Indy 4 set visit!
In honor of this Thursday's release of INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL we're reposting our article about our INDIANA JONES set visit and meeting with Steven Spielberg. Enjoy!
The call was as mysterious as it was brief: "Mr. Spielberg would like to have lunch with you on Tuesday. Are you available?" It is a question that begs about 100 follow-up questions but those questions were not to be answered. "Even if I knew more than that, I couldn't tell you. And please tell no one about this. Oh and you're not allowed to publish any of the details of the trip on the site." Well, I like intrigue and secrets and Spielberg, so count me in! I was only given about three days notice so I quickly grabbed a plane ticket, booked a hotel room and began to wonder to myself, "What does the bearded legend have in mind?..."
On Tuesday, I got an e-mail while lounging in my Universal City hotel room: a ride will pick you up out front of the lobby. I put on my best Spielberg-meetin' shoes and headed up to the lobby (yes, UP; my room was actually located below the lobby in the basement). Once there, I recognized a familiar face in Quint from Ain't It Cool. Surely he was along for the ride. Then our escort arrived and before you can say KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL, we were whisked off to Mr. Spielberg's office.
At this point, our scheduled 12:30 time was only a few minutes away yet we still had no idea what the heck was going on. Was it a set visit? A screening of some footage? Ruthless vengeance against onliners for spoilers? We pulled up to the first gate and were asked for ID and given a pass. I looked at this purple ticket and felt a little bit like little Charlie Bucket as the Universal gates opened and we slowly pulled through on our way to meet Mr. Spielberg.
After numerous security checks and directions to meet up with a gentleman named Pappy (who in retrospect I realize I never actually did meet) showed up and INDIANA JONES Unit Publicist Deborah Wuliger escorted us to our van. "We're off!" To where? "Lunch, of course!"
In a tinted production van, we drove through the Universal backlot past stages where "Heroes" and "The Office" were being filmed and where tourists were taking their tram rides. Up one hill, behind another, up another and through some winding streets and we finally pulled to a stop in a parking lot full of trailers. We all hopped out and were encouraged to grab a bite to eat at the craft services table. The chef, we were told, is one of the absolute best and is one of the many perks to working on a Steven Spielberg movie. All around us were film crew and extras in Russian Army uniforms giving us the stink eye: who are these people?
After an absolutely delicious lunch (chicken, roasted red pepper, basil over penne with a tomato basil sauce) we were hustled back into the van. "Time to meet Mr. Spielberg!" We were excited, curious and apparently oblivious. We were scooted along in such a hurry because right behind our backs were Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, Shia LaBeouf and John Hurt all in costume, coming for lunch. I only noticed them after the doors were shut and the engine was running. But seeing Harrison Ford in person as Indiana Jones at a ham carving table was something I will absolutely never forget.
We return to Amblin headquarters on the Universal lot and went through some secret doors before we arrived at their offices. And boy this is some place to work. What a beautiful campus. I knew we were getting close when I saw the window with all the Oscars lined up along the window. People all around just looking like the loved doing whatever it was they were doing. And then we were brought into Mr. Spielberg's private screening room...
There was to be no screening of INDIANA JONES footage this day but Mr. Spielberg came out shortly thereafter and went around the room introducing himself, or should I say, we introduced ourselves. After I gave the requisite "Mike Sampson from JoBlo.com" he took a step backwards, waved his hands and said "Oh, I know you!" You do?! Wow, I had no idea!...
The basic gist of the invite was not to exterminate us for what we have said about INDIANA JONES but to thank us for what we didn't say. He talked about the recent theft of the INDIANA JONES materials and how devastating it was to him. What was stolen, he claims, was everything. It could've and would've ruined the entire film. That we all were presented with this mother lode of scoopage, didn't post it and actually alerted them to the problem, was something he wanted to personally thank us for. He had some time so he said, "Let's talk Indy!"
Sadly none of us came prepared for a Q&A but I think we all responded rather admirably. We talked about his plans for the Drew Struzan poster ("Definitely") that should be available in November. We talked about how he and George Lucas debated whether INDIANA JONES 4 should be filmed digitally or traditionally (Spielberg listened politely to Lucas' arguments and equally as politely said, "no"). We talked about how good Karen Allen still looks and how limber Harrison Ford still is at 64. We talked TINTIN, we talked Russians vs. Nazis and we talked about a potential re-release of the original trilogy (don't count on it). Sadly, not a single person among us had a tape recorder (remember we originally weren't supposed to be able to publish this) so exact quotes are spare. I didn't even have a notepad to jot anything down.
After it was over, Mr. Spielberg said goodbye and left us each a parting gift: personally autographed INDIANA JONES posters. We were told that was apparently a very big deal as Mr. Spielberg very rarely obliges autograph requests. That's fitting cause I never make autograph requests. In all the years I've been doing this, I've never once asked for an autograph. It just gets...weird. But this was a nice treat.
After that, we were off. Quint and I spent a few minutes afterward just shooting the shit with the Unit Publicist while we waited for a ride and then, bang, we were off. I was back in my hotel room left thinking to myself, "Did that really happen?"
Thanks again to everyone at Paramount and Amblin Entertainment who made the trip possible!