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’

Advertisements

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

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.”

image

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.

image

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.

2012
Steven Spielberg
’s masterpiece Lincoln covers the final few months of US President Abraham Lincoln’s life, focusing on his efforts to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution passed by the House of Representatives – resulting in the abolition of slavery in the United States of America. Lincoln is teaching us how to reach a consensus and succeed in backstage politics when pressing issues of society need to be solved. So, in essence, it’s a contemporary story told in a historic setting.

The film is produced by Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, the screenplay is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Spielberg on his motivation to do the film:

“The
Lincoln project is something that I have been fascinated with all my
life. Like the kid in Minority Report, I used to cut out the profiles of
Presidents in third grade. Lincoln was my favorite profile. (…) As I
got older, I began reading history books and I became like a history
major. I never really majored in history in school but it was my most
favorite subject. (…) I realized that Lincoln changed the history of
the world.”

Daniel Day-Lewis brilliantly portrays President Abraham Lincoln, leading a formidable cast that includes Sally Field, David Strathairn, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Spader, Hal Holbrook, Tim Blake Nelson, Lukas Haas, and Tommy Lee Jones

Adam Driver – who will be cast as the villain in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – plays Washington war-room telegraph officer Samuel Beckwith. Kevin Kline makes a cameo appearance as a wounded soldier.

In preparation for The Unfinished Journey (1999) – a 21-minute short film directed by Spielberg and screened at the 2000 Millennium Gala in Washington DC, right in front of the Lincoln Memorial – Spielberg consults historians such as Stephen Ambrose, and Doris Goodwin. Asked about her current projects, Goodwin tells Spielberg that she is writing a book called “Team of Rivals” about Lincoln and his cabinet. Spielberg buys the film rights on the spot.

In the early stages of development, John Logan signs on to write a first draft. It is rewritten by playwright Paul Webb. He prefers to cover the entirety of Lincoln’s term as President. Due to Spielberg’s dissatisfaction with the script, the filming is delayed. He assigns another playwright who impressed Spielberg with his script for Munich (2005): Tony Kushner.

Kushner finds the Lincoln script assignment daunting because “I don’t understand what he did any more than I understand how William Shakespeare wrote Hamlet or Mozart wrote Così fan tutte.” Kushner’s initial 491-page draft focuses on four months in the life of Lincoln, and by 2009 he rewrites it to mostly cover two months in Lincoln’s life when he is preoccupied with adopting the Thirteenth Amendment.

Initially, Liam Neeson is cast as Lincoln, having previously worked with Spielberg in Schindler’s List (1993). In preparation for the role, Neeson studies Lincoln extensively – but leaves the project in 2010, stating that he realized during a table read that the part was not right for him. Neeson suggests Daniel Day-Lewis as his replacement and personally argues him into accepting the part. Spielberg and Kushner fly to Ireland to meet with Day-Lewis, followed by more rewrites before the actor finally agrees (after some more encouragement from Leonardo DiCaprio).

Financing the film takes nearly three years. Spielberg pitches the movie at Paramount, following the purchase of DreamWorks by Paramount’s parent company Viacom, in 2006, but the studio complains the budget, even pared to $50 million, is too high and its subject too close to Spielberg’s Amistad (1997), one of his least commercially successful movies.

Frustrated by the financing problems, Spielberg admits Lincoln came “this close” to premiering on HBO as opposed to premiering in theaters. When DreamWorks sets up a new distribution arrangement with The Walt Disney Company, the studio agrees to take North American rights. 20th Century Fox takes international rights, putting up half the production cost. To lay off some risk, DreamWorks turns to another frequent partner, Participant Media, and the film can finally be made.

Principal photography is completed in 64 days, most of it taking place in Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Petersburg, Virginia. A former AMF Bowling plant in Mechanicsville, is used for a set that re-creates the interiors of the White House. “We worked hard to be as historically accurate as possible, all the way to the room where Mary and Lincoln had their scenes,” says production designer Rick Carter. “The wallpaper, rugs, everything was as accurate as it could possibly be.”

According to Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, he and Spielberg agree on the first day to go for dim lighting that would reflect the use of candles and gaslight in the era. “We knew this was a haunted movie about a man carrying a tremendous burden,” says Rick Carter. “We wanted to go with almost a black-and-white photo yet always be able to pick out what was important in the frame.” The low light is a tool to direct the viewer’s eye. “I wanted to create depth of Lincoln’s character through lighting,” says Kamiński. “In group shots in his office, I set the light so your eye would go to Lincoln.” In later scenes, while the amendment is passed, Kamiński seeks to play against Lincoln’s iconic image. The result is an angelic but natural shot of Lincoln bathed in light. “I wanted to create a very intimate image of this man on the most important day of his life: He’s still a father, and he’s still allocating time to be with his family and his son.”

On set, cast and crew act reverential towards the subject at hand: Conversations between scenes are kept to a whisper, and no one talks to Day-Lewis unless it is necessary. Spielberg, whose typical attire when directing is a baseball cap and jeans, wears suits and ties. He not only addresses Day-Lewis as “Mr. President” but also calls many of the actors by their characters’ names as he immerses himself in American history.

Describing his experience playing Abraham Lincoln, Daniel Day-Lewis says, “I never, ever felt that depth of love for another human being that I never met. And that’s, I think, probably the effect that Lincoln has on most people that take the time to discover him… I wish he had stayed [with me] forever.”

“The toughest part about actually making the film,” says Spielberg, “was that it was eventually going to come to an end. After the first day of shooting, I started mourning the last day of shooting. (…) It’s rare that this has ever happened. E.T. might be the only other time.”

Lincoln is shot on 35mm film and cut on Avid, marking the third time that Michael Kahn edits digitally for Spielberg. “Steven saw how efficient it was, how it saved it a lot of time, so we’ve been on Avid ever since,” says Kahn, who was noted for his speed on the Moviola and KEM. He admits that he’s never cut a film comparable to Lincoln before. “This picture has more dialogue, more getting into people’s heads. A lot of editors say dialogue is the hardest thing to make work, and after Lincoln I have to agree. Audiences won’t see our decisions to cut or not to cut, but the decisions are there.”

For his restrained and respectful composition of the film score, John Williams continues to laboriously write his notes by hand with pencil and paper at a piano – rejecting modern technologies and still managing to yield music of his established, superior quality.

Lincoln receives widespread critical acclaim, with major praise directed to the acting, especially Day-Lewis’ performance, as well as the direction and production merits.

Roger Ebert gives the film 4 out of 4 stars and says in his review, “The hallmark of the man, performed so powerfully by Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln, is calm self-confidence, patience and a willingness to play politics in a realistic way.”

A. O. Scott from The New York Times states the film “is finally a movie about how difficult and costly it has been for the United States to recognize the full and equal humanity of black people” and concludes that the movie is “a rough and noble democratic masterpiece” – a portrait that is “intimate but also decorous, drawn with extraordinary sensitivity and insight and focused, above all, on Lincoln’s character as a politician. This is, in other words, less a biopic than a political thriller, a civics lesson that is energetically staged and alive with moral energy.”

Despite its running time of 150 minutes, the film is also a huge commercial success, proving that a lot of moviegoers approach it as more than just a dull history lesson. In only its first four weekends of wide release, Lincoln grosses more than $275 million worldwide (against a budget of $65 million). Washington insiders see the film as an object lesson in how a president should work with Congress (the film is screened at the White House and the Senate).

The film is nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Director for Spielberg, winning Best Actor (Motion Picture – Drama) for Daniel Day-Lewis.

At the Academy Awards, the film is nominated for 12 Academy Awards including Best Picture, winning for Best Production Design and Best Actor for Daniel Day-Lewis – becoming the very first actor to win an acting Oscar for a movie directed by Steven Spielberg.

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.

2011
Steven Spielberg
’s cutting-edge computer-animated film The Adventures of Tintin (aka
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn) is a
photorealistic 3D cartoon based on Hergé’s famous
comics series
.

It’s the first time Spielberg directs an animated film, and it’s his first 3D movie.

Spielberg
discovers Hergé’s comics when Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is compared
to them, and he manages to obtain the cinematic rights. Hergé writes the following note about Spielberg: “If anyone can bring Tintin successfully to the screen, it is this young American film director…”.  

However, conflicting schedules cause the project
to be delayed until the late 2000’s when DreamWorks renews Spielberg’s option
for the film rights.

The Adventures of Tintin is produced by
Peter Jackson, whose visual effects company Weta Digital provides the
computer animation. It is based on three of Hergé’s albums: The Crab
with the Golden Claws
(1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), and Red
Rackham’s Treasure
(1944). The screenplay is written by Steven Moffat,
Edgar Wright
and Joe Cornish. Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh also
contribute to the script.

The cast includes
Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg who
lend their voices and portray their characters via motion-performance. For
Tintin’s dog Snowy, a dog’s motion is captured digitally, so the
animators have inspiration for realistic movements. His vocal effects
are taken from various breeds of dogs (unlike the comics, cinematic
Snowy has no voice).

Filming is due to begin in
October 2008 for a 2010 release. This plan deteriorates when Universal
opts out of co-producing the film with Paramount, and Sony steps in. The
delay results in Thomas Sangster, who is originally cast as Tintin,
departing from the project. As his replacement Peter Jackson suggests
Jamie Bell
, having cast him as Jimmy in his remake of King Kong (2005).

In
a partnership which Spielberg describes as “doing a crossword puzzle
with a friend,”
Peter Jackson convinces Spielberg “not to do Tintin in
live-action”
as it would not do justice to the comic books and opts for
motion capture as the best way of representing Hergé’s world of Tintin.

In 2006, a demo is shot on the stage that is used by James Cameron for
Avatar (2009). The test involves Andy Serkis as Haddock and Peter
Jackson standing in for Tintin. James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis are
present during the shoot. Weta Digital produce a twenty-minute test reel
successfully demonstrating a photorealistic depiction of the
characters.

Starting on January 26th 2009,
Spielberg completes principal photography after 32 days, with other
directors such as Guillermo del Toro, Stephen Daldry and David Fincher
visiting the set. Peter Jackson is present for the first week and
supervises the rest of the shoot via  customized iChat
videoconferencing. Spielberg treats the film like live-action, doing a
lot of his own camera work
, noting: “Every movie I made, up until
Tintin, I always kept one eye closed when I’ve been framing a shot,”

because he wants to see the movie in 2-D, the way viewers would. “On
Tintin, I have both of my eyes open.”
Spielberg finishes six weeks of
additional motion-capture filming in mid-July 2009.

Loyalty to the original concept is key to Spielberg’s approach, the
characters’s look and personalities painstakingly matched to their comic
counterparts. This is apparent right from the film’s stylish title
sequence
and the first scene that features a painter who looks a lot like Hergé and draws Tintin’s portrait in Herge’s style. Spielberg describes working on this film as “feeling
artistic and painterly”
. Fittingly, the movie starts with a closeup of a
painter’s palette.

Jackson supervises Weta Digital during post-production, with
Spielberg attached via video conferencing. Director of Photography
Janusz Kamiński serves as lighting consultant for Weta, contributing to
the “film-noirish, very atmospheric” look of Tintin. To improve the
quality of the indoor lighting nuances, Weta Digital and NVIDIA develop
the ray tracing software application PantaRay, which requires 100 to
1000 times more computation than traditional shadow-map based solutions.
Post production is completed on September 2011.

When working
with Spielberg, Michael Kahn has always edited his movies on a Moviola and KEM, but for Tintin, he cuts digitally using Avid.

John
Williams
composes a mindboggling score for his first animated film.
Most of it is written while the animation process is still in the early
stages, with Williams attempting to employ “the old Disney technique of
doing music first and have the animators trying to follow what the music
is doing”.
Eventually several of his cues have to be revised when the
film is edited. Williams employs various musical styles, with “1920s,
1930s European jazz”
for the opening credits, or “pirate music” for the
battle at sea. American opera singer and soprano Renée Fleming provides
the singing voice of Bianca Castafiore, performing a section of Romeo et
Juliette
.

The film is released on the 30th
anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark
. Its world
première
takes place on 22 October 2011 in Brussels, followed by
subsequent releases in European countries on 26 October 2011, and in the
USA on 21 December 2011, in Digital 3D and IMAX.

The
Adventures of Tintin
grosses over $373 million against a budget of $135
million, earning considerably more outside the US (where Hergé’s comics
are virtually unknown). It receives positive reviews from critics,
being compared to Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). It is the
first non-Pixar animated film to win the
Golden Globe Award for Best
Animated Feature Film. John Williams is nominated for an Academy Award
for Best Original Score.

Producer Peter
Jackson intends to direct a sequel
, with Spielberg serving as producer.
Spielberg and Jackson also hope to co-direct a third film.

In
his fascinating analysis of the Tintin film, Paul Bullock focuses on
Spielberg’s use of his core visual motifs (light, reflection
and the idea of seeing) and how they reflect three of his key themes:
emotional development, heritage and community.

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.

2005
Steven Spielberg
’s political thriller Munich follows a squad of Mossad assassins as they track down and kill alleged supporters of the group Black September, which is responsible for the kidnapping and murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

Eric Bana stars as the leader of the assassins group, Avner Kaufman. The international cast includes actors such as Ciarán Hinds, Omar Metwally, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zurer, Gila Almagor, Karim Saleh, Ziad Adwan, Moritz Bleibtreu, and Meret Becker. The film also stars a future James Bond actor (Daniel Craig) plus actors of a former (Michael Lonsdale) and a later (Mathieu Amalric) Bond villain.

The role of Ephraim (played by Geoffrey Rush) is originally intended for Ben Kingsley but he has to opt out due to a reshoot of Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal (2004) which causes the start of the production for Munich to be pushed back a few weeks later, thus conflicting with Kingsley’s work schedule on Roman Polanski’s Oliver Twist (2005).

After six years of preparation, Spielberg directs his most ambitious project since Schindler ’s List, fully aware that he is risking his reputation as a filmmaker and his capital of mass audience appeal, but determined to speak his mind on a subject that deeply concerns him. In his portrayal about the opening days of the perpetual cycle of terror-styled violence between Israelis and Palestinians, he does his best to tell the story in an unbiased manner, giving both a voice and condemning the deadly attacks on both sides. 

The screenplay, written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth, is based on George Jonas’ controversial book Vengeance: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team (published in 1984), after Producer Kathleen Kennedy brought the book to Spielberg’s attention. After acquiring the film rights, Spielberg commissions three scripts: one from David Webb Peoples and Janet Peoples, one from Charles Randolph, and one from Eric Roth, eventually selecting Roth’s script which is revised by Tony Kushner. In order to clarify that the film is a dramatization of historic and fictional events it begins with an opening title saying “Inspired by real events“.

Spielberg asserts that many people would have felt more comfortable if he made a film that said all targeted assassinations are a bad or a good thing:

"But the movie doesn’t take either of those positions. It refuses to. Many of those pundits on the left and right would love the film to land somewhere definite. It puts a real burden on the audience to figure out for themselves how they feel about these issues. There are no easy answers to the most complex story of the last 50 years. (…) What I’m trying to say is, if this movie bothers you, frightens you, upsets you, maybe it’s not a good idea to ignore that. Maybe you need to think about why you’re having that reaction.”

As Spielberg puts it, there are “unintended consequences“ in everything that has to do with violence, and in his film he depicts the growing disproportions of the counterterrorism response. The assassins’ futile attempts at minimizing collateral damage and the deaths of innocents is summed up in a Hitchcock-inspired sequence (videoclip) where the team must coordinate the bombing of a target in Paris without killing the man’s wife and child: A truck obscures the car holding the Mossad assassins, preventing them from seeing the man’s daughter return and pick up the rigged phone meant to kill her father. This time, they barely manage to deactivate the trigger, though once the girl leaves again, they set off the explosive without compunction. It’s a brief show of moral superiority to terrorists who put civilians in harm’s way, but it doesn’t last. Similar to Schindler’s List, Spielberg uses the little girl (again dressed in red) as a metaphor, representing the people that are accidentally killed during the mission.

According to Spielberg, Munich is “the most European film I have ever made“, drawing inspiration from classics such as Costa-Gavras’ Z (1969), Fred Zinnemann’s The Day of the Jackal (1973), and William Friedkin’s The French Connection (1971). Director of Photography, Janusz Kamiński applies the long lenses and zooms as well as the colors typical for that period of film. Kamiński on the notorious sex scene featuring Eric Bana, intercut with the murder of Israeli Olympic athletes as he orgasms: “It’s almost over-the-top to some degree, right?” (…) “It’s not a delicate little scene,” Kaminski says. “It is what it is, and [Spielberg] wanted to take this chance because it reflected the movie: his anger, his primal fear, his primal desire to be alive.” And his feeling of trauma and guilt that strips him of his own humanity in service of a dubious “an eye for an eye” scheme…

Spielberg calls Munich his Prayer for Peace, exploring his conflicts and concerns about how a nation should respond to terrorist attacks. By depicting the Twin Towers of the New York World Trade Center in the film’s final shot, Spielberg links Munich’s subtext to the present, i.e. the US government’s response to the 9/11 attacks, with Spielberg questioning it as excessive and a potential trigger for another perpetual cycle of terror in the Middle East.

The time span between the start of production to the film’s release date is less than six months. Principal photography takes place in Malta, Budapest, Paris, New York, and Munich. In order to finish the film on time, Michael Kahn edits all of the scenes shot in Malta and Hungary on the spot. Each day Spielberg reviews an edited scene that has been shot two days earlier. Two copies of the edited material are sent out, one to John Williams as reference for his composition and the other to Ben Burtt for sound effects. The Paris and New York scenes are edited two weeks after wrapping, and the final cut is completed after another two weeks.

The film’s mournful atmosphere and melancholy between both the Israelis and Palestinians is interpreted by John Williams’ magnificent score, sharing musical themes across cultures, with restrained beauty and subtle instrumentation.

The film is a critical success but is also one of Spielberg’s lowest-grossing films, earning $130.4 million at the worldwide box office (against a budget of $70 million). Conservative circles in Israel and the US attack Munich for what they call the film’s equating the Israeli assassins with “terrorists”. The heated discussion results in the depiction of Spielberg’s face on the covers of Time magazine, Germany’s DER SPIEGEL and other international media.

Munich receives five Academy Awards nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Spielberg), Best Adapted Screenplay (Kushner and Roth), Best Film Editing (Michael Kahn) and Best Original Score (John Williams), winning none.

In his review, Roger Ebert concludes: “With this film [Spielberg] has dramatically opened a wider dialogue, helping to make the inarguable into the debatable.“ 

Ian Nathan writes in his review for Empire: Munich is Steven Spielberg’s most difficult film. It arrives already inflamed by controversy… This is Spielberg operating at his peak — an exceptionally made, provocative and vital film for our times.“

Munich concludes Spielberg’s 2005 double salvo of films which can both be read as parables on the nation’s mindset after 9/11.

2002
Minority Report
, starring Tom Cruise, is one of the most outstanding film adaptations based on source material written by Philip K. Dick. The cast includes Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton, Peter Stormare, Jessica Capshaw, Lois Smith, Tim Blake Nelson, and Max von Sydow.

Spielberg expands Philip K. Dick’s short story The Minority Report to a feature-length theatrical film (its running time turns out to be 145 minutes). His greatest challenge, though, is to transform the story which was first published in 1956 into a more contemporary setting that satisfies both connoisseurs of  Philip K. Dick’s short story and the average audience.

The dystopian story is set in Washington DC and deals with the consequences of a law enforcement system called „PreCrime“ that is authorized to arrest and detain people for murders even before they are committed (or not) – based on foreknowledge provided by three psychics called Precog”.

Disguised in a captivating mix of film noir, science fiction, thriller and whodunit, Spielberg shares his critical view of current US politics, i.e. the Bush administration’s activities regarding “homeland security“ and Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.

The film’s multilayered themes examine whether free will can exist if the future is set and “known“ in advance, they also scrutinize the role of media when technological advancements make it ubiquitous. According to Spielberg

„The Internet is watching us now. If they want to. They can see what sites you visit. In the future, television will be watching us, and customizing itself to what it knows about us. The thrilling thing is, that will make us feel we’re part of the medium. The scary thing is, we’ll lose our right to privacy. An ad will appear in the air around us, talking directly to us.“

Spielberg’s repeated themes such as media-generated mass paranoia (”Everybody runs”) and dysfunctional families are also present in the film.

Before Spielberg steps in, the project is in „turnaround" for many years. Originally, Ronald Shusett (Alien) plans to adapt Philip K. Dick’s short story for a sequel of Total Recall (1990). In this version, earth’s population has been moved to Mars. Due to poor oxygen supply in the miners’ colonies on Mars, some settlers mutate to the Pre-Cogs from Philip K. Dick’s original. However, the project, with prospective director Jan de Bont attached, is eventually cancelled. Novelist Jon Cohen removes all Total Recall elements from his draft. and submits a rewrite which is set in a retro future, featuring a suburb that looks like straight from the 1950s.

This version comes to Tom Cruise’s attention during the filming of Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Since their first meeting on the set of Risky Business (1983), Cruise has tried to work for a Spielberg film. After Spielberg exits Rain Man (1988), he has to wait even longer. Finally, Spielberg “greenlights“ Minority Report, after Cruise has pitched the draft to him. However, Cruise has to finish Mission Impossible 2 (2000), and Spielberg directs A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001), so another two years pass. 

When Spielberg originally signs on to direct, he plans to have an entirely different supporting cast. He offers the role of Witwer to Matt Damon, Iris Hineman to Meryl Streep, Burgess to Ian McKellen, Agatha to Cate Blanchett, and Lara to Jenna Elfman. However, Streep declines the role, Damon opts out, and the other roles are recast due to the delays.

Spielberg makes the best use of the delays and has Scott Frank revise the draft. He scraps most ideas from Cohen’s drafts but keeps the sequence in the car factory, which is based on a concept by Alfred Hitchcock for North by Northwest (1959) which remained unfilmed due to the high production cost. For Minority Report, the sequence is filmed in a real facility using props such as a welding robot and practical effects.

During pre-production, Spielberg invites 15 experts from various disciplines to a three-days “think tank summit” to learn how daily life might look like in 2054. Production designer Alex McDowell (Fight Club) keeps what is nicknamed the “2054 bible”, an 80-page guide listing all the decided upon aspects of the future world: architectural, socio-economical, political, and technological. Some of the film’s technology designs actually become reality (e.g. Multi-touch interfaces, retina scanners, news on tablets and targeted marketing).

For Minority Report, cinematographer Janusz Kamiński creates a unique visual style, shooting the movie with high-speed film, alternating between handheld and Steadicam shots. He utilizes high contrast to create dark colors and shadows (as in film noir) as well as overlit shots with desaturated colors which are achieved by bleach-bypassing the film’s negative in post-production.

The film’s 14 minute opening sequence, depicting a distorted Precog vision of a murder, is the most complex of any Spielberg film and marks a highlight of Michael Kahn’s work as an editor.

Minority Report is the first film to have an entirely digital production design. „Previz" (a term borrowed from the film’s narrative) allows the crew to use Photoshop and 3-D animation programs to create a simulated set, which can be filled with virtual actors to block out shots in advance. Industrial Light & Magic provides most of the stunning visual effects, with DreamWorks-owned PDI responsible for the Spyder robots.

John Williams composes a gripping „black and white score“ taking inspiration from Bernard Herrmann’s work and including film noir elements such as a female singer in the Anne Lively scenes. Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8 (commonly known as the Unfinished Symphony) is heard while Anderton “conducts“ his PreCrime investigation, because Anderton is described as a big fan of classical music in the script.

Minority Report is one of the best reviewed films of 2002, being praised for its writing, visuals and themes, but earning some criticism for its „happy end“ which is considered inconsistent (by critics who do not understand the filmmaker’s intention of applying a „false end“ that only exits in the protagonist’s imagination to underline the film’s underlying theme of reality vs. perception).

Roger Ebert calls the film a “masterpiece” and says that when most directors of the period are putting “their trust in technology”, Spielberg has already mastered it, and is emphasizing “story and character” while merely using technology as a “workman uses his tools”.

Produced by Amblin Entertainment and Cruise/Wagner Productions, Minority Report is distributed by 20th Century Fox (North America) and DreamWorks SKG (International) and turns out to be a huge commercial success, earning over $358 million worldwide against an overall budget of $142 million (including advertising).

Minority Report receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Editing, but is otherwise ignored by the Academy