“You think of that young kid, sneaking his way into a studio and manifesting his own destiny…it’s a pretty fantastic Hollywood story” — Leonardo DiCaprio quote from Susan Lacy‘s Spielberg, an HBO doc that will begin airing on Saturday, 10.7. He’s referring to an oft-told story about the teenaged Spielberg flim-flamming his way around the Universal lot in the mid ’60s, pretending to belong, sneaking around, etc.
Lacy talked to Spielberg for 30 hours while collecting insights and recollections from J.J. Abrams, Leonardo DiCaprio, Richard Dreyfuss, Ralph Fiennes, Harrison Ford, David Geffen, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Holly Hunter, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Ben Kingsley, Kathleen Kennedy, George Lucas, Liam Neeson, Martin Scorsese, Oprah Winfrey and Robert Zemeckis.
Saying it again: Spielberg’s ass has been steadily smooched by every Tom, Dick and Harry in this town for the last 40 years. What are the odds that Lacy will attempt even a slight variation on this?
Posted on 7.13.17: “I’m not saying the point of Lacy’s doc is to warm up the atmosphere and fluff up the bed on behalf of Spielberg’s The Post (20th Century Fox, 12.22), but it certainly won’t hurt in this regard.
“Imagine if Lacy’s doc was given to brutal honesty and was titled Super-Hack, and was basically about selling the idea that throughout his life Spielberg’s default instinct has never been anything more profound than wanting to get a rise out of Joe Popcorn, and that aside from E.T., Schindler’s List, Lincoln and maybe four or five other exceptions to the rule, there’s nothing wrong with banging out commercial movies or being the most talented and financially successful hack in Hollywood history.
“From ’75 through ’82 Spielberg was regarded by everyone (myself included) as a consummate filmmaker. He seemed to have an extraordinary ability to make his movies jump through the scrim — stylistically vivid, often entertaining, frequently impressive and, of course, financially successful.
“Spielberg knows his craft like few others, but 85% to 90% of his films have mostly been free of any kind of singular passion or deep-rooted beliefs about human nature and how the world works or an underlying current of any kind. Spielberg is a Capra-esque suburban sentimentalist who believes in the goodness of American families, small-town neighborhoods, emotional moms, chubby kids, aliens cute and ferocious, happy endings, carefully choreographed action and wow-level spectacle.
“For over 40 years Spielberg has shoveled and the public has bought, and that’s why honest film historians of the future will regard him in the same light as Cecil B. DeMille and Mervyn LeRoy. Which is fine as far as it goes. He’s made a lot of money for a lot of heavy-hitters.”
Not to toot my own horn but I snuck onto the Universal lot also. In the spring of ’82 I climbed a chain-link fence and nonchalantly strolled over to a Scarface soundstage that contained a portion of Tony Montana’s Miami mansion. I went right over to craft services and pretended I was a crew guy. I stood before a huge portrait painting of Tony and Elvira, which the film shows for maybe 1.5 seconds, if that. Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer were hanging around.