates Tom Stoppard‘s sublime screenplay into stunning images. After a year of negotiations, the Chinese government grants permission for a three-week shoot in Shanghai. Empire of the Sun is the first American film shot in Shanghai since the 1940s.

Initially, Spielberg is not ready to take on the challenge and plans to produce the film, with David Lean directing – but Lean declines his offer because he can’t seem to relate to Ballard’s novel.

When
Spielberg finally takes the helm, he offers then unknown Mark Rylance a role. Rylance remembers:
“I took the part and then backed out. […] It wasn’t because of
him. I was offered something in the theatre I wanted to do more.”

Much later, the two will collaborate in Bridge of Spies (2015) and The BFG (2016).

Spielberg’s lyrical film adaptation is met with mixed reactions from critics and audiences who (1) in most cases have not read the novel, (2) expect something more in the direction of his previous blockbuster movies, (3) are overwhelmed by its complex story and issues.

In his positive review, Richard Corliss (TIME) concludes that Spielberg “has met the demands of the epic form with a mature spirit and wizardly
technique. Spielberg has dreamed of flying before, and this time he
earns his wings
.”

The film costs $35 million and earns $66.7 million in its worldwide release but is considered a box office disappointment (by Spielberg‘s standards).

Empire of the Sun remains one of the most underrated Spielberg films to this date.