The Big One

A visit to the lost world of Steven Spielberg

I'm disappointed because the audience might be disappointed. I should tell you, too, that as I hear the hiss, I'm starting to suspect that, given the primitive reptile anatomy we're dealing with, the sound is originating from the same substantiality that I was talking about a minute ago.

We're talking about the endowment again.

Yes. And despite the fact that the theater's tweeters sound like they've been slashed with box cutters, the croaking starts to resemble a word.

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

Can you recall what that word is?

El--li--ot. El--li--ot.

The endowment has a speech impediment.

No, no. It's unmistakable. El--li--ot. El--li--ot. And then it quickens. Elli-ot. Elliot.

You seem agitated as you're recalling this.

I feel that this is some sort of breakthrough. The velociraptor's prodigiousness is speaking, and it's saying, "Elliot." I should tell you what it is I'm looking at while this is happening. The trunk of the prodigiousness is thick and low to the ground, and the neck and arms are slender and distended at the extremities. I should note, too, that this is first-rate work. The endowment is Oscar quality by anyone's standards. The epidermal layer is just amazingly well crafted--a speckled green covering with fine folds.

The velociraptor appears to you to be dappled and in a flaccid state.

Once it starts talking, saying "Elliot," and the camera really gets intimate, the amplitude has an animated quality to it. It's lifelike, Oscar-quality work. It says, "Elliot" a few more times, and then it says, "ball"; then "boy"; then "bird."

I am sensing that the velociraptor's endowment has invested itself in developing better communication skills.

It's a very fast learner. And the kids in the audience appreciate this.

And you take pleasure in their pleasure?

Definitely, Doctor. At this juncture, I seem to regain some mastery over the situation. I observe that the audience is becoming quite taken with this ponderosity. More so than they've been with the velociraptor. And it crosses my mind that if I could separate the ponderosity from the raptor--

You mean the velociraptor?

Touché, Doctor. If I could separate the ponderosity from the velociraptor, I might have a spinoff character.

The endowment, you come to believe, might be able to establish its own distinct identity.

And I think, next, that there's no reason DreamWorks wouldn't own the sole licensing rights to the pendulousness as a unique, freestanding franchise. Universal Pictures, you see, controls the right to merchandise the velociraptor. But this walking, talking pendulousness--this I could put into a Saturday morning cartoon. A straight-to-video release. I picture the pendulousness on the side of a plastic commemorative cup from Taco Bell. This pendulousness has a future.

You imagine the endowment providing material benefit to you personally and professionally.

I have a strong feeling that it will.

Would you describe that feeling as a rational conclusion or a hunch?

Definitely the latter. I'm working intuitively, and it feels good. At this time, I decide I should probably take a break from filming and try to figure out if we might be able to do a picture. The stateliness and I enjoy a frank and constructive exchange of ideas. I discover that it likes Buñuel. I like Truffaut quite a bit. I think we can meet on Ivan Reitman. Before long, we've moved past the niceties--I like its work; it professes to like mine--and we're trying to line up a concrete project.

You evaluate the situation, discover your interests, and act decisively.

I try to, Doctor. But I think the rotundity senses its industry stature swelling. And I sense an almost imperceptible change in the room temperature. The encounter becomes slightly guarded. And so, for the moment, we agree to agree in the future and we shake on it. Then, as happens so often in the business, we move on to other movies.

The endowment is long, but memory is short.

Your summary of the situation is characteristically profound, Doctor. I start work on Schindler's List the next month. I have some thoughts about casting the colossus during preproduction. But considering the source material--the Holocaust--I just don't think it's right for any of the parts. I've seen the colossus work, and I know that it's pretty much irresistibly cute in front of the camera--which rules out any of the camp guards or the SS officers. I mean, there's a certain Jimmy Stewart vibe to the colossus that I'd noticed when it was saying "Elliot," and "bird" and "ball" and whatnot--something in the quavering of the voice. And you don't cast Jimmy Stewart as a Nazi. But on the other hand, its stature is too great to play one of the Jews.

You have trouble viewing the endowment as a victim of history.

The mountainousness sends me an audition tape, which shows tremendous promise. So I send a note to its agent--great working with you, you've got a great future, a limitless talent, et cetera--and then hunker down to the task at hand. But the mountainousness doesn't seem to want to take the hint, and it turns up uninvited on the set the first day of shooting.

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