Where are the great movies, asks Spielberg
STEVEN Spielberg has criticised modern film making, claiming there have been very few great movies made over the past two decades.
In an astonishingly blunt appraisal of the health of Hollywood, the revered director said there were “not a lot of films” that he believed to be worth watching.
The 64-year-old, responsible for epics including Schinder’s List and Jaws, revealed that few films since what he believes to be the the golden age of the 1950s and 1960s, have inspired him.
Instead he said he relied on his pre-production ritual of watching four classics: Seven Samurai, The Searchers, Lawrence of Arabia, and It’s a Wonderful Life, to help ensure the success of new projects.
In an interview with The Sunday Times he said: “There’s not a lot of films I’d watch that are made over the past 20 years, because I’m much more of a romantic.
“I like to go way back to the source. I look at a lot of silent movies for inspiration because they’re all told visually and they’re all told with hyper-extended performance and with wonderful use of a frame. It’s a way of getting my engine started.”
Spielberg is currently working on a film version of the theatrical hit War Horse which is due to be released in the UK on January 13.
The story began as an extraordinary children's book about the brutality of the First World War, seen not through the eyes of a combatant but of a horse.
A quarter of a century later, it was adapted for the stage in a production that took puppetry to a new level, and is still playing to packed houses in London.
Now, however, the novel, originally by Michael Morpurgo, is set to make the final transformation to the big screen directed by Spielberg. Incredibly, it is one of six films he currently has in production - either as director or producer. He also has a further 24 films in development.
Attacking the prevalence of film franchises - movies based on toys, or video games, that are intended to sell a product as much as they are to entertain - Spielberg said: “I think producers are more interested in backing concepts than directors and writers.
“I don’t think that’s the right way of making a decision about whether you’re going to back a film or not, but a lot of these hedge funds - these independent groups that are coming up with the money - are looking at the big idea more than who the director or writer is. And of course, they all want the guarantee of a big actor.
“My whole career has survived without big movie stars. Yes, I’ll do movies with Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks, and I enjoy that, but most of my movies have had unknowns in them. And they’ve done pretty well.”
But despite his strong views, Spielberg, who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1946, maintained that even bad films were capable of offering a glimmer of genius.
He insisted that it was “rude to leave a movie” no matter how disappointing it proved, claiming that “clearly, someone was passionate enough to make it”.
He added: “If something isn’t very good, I’ll stay to the end in case it gets better. I keep looking for that ray of hope when I’m disappointed by a picture or a show. It’s just plain rude to get up and walk out of something that someone has laboured over.”