Do you remember where you were when you first saw Jaws? I was at the Amarillo, Tex., shopping mall, and I was 9 years old. My mom — happy to be rid of me for two hours while she took my sisters shopping — dropped me off at the movie theater. I’d been begging for weeks to see this new movie about a shark. So I bought a ticket and would never forget the ensuing 124 minutes. In the following days, simultaneously jazzed and terrified, I relived every second of the movie as I recounted it to anyone who would listen. Several decades later, I’m still haunted by John Williams’ music and the images: the severed leg drifting to the bottom of the sea, Robert Shaw going in feet first. Seven years later I saw E.T. with my dad, but he walked out midway through the film and waited in the lobby. He was a tough, fearsome, self-made man, but this movie did him in; he just couldn’t bear to witness the suffering of that little lost space creature, so far away from home. When my dad died in 2003 and the preacher asked us to share our memories, that’s the one that came to mind.
Most of you have stories of being similarly, profoundly touched by the work of Steven Spielberg — arguably (well, who would argue?) the greatest filmmaker in history. In this issue, Anthony Breznican sits down with the master for the EW Interview — a deep, wide-ranging conversation with Spielberg about his life, his films, and his journey through Hollywood. Movie directors are a curious breed. Though they’re surprisingly supportive of one another, they have healthy egos, generally speaking, and to say they like control is like saying human beings enjoy oxygen. I assume Spielberg shares those traits to some extent, but when you spend time with him — as you’ll see in our cover story — you begin to understand what sets him apart as a filmmaker. He’s warm, funny, engaged, and engaging. He loves hearing about the role his movies have played in Anthony’s life, and he respects each individual’s reaction to his work; the customer is never wrong. Spielberg is not only dedicated to the art of filmmaking, he’s devoted to the audience, and therein lies the magic.