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

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
collaborates with Virtual Reality Company (VRC) on a project that employs immersive multimedia reality. In 2015, Steven Spielberg signed on as one of VRC’s advisors. And now, Spielberg is once again pushing the boundaries of storytelling.

The news breaks at the Technicolor Panel of the Sundance Film Festival. In his reply to a question on how to take VR filmmaking to the next level, VRC co-founder Robert Stromberg says “it is about getting other filmmakers interested of course, from the independent level to getting major players involved as well… I can say here, my company – VRC – we’re working with, for instance, Steven Spielberg on a project that’s solely for VR.

With Steven Spielberg directing Ready Player One (2018), a film that takes us into OASIS, a computer-simulated utopia, it is obvious for him to get involved in projects related to virtual reality. A tie-in experience similar to The Martian VR Experience (inspired by Ridley Scott’s film) is just one of several options.

Spielberg’s film is based on Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One, a love letter to 1980s pop culture, from Atari video games to the films of Steven Spielberg. By the 1980s, the term “virtual reality” was popularized by Jaron Lanier, one of the modern VR pioneers. Lanier’s company VPL Research  developed several VR devices like the Data Glove, the Eye Phone, and the Audio Sphere.

Illustration: © 2016 Virtual Reality Company

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

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

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

After Disney acquired the company and Kennedy became president of Lucasfilm in 2012, there was no denying: Spielberg had to find a replacement for his trusted long-time producer and co-founder of Amblin Entertainment. The Disney production The BFG (2016) has probably been the last Spielberg-directed film, with Kennedy attached as producer – unless Spielberg is hired by her to direct Indiana Jones 5 for Disney.

Spielberg must have seen it coming: Fifteen years ago, he made Kristie Macosko Krieger his assistant on A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (2001). For Catch Me If You Can (2002), she became Spielberg’s associate and continued to prove her skills and trustworthiness on projects such as The Terminal (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), and Munich (2005).

Meanwhile, Kathleen Kennedy showed extraordinary commitment to mentoring
the next generation of female executives. Macosko Krieger must have been among them. Asked about Kathleen Kennedy, she says:

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

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

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

Photo:

© 2016 Amblin Partners

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

2016
Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is nominated as Best Picture by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences

Spielberg now holds the record for producing more films that have been nominated as best picture than anyone else. Bridge of Spies is his ninth Academy Awards nomination in the category.

The film receives six Oscar nominations in the following categories (click the links for background information).

Best Picture: Produced by Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Mark Rylance

Best Production Design: Adam Stockhausen; Set Decoration: Rena DeAngelo and Bernhard Henrich

Best Writing (Original Screenplay): Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen

Best Music (Original Score): Thomas Newman

Best Sound Mixing: Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom and Drew Kunin.

All Academy Award nominees and winners


Bridge of Spies is also nominated for the following awards (among others):

Golden Globes: Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture (Mark Rylance)

Producers Guild of America (PGA): Darryl F. Zanuck Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures (Steven Spielberg Marc Platt, Kristie Macosko Krieger)

Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG): Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Rylance)

The Writers Guild of America (WGA): Best Original Screenplay (Matt Charman and Ethan Coen & Joel Coen)

American Society of Cinematographers (ASC): Outstanding Achievement in Cinematography in a Theatrical Release (Janusz Kaminski)

Art Directors Guild of America (ADG): Excellence in Production Design for a Feature Film, Period Film (Adam Stockhausen)

Satellite Awards: Best Motion Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Art Direction & Production Design

Bridge of Spies wins the following awards:

Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

AFI Awards: Movie of the Year

British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA): Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

Boston Society of Film Critics Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

Hollywood Film Awards: Cinematographer of the Year (Janusz Kaminski), Sound of the Year (Gary Rydstrom)

Indiewire Critics’ Poll: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

National Board of Review (USA): NBR Award, Top Films

National Society of Film Critics Awards (USA): Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance)

Toronto Film Critics Association Awards: Best Supporting Actor (Mark Rylance).

Photo: © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox

2016
Kodak
Launches Super 8 Filmmaking Revival Initiative at CES 2016.

The initiative is supported by directors such as Steven Spielberg, JJ Abrams, Quentin Tarantino and Christopher Nolan.

Steven Spielberg on why this Super 8 revival is so necessary:

“For me, 8mm was the beginning of everything. When I think of 8mm, I think of the movies.”

“When I watch the news, I expect and want it to look like live television. However, I don’t want that in my movies. I want our century-plus medium to keep its filmic look and I like seeing very fine, swimming grain up there on the screen. To me, it’s just more alive and it imbues an image with mystery, so it’s never literal. I love movies that aren’t literally up in my face with images so clear there is nothing left to our imaginations. Had I shot it on a digital camera, the Omaha Beach landings in Saving Private Ryan would have crossed the line for those that found them almost unbearable. Paintings done on a computer and paintings done on canvas require an artist to make us feel something. To be the cursor or the brush, that is the question and certainly both can produce remarkable results. But doesn’t the same hold true for the cinematic arts? Digital or celluloid? Vive la difference! Shouldn’t both be made available for an artist to choose?”

Photo: © 2016 Eastman Kodak Company

I wish you all a happy 2016! 

This has been an amazing first year for my Steven Spielberg Chronicles. I had some close encounters with wonderful people who supported me all along the way – thank you so much, you made my day, er, my year! And a hearty welcome to all new followers who are ready to share my enthusiasm for Spielberg’s awesome achievements as a director and mensch

Stay tuned for another exciting Steven Spielberg year…
Joerg B.