Indiana Jones 4: A Visit With Steven Spielberg

I just got off the Universal backlot where Indiana Jones 4 is currently a few days from wrapping production.  A small group of online press including myself were invited  by Steven Spielberg himself to reward the online press for aiding in the capture of a thief who stole thousands of photographs, scripts and the budget from the Indy offices on the Universal backlot. We got 20 minutes with the man behind some of the greatest films of the last 30+ years. No, it was not a dream. Yes, it did actually happen. We grilled Spielberg about everything from Indy to the future of cinema to his upcoming collaboration with Peter Jackson on Tintin. And yes, it was very cool. Here are some details:

Spielberg confirmed that Tintin will be shot on stage using motion capture over a 30-day shoot. One of the films will be shot by Steven, the other by Jackson, and the third by... and this is the shocker: Spielberg said they are on the lookout for a director for the third film, but they are considering filming the movie together. That's right – Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson directing side by side on the epic conclusion to the Tintin trilogy. This is something that has never been clearly stated in the trades.

As for Indy, Spielberg confirmed that John Williams (composer) and Drew Struzan (poster artist) are working on Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

Harrison Ford is doing most of his own stunts, proportional to the last three films.

Most of the effects are practical, Steven estimating 70% of the work was done on set.

Producer and friend George Lucas tried at length to convince Spielberg to film the movie digitally but Steven resisted. He joked that he is the last person in Hollywood still cutting the film negatives, and that he learned from the greats and they all worked that way. He says that he has still never used an Avid to edit, and won't do so until Tintin.

Steven gushed about how a film frame is alive with movement and film grain and that digital video is "too perfect." Lucas tried to convince Steven that they could add the film grain to the digital image, which Spielberg found totally amusing because doesn't that defeat the whole purpose? And wouldn't it just be easier to shoot the whole thing on film.

George was on set for 9 or 10 days but didn't shoot any second unit footage, something that has happened on previous pictures.

Spielberg also confirmed to me that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has been the official title for the fourth for almost a year now (our notes have the script being handed in early fall of last year which totally makes sense). Spielberg admitted for the first time publicly that they did release a couple bogus titles (including the much reported City of the Gods) to feed speculation and allow them to be the ones to "make the title announcement."

Spielberg reassured us that the action was cut old school, and that it would not look modern, joking "I'm not modern." He said there will be "no mtv style cutting" in Indy 4, and that he likes the audience to have a sense of geography of each action scene.

They had thought about re-releasing the original Indiana Jones trilogy in theaters, maybe as a one night or one week event, but he seemed pretty against the idea as it would take away from the event nature of seeing Indiana Jones back on the big screen after almost 20 years. He said that it is still a possibility and that he needs to have a conversation with George and Lucasfilm about it.

The "story" for Transformers 2 will be finalized in a couple weeks, and if the writers guild strike doesn't happen in November, they will be able to go into production on "number 2" pretty quickly.

We were quickly rushed out of the craft service tent as Harrison Ford showed up in full Indy gear. I hate to sound like a fanboy but to see him in the outfit is like seeing Superman in person. It was pretty incredible to see even the jaded of online movie journalists gawking at Ford as we drove away. We also drove by Karen Allen and John Hurt in full wardrobe, while Shia LaBeouf exited his trailer in what appeared to be civilian clothes. But obviously we weren't allowed to take photos.