The Big One

A visit to the lost world of Steven Spielberg

[Editor's note: Standing at the dais with a value-pack of gold-plated trophies, Steven Spielberg seems like a public artist, a known entity. But when the lights drop low in the theater, who is the dreamer of DreamWorks? To address that question, City Pages offers the following exclusive transcript of a private conversation between Spielberg and an unnamed interlocutor.]


Session w/S. Spielberg, 3/19/99

Steven Spielberg tries to get a handle on the enormity of his movies
Steven Spielberg tries to get a handle on the enormity of his movies

So you're saying that the raptor--

The velociraptor.

Yes, the velociraptor, you're saying that what's frightening about the animal is that its endowment is somehow not normal?

I would have to call it abnormal. There's no normality about this endowment. Every shot, the immensity keeps poking its way out of the frame. I don't know if you've seen the movie...

We're talking about Jurassic Park?

Yes, although for all intents and purposes, the endowment should be the same in The Lost World. See, the velociraptor is a fast dinosaur, and it moves swiftly across the screen. It's a blood dinosaur, a pack hunter. But with this...abnormal velociraptor, the brute keeps lingering in front of the camera when I'm trying to cut to the screaming scientists and the weeping kids.

So you're saying that children are afraid of the raptor's--

The velociraptor...

--that children are afraid of the velociraptor's endowment?

They're pissing themselves. Not just the kids in front of the camera but the kids in the theaters. They're spilling their sodas on their laps and pissing themselves.

They are spilling the soda first, and then they are pissing themselves?

I couldn't determine the order with absolute certainty, but to the best of my recollection, both things are happening pretty much at the same time. The theater owners and the bigger exhibitors--the Loews, the Manns--they're not happy about the fluids being left on the seats after this movie of mine. These are supersize Cokes we're talking about. A lot of the kids today drink the Mountain Dew, which has a lot of caffeine.

The kids in the theater watching your movie are dosing themselves with diuretics?

I've heard from the exhibitors that Mountain Dew is a diuretic, which becomes pretty obvious if you're looking down at the floor of the theater when the velociraptor first appears. The rain sequence from Singin' in the Rain--it's like that, volume-wise. And the thing is, when I call over to George at Industrial Light and Magic to complain, he tells me that this...this magnitude is the industry standard. Godzilla, George tells me, is a big boy when he gets worked up. And this is only lizards we're talking about, who, as species go, are not your heavy hitters. George tells me that Industrial Light and Magic had to farm out the Ape's piece for Mighty Joe Young. The job was too big for one shop to handle.

So when you talk to George on the phone, you discover that the dinosaur's endowment is, by the standard of your peers, quite typical.

It's small. Smaller than average.

George tells you that the velociraptor's endowment is subnormal?

He doesn't exactly come out and say that. But he tells me that in the new trilogy, Jabba is really uniquely large--I mean larger than what the American audience has been prepared to see before watching this movie. It might be different in Germany.

Does it disturb you to discover this?

Honestly, Doctor, I'm mostly alarmed at what my own velociraptor looks like in close-up. See, for the longest time, I'm cutting and picking and scanning, trying to keep the velociraptor's enormity out of the frame. But the first camera keeps going in there, getting closer.

You feel you've lost control of the camera?

Gradually, I become aware that we're going to see the velociraptor up close whether I want to or not. I'm not telling the camera to zoom, but I'm not telling the camera not to zoom, either.

Your use of the double negative is very interesting. Though the scale of the dinosaur's corporation is surprising to you, in another sense it fulfills certain expectations.

I hadn't thought of it that way before. I should say, though, that while what has happened up until this point has definitely been eye-opening, what happens next drops my jaw into my lap.

Are you saying this for the sake of hyperbole, or is this loss of oral self-control part of your concern?

The comment, as I meant it, was really just an exaggeration.

I think we should leave that line of inquiry open for a later time.

I totally agree, Doctor.

You were saying, In close-up... close up I start to notice that the velociraptor seems to be emitting a noise. Now despite being a pack hunter, the velociraptor, by all biological and archeological accounts, lacked a voice box to communicate. Most scientists have reached a consensus on this point. The sound starts as a creaking, and then deepens into a kind of croak. I should tell you that the sound system in this theater isn't THX quality by any means, so there's a high-end hiss that may or may not be coming from the velociraptor.

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