Spielberg, Scorsese and Lucas walk into a bar…

This incredible piece of television history was making the rounds online last week. Of course I have all the thoughts about it. For one, I was 8 when this aired. While I was already watching At the Movies at that age, I hadn’t yet honed in on the masterful work of “The Three Great American Directors” Siskel & Ebert interview in this gem.

Arguably, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese are still the Three Greats, all these twenty-odd years later, each still making films that at least make headlines if not history.

There are so many amazing things about this forty-eight minute video (seriously, worth every one), not the least of which is watching the VHS tape fast forward through the commercials. I can almost picture the guy doing the converting, doing that dance we all do now with DVRs. If I hit plaaaaaay….NOW!…it’ll start just as the last commercial ends!

But I digress. Amazing moments.

  • Speilberg wants to direct a Howard Hughes film. Yep, Scorsese ended up doing that
  • He also adamantly says no to making an E.T. sequel. When pushed to explain, “There’s nothing more to say, I said it all. With Raiders, had an appetite for more adventure, and I still do,” he says. And the world has Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull to show for it, sir.
  • Can we talk about how incredible it is to hear Ebert’s iconic voice? It may or may not have brought tears to my eyes. (It totally did.)
  • The big tease of the special? Scorsese’s still-in-production Goodfellas. There’s something inexplicably cool about seeing the future for these films that are just glimmers in a director’s eye. Also, Scorsese’s astonishment at the exorbitant expectations for box office returns? Amazing. And still accurate. “When it makes $160 million, they get upset!”
  • Ebert’s shock by Lucas’s assumption that Star Wars would cost $75M to make in 1990 is kinda adorable. “You’re kidding!” he exclaims. Wonder what 1990’s Ebert would say about the $115M it cost to make Phantom Menace…
  • Conversion from a VHS and you get to WATCH THEM FAST FORWARD THROUGH COMMERCIALS. Oh, the 90s.
  • I’m in awe of this whole thing. I only wish they were all in the same room for the interviews. Can we still make that happen?
  • The moment wherein Scorsese admits about Spielberg’s films: “I don’t think I can make a picture like that. I like to watch them, I don’t think I can make them.”
  • Spielberg talks sex scenes, and it’s both insightful and awkward.
  • Each is asked to define his career with a single frame from one of his films. Scorsese picks Raging Bull’s opening shot, the desperation and isolation; Spielberg names Close Encounters, a scene with the boy standing at the doorway as the light floods in. Lucas defers the question, something about pacing and timing over photographic composition. Can’t help but wonder what they’d pick today.
  • I’m floored by the segment on HD technology – I honestly didn’t know it was a thing in 1990, but there you have it. It’s still “experimental” to the 1990 version of these five – though that doesn’t keep Siskel from waxing philosophical: “Some people may never want to go to a movie theater again.” Lucas predicts a more flexible state of film production, one where some movies will be made for the theater experience, some for the home. Cannot duplicate in the home the “magical experience” of going to a theater, he says. Which sounds a bit like forecasting the future of independent film and a multi-channel distribution model.
  • Spielberg quotes Coppola in 1967 as saying, “The day’s gonna come where everyone can walk around with a motion picture studio on his shoulder.” Which is so prescient it’s spooky. He hadn’t the slightest clue about video cameras on our phones, that the studio would be in our pockets instead of our shoulders.
  • There’s a sweet moment Siskel is asking Spielberg about home videos, how they’ve made everyone a filmmaker (laughable!). And Spielberg sweetly assures the amateurs, “At home, my advice would be: Shoot from the heart. Don’t listen to us. Just make your own movies.”