2016
Legendary British cinematographer Douglas Slocombe dies at the age of 103 in a hospital in London. His filmography amounts to 80 movies.

As a newsreel cameraman he films the Nazi invasion of Poland and goes on to work as director of photography on a series of classic British films in the 1940s and 1950s known as the Ealing comedies, including Kind Hearts and Coronets starring Alec Guinness. Later films include The Lion in Winter (1968), Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), Rollerball (1975), and Never Say Never Again (1983).

Slocombe wins three BAFTA award for The Servant (1963), The Great Gatsby (1974), and Julia (1977). He is a three-time Academy Award nominee, including for Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).

Before Raiders, Slocombe shoots the acclaimed and technically complex India sequence for Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).

When “Dougie” – as Spielberg calls him – is hired for Raiders, he is 68 years old. Harrison Ford claims that Dougie never used a light meter – he just
held up his hand and observed the shadow his thumb made on the palm.

Slocombe continues to work on two more films of the franchise: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), before Janusz Kamiński takes over as DP in the fourth installment.

In 1996, Slocombe receives a lifetime achievement award by the British Society of Cinematographers and is made an OBE in 2008 for services to the film industry.

Steven Spielberg calls Douglas Slocombe “a great collaborator and a beautiful human being”.

“Dougie Slocombe was facile, enthusiastic, and loved the action of
filmmaking. Harrison Ford was Indiana Jones in front of the camera, but
with his whip-smart crew, Dougie was my behind the scenes hero for the
first three Indy movies.”

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Spielberg on Melissa Mathison: E.T.’s Glowing Heart Was Hers

2015
In a TIME Magazine article, Steven Spielberg talks about the late screenwriter Melissa Mathison and her contribution to his upcoming screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG (2016).

Spielberg compares it with his experience of working with her on the story for E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982) while shooting Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981):

“I found working with Melissa that those 30-plus years had evaporated—it was just like being back in the cutting room on Raiders sitting on the floor with a bunch of cards strewn about, trying to figure out that story.”

Mathison was on set of The BFG every day of shooting in summer 2015, so Spielberg calls her “more than just a writing partner—she was a real on-set partner.” He adds:

“It did not feel like an adult was writing words, but
that they were coming improvisationally from the mouths of young people.
That was her magic and that was her gift with E.T., and she’s done the same thing with BFG.”

“I think her legacy will be that she could only tell a story that began and ended from the heart. E.T.’s glowing heart was, in fact, Melissa’s.”

In the same article, Kathleen Kennedy reveals that it was Harrison Ford who talked Melissa Mathison into writing the script for Steven Spielberg’s E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982). Initially, she refused arguing she wasn’t the right writer for it, so Spielberg turned to Ford and asked him for help.

In an interview with EW, Steven Spielberg speaks about his first encounter with Mathison and what he remembers most about his friend and collaborator: Her ability to find wonder in unlikely places. 

“Like a mirage in Lawrence of Arabia…That’s what it was like the first time I set eyes on Melissa. We were shooting Raiders. It was in 1980, in the unbearable heat of Nafta in Tunisia, and amidst a couple of hundred Arab extras dressed in German uniforms, I saw what looked like an egret.This person was bent over, picking stuff up off the ground. I asked, ‘What are you doing?’ And she said, ‘You know, this used to be the ocean floor and look at all these fossils…’ She was right. Everywhere you looked on the ground there were fossils and seashells and all kinds of things in the sand.I said, ‘Who are you?’ And she simply said, ‘I’m Harrison’s friend.’ And I said, ‘Well, what do you do?’ She told me, ‘Currently, I’m a failed writer.’ I began to laugh and she began to laugh. Then I said, ‘What have you failed at?’ She said she had written a number of scripts that she wasn’t really happy with, and only one got made. When I realized she had written The Black Stallion, it stopped me in my tracks because it’s one of my favorite movies. Then I started asking her a lot of questions about The Black Stallion. Before she was even finished answering them, I said, ‘I have a story about this alien that gets stuck on Earth with a family of divorce, and … would you be interested in writing this with me?’  She said ‘No, no, no. I’m retired from writing now. I need to find another way to live my life.’ I started telling her the story of E.T. that I had thus far, not down on paper, but in my head. She heard it and said, ‘That’s really sweet and interesting, but I’ve retired.’

I went back to the set and shot a couple scenes with Harrison and told him this curious story of bumping into Melissa while she was picking up seashells in the middle of the Tunisian desert. I told him I had offered her a chance to write a movie with me and she turned it down. Harrison said, ‘Sounds like Melissa…’ I asked, ‘Can you help me?’ He said, ‘Let me talk to her tonight.’ And so the next day Harrison came into work, and the first thing he said was, ‘I think she’s had a change of heart.’

When I sat down to talk to her about the script again a few days later, she said, ‘I wasn’t really listening to anything you were saying to me before, so why don’t you start over again?’ [Laughs.] She started to brainstorm with me and added all kinds of new ideas to the mix. And that’s when I knew that I had a partner. Melissa was back in the writing game.While I was in the editing room cutting Raiders, Melissa would come in two to three days a week, and we would just sit and develop the story. She would put everything on cards. Those cards became a kind of talisman, and defined the way I thought about Melissa’s creative partnership with me. All these little cards, where she wrote down either my ideas or her own, eventually became the first draft. She went away for six weeks and wrote the script.“When I finally read the script, I pretty much said, ‘I could shoot this movie tomorrow.’ We tweaked it and we changed just a little bit of the third act. At one point, E.T. got sick and was taken to a hospital, and the entire venue of the film shifted to a medical center. On second thought, it just seemed like a better idea to keep it at home and turn the house into a hospital, so that became the triage of trying to save E.T. and Elliott’s lives. Those were some of the very few changes. Of all the movies I’ve ever made, E.T. went through the least amount of revision. Melissa’s heart was just glowing over that movie. 

And the same darn thing happened 30 years later when we started our second collaboration on The BFG by Roald Dahl.The main difference was I didn’t have to talk her into writing this one. She had started writing it even before I came on board and had done three drafts before I started.It was the same energy and ease of conversation that happened all over again. I felt like I got into a time machine with her and went back to E.T.’s making, because the spirit that Melissa carried with her during her entire life had infected all of us, and she shaped The BFG into a portrait of a friendship. Melissa didn’t know she was sick at the beginning. The summer of 2014 was spent in a small garage in my house on Long Island, where we assembled the movie through [pre-visualized animations.] We made the entire movie of The BFG from beginning to end that way, and watched it and changed it. During principal photography in Vancouver this past spring, she was on the set every day, giving me the cards for the day’s work — just like on E.T

She seemed fine, but there were several times that she needed to go back to L.A. for personal reasons. I didn’t ask what the personal reasons were. And one time she was absent [for] four days. Then she came back and she seemed perfectly okay again. So her health issues came as a surprise to all of us.I’ve had a lot of time to think about Melissa since she died in November, and I’m not really sure she’s gone. I feel her presence more than her absence. I’m really going to start to hurt when that fades and I start missing her again in my life.I could speak for many of her closest friends — we’re all still in disbelief that she’s gone. The thing about Melissa was, she could just watch the traffic of everyday things speed by her, which was just fine with her because in her life she preferred to stroll. 

Moviemaking is often a lot of thunder and lightning, and Melissa was always the calm eye of the storm.She could relate to kids better than anybody I had ever met. On the set of E.T., she taught me on the first day of shooting that you never talk down to children. You get on their eye level and you simply fall into conversation with them. It changed my entire approach to directing children because I watched how effortless it was for Melissa to sit with Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, and Robert MacNaughton and just have a conversation with them.I think she understood the natural habitat of childhood. Melissa was all about discovery. And childhood is all about daily, even hourly, even minute-by-minute discoveries.Melissa was like a kid when she was making these little breakthroughs. Like how to tell a story, or how to find the right line of dialogue. Or how to find sea shells in a desert.

Spielberg on Melissa Mathison: E.T.’s Glowing Heart Was Hers

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).

2014
Steven Soderbergh
publishes a black & white version of Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) to demonstrate how the shots are “staged” by Spielberg and his cinematographer Douglas Slocombe.

According to Soderberg, the color is removed and a new soundtrack is added in order to let people study "how all the various elements of a given scene or piece are aligned, arranged, and coordinated.”

2001
Steven Spielberg becomes a Knight of the British Empire (KBE) – one of the highest honors bestowed by Queen Elizabeth II — and a special tribute for an American. Spielberg is honored during a special ceremony at the British Embassy in Washington D.C. He joins an elite list of Americans, including former US Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan, as well as comedian Bob Hope and conductor Andre Previn

According to the the British Embassy, "The award of an honorary knighthood recognizes Steven Spielberg’s extraordinary contribution to the entertainment industry and the British film industry over the last 25 years,“ Spielberg has been a strong supporter of the British film industry since he directed Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) at the London Elstree Studios. In 2000, he films a 10-part television series, Band of Brothers in England.

1982
Three 11-year-olds in Mississippi decide to create a shot-for-shot adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). It takes them seven turbulent years. The project seems to stall after two of them have a falling out over a girl, but they reunite 33 years later to finally finish the childhood dream.

In 2016, Drafthouse Films acquires the worldwide rights to the documentary Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made and announces a theatrical release in summer 2016, followed by various VOD, digital platform, Blu-ray, and DVD releases.

Makes me think about our own Indiana Jones Fan Film Trailer shot in 1984 on glorious Super 8 film. You can watch it below.

Maybe, they can put it on their bonus DVD? 🙂

Read more about our fan trailer.

1981
Wolfgang
Petersen’s Das Boot
depicts the fate of a young crew aboard a German WWII submarine. Jost Vacano’s innovative photography makes us feel the tightness of the submarine’s quarters. The film impresses critics and audiences, even abroad, and is nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director.

Spielberg borrows the 1:1 scale submarine model for his film Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Wolfgang Petersen becomes a Hollywood director and obtains the privilege of “final cut”, which is granted to only a few directors, including Spielberg.

1981
Raiders of the Lost Ark
, Spielberg’s first collaboration with George Lucas is a tribute to old cliffhanger series from the 1930s and 1940s Lucas and Spielberg were watching as teenagers on TV.

In 1973, George Lucas writes The Adventures of Indiana Smith. Lucas discusses the concept with fellow director and screenwriter Philip Kaufman, who works with him for several weeks and brings up the idea of the Ark of the Covenant as the plot device (he was told about it by his dentist when he was a child). When Clint Eastwood hires Kaufman to direct The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Lucas puts the Indiana Smith project on hold and decides to write and direct Star Wars – A New Hope (1977) instead.

After completing Star Wars, Lucas meets Spielberg while on vacation on Hawaii and convinces Spielberg to sign on as director for Raiders of the Lost Ark (Kaufman receives a story credit).

Spielberg wants to iron out the 1941 disaster and completes the film less expensive and faster than expected. Spielberg remembers:

“Every single shot was storyboarded. Raiders was the most prepared I’ve ever been to direct a movie, and it paid off.“

Budget and schedule restrictions help Spielberg to create another cinematic milestone: Raiders is ranked among the greatest films of all time in the action-adventure genre and often in general. Spielberg on the influence of budget and time constrictions on his creative decisions:

"Had I had more time and money, it would have turned out a pretentious movie.”

From the outset, Spielberg suggests casting Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones, but
Lucas objects – he does not want Ford to become his "Bobby De Niro” or
“that guy I put in all my movies”. Among the actors who audition for the
part are Tim Matheson, Peter Coyote, John Shea, and Tom Selleck. Jeff
Bridges
turns down the role.

Three weeks away from filming, Spielberg
persuades Lucas to cast Ford
– and he finally gives in.

Sean Young auditions for the role of Indy’s partner Marion, while Debra Winger turns it down. In the auditioning process, Karen Allen delivers the most convincing performance and gets the part. Other notable cast members include Paul Freeman (Belloq), John Rhys-Davies (Sallah), Denholm Elliott (Marcus Brody), and Ronald Lacey (Arnold Ernst Toht).

Polished dialogues by screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan and skillfull compositions of cinematographer Douglas Slocombe add up to the look and feel of a “classic” Hollywood film. The heated disputes between Indy and Marion are a worthy homage to the screwball dialogue of the Hepburn & Tracy era.

The opening scene in the Peruvian jungle is filmed on the island of Kauai, one of the islands of Hawaii, to where Spielberg will return to shoot Jurassic Park (1993).

Spectacular stunts (coordinated by Vic Armstrong) let Spielberg triumph over the James Bond franchise. John Williams composes one of his best scores to date. Williams offers two different candidates for Jones’s theme, but Spielberg enjoys them so much that he chooses to combine them in what becomes the “Raiders March”.

Raiders of the Lost Ark is a boxoffice smash hit (grossing $384 million worldwide) and remains one of the top twenty highest-grossing films ever made when adjusted for inflation. Not surprisingly, Spielberg reunites with Lucas for three sequels.

The film is acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. In his review, Roger Ebert writes: “Two things, however, make Raiders of the Lost Ark more than just a technological triumph: its sense of humor and the droll style of its characters […] We find ourselves laughing in surprise, in relief, in incredulity at the movie’s ability to pile one incident upon another in an inexhaustible series of inventions

For the second time, Spielberg is nominated for Best Director. Raiders of the Lost Ark is nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, winning four (Best Art Direction, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects) and a fifth Special Achievement Award for its Sound Effects Editing.

For the first time, Spielberg collaborates with Industrial Light and Magic: Unlike his colleagues George Lucas, James Cameron and Peter Jackson,
Spielberg will never start his own visual effects company, but will always rely on ILM’s services. Dennis Muren (who started out with photography of the mothership in Close Encounters) will supervise the visual effects for six more Spielberg films.

Another first: Producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall start to work for Spielberg and continue to do so until today. They join Spielberg in founding the film production company Amblin Entertainment. Amblin’s headquarters on the Universal lot are "donated” by studio boss Sid Sheinberg.

Frank Marshall plays a pilot in the airplane fight sequence, while Dennis Muren has a cameo as a Nazi spy hiding behind a newspaper onboard the Pan Am China Clipper.

1980
First contact with Stanley Kubrick:
While shooting Raiders of the Lost Ark in London, Spielberg meets Kubrick who is directing the film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining. Kubrick proudly demontrates his self-constructed viewfinder which he uses to test the framing of a scene before the actual take is shot.

The two directors become and remain friends until Kubrick’s death – their mutual respect and inspiration culminates in their collaboration for A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001). At Kubrick’s funeral Spielberg is one of the pallbearers and says of his friend: “The greatest master I ever served.”