Steven Spielberg looks inward before ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’

Sept. 10, 2011 | 5:41 p.m.

Director Steven Spielberg uses a vast miniature set of the Tunisian desert to plan a complex shot for “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” (Lucasfilm)

Steven Spielberg, directs Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones on the set of "Raiders of the Lost Ark.” (Lucasfilm)

Harrison Ford watches director of photography Douglas Slocombe, director Steven Spielberg and art director Leslie Dilley set up a shot of the Chachapoyan Fertility Idol for a scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” (Lucasfilm) (Los Angeles Times archives)

In honor of the 30th anniversary of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Hero Complex will be screening the film Monday with an onstage Q&A with Steven Spielberg. Leading up to the event, we’ve been looking back at the landmark film and its influence on cinema and pop culture. Today, from the L.A. Times’ own version of Hangar 51, a 1981 profile of Spielberg.

A few days before “Raiders of the Lost Ark” opened in theaters, a 33-year-old Steven Spielberg, no longer baby-faced, wondered aloud when the next generation of filmmakers would arrive to displace him.

Spielberg and a group of filmmakers he called “a mouse pack” — George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Brian DePalma, Martin Scorsese and John Milius — had surged on the scene a decade earlier.

Now, in 1981, Coppola was running Zoetrope, his own movie studio, and Lucas had retreated to his Skywalker Ranch haven. Spielberg, though, told Los Angeles Times reporter Dale Pollock that he wasn’t ready to move on. Or grow up.

“All of us are going through our Peter Pan stage of trying to hold on to whatever vestiges of our childhood are left,” Spielberg said. “We’re like a wave on its way to the shore — we’re heading for the rocks.”

He needn’t have worried; in the next decade, he would write, direct or produce films that seemed to encapsulate childhood, films that would become touchstones for a generation of moviegoers. “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” in 1982. “Gremlins” in 1984. “The Goonies” in 1985. “Hook” in 1991.

But in 1981, days before “Raiders of the Lost Ark” opened to rapturous reviews and awestruck audiences, Spielberg was a little unsure, and very reflective.

“I don’t want to be an emperor of high finance,” he said. “I enjoy going out to the middle of nowhere and getting 400 extras to hit their marks. I’ll always be the worker bee, never essentially working for myself.”

Read the entire Steven Spielberg profile, “The graying of a crapshooter,” by Dale Pollock, Los Angeles Times, June 10, 1981.

– Noelene Clark


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One Response to Steven Spielberg looks inward before ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’

  1. Robert Walcott says:

    The stage is set but time is not on our side. If we're going to do this, the time is "now".

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