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Andy Bluff the Film Buff
Meets Steven Spielberg

by Andrew Smith

He has a beard and wears glasses. He's responsible for 6 of the 10 most highest grossing films of all time. I don't know that for sure, but it sounds about right. He's the world's richest nerd. Apart from Bill Gates. Yes, it's Steven Spielberg, and I met him.

"Take me to the residence of Mr. Steven Spielberg," I barked to my driver. "And don't spare the horses."

The limo sped past trees and gardens hiding white-washed enclaves, the retreated mansions of the rich. "Over there. Don't dally man!" We cornered into a driveway made of limestone chips, an iron gate barring our way. A security guard sauntered up. "Andy Bluff," I said. "Your employer is expecting me." He motioned us through.

Steven Spielberg is arguably the most powerful man in Hollywood. So famous, his surname runs unmarked past my spell-checker. But fame has its price, and in Spielberg's case it's his paranoia. No sooner had I introduced myself than he freaked over a rat in my pocket. "What's that?" he cried, pale-faced. Scared.

"A rat," I said. "What the fuck did you think it was?"

Spielberg shifted uneasily, distressed. " I don't know. A shrew or something." A stench filled the room.

"Well it's not. It's a rat, so deal with it. And go change your pants, man."

While he was gone I opened a window and mooched lots of furniture and high-tech electronics.

A plasma screen dominated the room, blank.

Foolishly, he'd left a diary on a mahogany coffee table. I opened it on the tab: 15th March 2000. He'd written: 'Must remember to call George...he's still pissed I have his CD-ROM. Bluff to interview me @ home this aft.. Shitting it. Hope he hasn't heard about R."

My first thought was, why do people feel the need to abbreviate the word 'at'? And then - who the hell is R? Spielberg returned bearing tea and biscuits. "Hope you like digestives," he said. I didn't, I'm a hobnob man, but I let it go. But the tea was inexcusable. Weak, sugary, over milked - I'd sooner drink pus. I spat it out all over his face. "Jesus, that tea's foul. Get me some water will you?" He scurried away to the kitchen. You just don't get the staff these days.

I looked around the room once more. Nailed to the wall, next to a framed promotional poster of Jaws, was a scaled-down model of the infamous shark, its blood-tipped teeth bared. Spielberg, returning with a jug of water, caught my stare. "Jaws," he said fondly. "Seems like only yesterday. Yet it was so long ago."

"It's a great film," I admitted. "I thought the best thing about it was the shark itself. It was so terrifyingly realistic."

"Did you really think so?"

"No. So, tell me about your new film."

Big mistake. He wouldn't shut up. I switched off my ears and took in his face. With his round glasses and pensive stare, there is something owlish about Steven Spielberg. Indeed, if he had feathers, a large head that rotated 180 degrees and a dead mouse in his mouth I'd conclude he was, literally, an owl. But an owl could not have directed Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET. An owl could not have presided over Jurassic Park and the Indiana Jones trilogy. For an owl has no voice nor hands.

He was still banging on about his new film. Due out next year, he said. I really wasn't interested. I fiddled with my watch strap impatiently, waiting for an opening. None came so I interrupted as tactfully as I could.

"Shut your fucking mouth Steven and answer me this. Who is R?"

"R?"

"R. Don't bullshit me. My sources are impeccable"

"I don't know what..."

"ENOUGH! WHO IS R, GODAMMIT?"

"A...R is a special friend, that's all I'm saying."

"What - friend, lover, companion? What?"

"All of those and more. Can we leave it now Andy. Please?"

I relented. After all, I was here to discuss films, not extramarital affairs. Besides, he looked on the verge of tears; the last thing I wanted was him blubbering away like a big hairy baby.

Spielberg makes two kinds of film with no middle ground between. He makes blockbuster fantasies (Jaws, Close Encounters, ET, Jurassic Park) and blockbuster 'serious' films (The Colour Purple, Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan). He knows his audience, for sure, but there seems to be a child/adult conflict going on somewhere in his psyche, and to my mind the child wins out. His fantasies - pure entertainment-driven movies - are the better, more convincing films. They came first because they come naturally. I put this to him; he seemed aggrieved and eager to dispute the point.

"I must disagree with that evaluation ," he said, stroking his beard, putting his pompous hat on. "My so-called serious films have been the ones closest to my heart, the ones I care about most. It's taken me years to reach this point where I can make these films without a studio calling the shots, controlling the purse strings. Saving Private Ryan didn't happen 20 years ago, not because I didn't want it to, but because it couldn't."

"Bollocks," I countered. "Of course it could, albeit on a smaller scale. Ever heard of a budget under $20? You could have experimented, made a low-key, low-budget war film if you wanted. You had the kudos to do that but you didn't. So don't give me that. And anyway, that wasn't my point. My point was this.Your fantasy-type films are good but your serious films are shit."

"SHIT?" he cried. "Why are they shit, tell me that?"

"They are overblown, over-worthy attempts to establish yourself as part of a canon of artful, serious filmmakers, when everyone knows you'll be remembered for the invention of the blockbuster. And they always lapse into horrid sentimentality."

"I disagree. Most emphatically."

"Well you would, you bloody made them didn't you?"

We both lapsed into sulky silences. Eventually, still wounded, he said, "Okay, as an example, tell me what was wrong with Empire Of The Sun?"

I had to confess I hadn't seen it. He wasn't happy.

"How can you sit there and slag off films you haven't seen?" he demanded.

"I've seen most of them," I protested. "Well, I haven't seen Private Ryan but I've heard it gets mushy at the end, which I hate. As for Empire Of The Sun, everybody says the book is miles better than the film, and I didn't think much of the book, so the film must be absolute rubbish. And why do you keep on about the Second World War? On and on and on. For God's sake, change the fucking record."

"Oh, piss off," he said.

He refused to speak to me again.

On my way to the car I encountered the security man again. He was leading a handsome red setter up the path to the front door. As we nodded our good-byes, the setter escaped from his grip. The dog sprinted across the large enclosed lawn, leash dangling behind - a doomed bid for freedom. The guard, eyes rolling, cursing mildly, followed at a jog. "Rusty!" he shouted, "Steven's waiting for you. Here, girl! Rusty!"








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