Steven Spielberg Saved Gizmo

Steven Spielberg shows no signs of slowing down. The 70-year-old filmmaker will be delivering the excellent The Post to theaters this month and releasing his pop culture extravaganza Ready Player One in 2018. But just because Spielberg seems to be constantly plowing ahead into the future, that doesn’t mean we can’t stop and reflect on his past. Two new revealing bits of info from the director’s past detail revelations from former projects, including the time he saved Gremlins and when he got yelled at by Kathleen Kennedy on the set of E.T. 

Let’s talk about Steven Spielberg, shall we? You might have heard of him: he’s the guy who directed Always. He also made a slew of bonafide American classics, and he has the new, star-studded drama The Post hitting theaters before the year ends. But let’s rewind to the ’80s. First up: Gremlins. Spielberg didn’t direct Gremlins (that job fell to Joe Dante), but he served as an executive producer on the film and provided some essential input. Case in point: during a Q&A with Entertainment Weekly, director Joe Dante revealed that it was Spielberg who helped save Gremlins‘ most memorable star: Gizmo.

Per Dante, the original plan for Gremlins was to have the cute and cuddly mogwai go bad and turn into the film’s main villain, Stripe. The early stages of Gremlins only had Gizmo in the flick for about 20 minutes, but then Spielberg intervened. According to Dante, “after seeing all of our tests with Gizmo, [Spielberg] liked Gizmo so much that he said, ‘You know, we really shouldn’t get rid of him, he should stick around and be the hero’s pal for the entire picture.'” In other words, Spielberg realized that Gizmo was cute as hell and that audiences would have a hard time letting the character go after only 20 minutes. Needless to say, he was right. So when you watch Gremlins this holiday season, make sure you offer a mental “thank you” to Steven Spielberg for saving the movie.

Spielberg knows a thing or two about cute, endearing characters beyond Gizmo. His film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial introduced the world to a memorable alien while also reducing audiences to fits of uncontrollable sobbing. It’s one of Spielberg’s best films, wrought with emotion and pathos. But things weren’t so rosy behind the scenes, at least not at first. Talking with THR, Spielberg revealed that in his early days (E.T. was his sixth feature film, not counting the two TV movies he made at the start of his career), he was a bit of a rude jerk to his crew. While the filmmaker remained jovial and kind to his actors, he gave the crews of his films a bit of a hard time, and it took a stern talking-to from E.T. producer (and current President of Lucasfilm) Kathleen Kennedy to straighten him out:

“Basically, I was a little bit of a hothead, impatient, and I would be hard on my crew — loving to my cast but tough on my crew. And about 15 days into shooting ‘E.T.,’ she pulled me into her office and sat me down in a chair and gave me the bollocking of my life. Because she did not like the way I was talking to the crew. She didn’t care for my impatience, she didn’t care for my sharpness. She said, ‘This is unacceptable behavior,’ and I hadn’t heard that since a teacher in school or my own mom — and that was a big shift in my life. I became mindful because somebody I trusted and respected had called me out.”

Kennedy’s sharp rebuke of Spielberg’s behind-the-scenes behavior had a direct impact on him, and made him think twice about leaning into the temperamental jerk artist attitude that so many other male filmmaker seem to unfortunately embrace. At least we can take solace in the knowledge that Kennedy was able to straighten Spielberg out.

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