Sit down with Steven Spielberg and there is plenty to ask about — even beyond his two movies opening later this month, War Horse and The Adventures of Tintin. Was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial really going to be a horror movie? (Yes.) Did John Wayne call to berate the director about his World War II spoof 1941? (Yes.) And how did he handle it when Billy Wilder asked to take over Schindler’s List? (Very delicately.)
The 64-year-old Oscar winner is open and thoughtful in discussing his storied career, from his 1968 short film Amblin’ to Lincoln, the biopic he’s currently shooting in Virginia with Daniel Day-Lewis. Despite all the acclaim (and box office success) he’s had over the years, Spielberg says he’s still anxious every time he starts a new project. “I think it’s my fuel, basically—my nervous stomach. That’s what keeps me honest, right? And a little bit humble, in the sense that when I make a movie, I never think I have all the answers.”
So what gave him doubts over the years? One example was one of his biggest (and earliest) hits: 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. “I was a little bit dubious about what happens when they open the ark,” he says. “What actually is going to come out of the ark? There were a lot of crazy things in the script. I wasn’t sure how much we could actually get on the screen. We made a lot of it up as we were in postproduction.”
For more on Spielberg, including whether he really advised Michael Bay to fire Megan Fox from the Transformers franchise, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now. Or order it here.