Steven Spielberg brings filmmaking magic to 'BFG'

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LOS ANGELES — There’s a first time for everything. And that includes Steven Spielberg directing a film for Disney.

It’s a big-screen adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG, which hits theatres tomorrow.

“It’s a movie I have not made before,” the 69-year-old Oscar-winner tells a small group of international reporters at a West Hollywood hotel.

In the Melissa Mathison-scripted version of the children’s classic, Spielberg’s new BFF Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies, Ready Player One) plays a gentle-hearted giant, who befriends an orphaned girl named Sophie (played by Ruby Barnhill). The BFG (short for Big Friendly Giant) takes her back to Giant Country to keep her from telling anyone about him.

The friends also team up to take down the Fleshlumpeater (voiced by Jemaine Clement) and his group of kid-eating giants.

“Melissa Mathison wrote so many beautiful conversations that created a friendship and a need for the little girl to help the giant solve his problems and also solve the problem that the big, bad giants were perpetrating on the world,” Spielberg says. “I’ve not done fairytale movies before, and so that was my way into my first fairytale and my first Walt Disney movie.”

The BFG marks the first in a series of films Spielberg will direct in the next few years. He and Rylance will reteam for The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and a big-screen take on Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One.

He’ll also direct Harrison Ford for a fifth Indiana Jones.

“I don’t do it with a calendar,” Spielberg tells Postmedia Network when asked about his eclectic collection of projects. “I don’t decide what movie to make based on thinking, ‘I haven’t made this in years.’ It’s just how it hits me. There are certain things that hit me really hard, but I wind up producing them or buying them for (his company) DreamWorks to make, and there are other movies that clobber me and knock me almost semi-conscious and those are the movies I end up directing.”

In a wide-ranging conversation, Spielberg reflected on his decades-long career, revealed when he lets his ego take over and offered his reasons for staying out of the Star Wars universe.

Here are the highlights.

Why he decided to make The BFG:

When I read Melissa’s script I was on vacation … I read it and I said, ‘I feel this in my bones. I just deeply feel this story; this is a story I can do a good job with and I should tell it.’ I said this in front of my assistant and my wife and our guests, we were all together and I just said, ‘I’m making this next.’ They always look at me like I’m crazy and my wife says, ‘Where are we schlepping off to this year? What country are we going to this time?’

On the meaning of his films:

What it does in the world is up to the world, not me … I can only control what I can control. A long time ago, I realized I have no control over the audience even though I’m given all sorts of unearned credit for being able to predict what the audience wants and giving it to them at that moment. That’s all kismet — that’s just the alchemy of what happens when you make a movie and say, ‘I did the best I could and this film represents who I am today.’ But I don’t ever think anything I’ve made is important until the audience finds relevance. If I did, I’d only be telling stories based on films that I’ve already made … and I’d just be repeating those stories over and over again.

Does he have an ego?

I’ve never made a movie from my ego. The only time I’ve used my ego is when you see I’m going to direct another Indiana Jones film. The only time where ego becomes part of it is when I make a sequel and then the ego says, ‘It better be as good if not better than the previous one.’ That’s the only time I wonder, ‘Why am I doing this? I already did it once before.’ Probably the answer to that is, ‘So nobody else does.’

Why he never makes the same movie twice:

It’s like going to college and taking a course you have a kind of superficial interest in; but as you start to study and you start to read and you start to listen to your professor you become enthralled and you can’t get enough of it. So every film for me is like learning from scratch.

Will he ever direct a Star Wars film?

I’m never going to make a Star Wars film. That’s not my genre. It’s certainly my buddy’s — the Thomas Edison of science fiction, George Lucas, who created the entire series. But that was never for me. I’m just a fan; I’m just with everybody else in the audience watching them.

The BFG opens Friday, July 1.

Twitter: @markhdaniell