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Are Steven Spielberg’s best films made in tight circumstances?

‘The Post’ is yet further evidence that you should never write off the iconic director
Steven Spielberg at The Post premiere
[Image: Getty]

If there’s one thing that every movie fan should know by now, it’s that you never write off Steven Spielberg.

Mutterings that Spielberg might have lost his audience first emerged after 2004’s “The Terminal.” They then rose more acutely after the disappointing double whammy of 2008’s “Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull” and 2011’s “The Adventures Of Tintin,” and most recently when “The BFG” failed to be the huge summer family adventure film everyone expected back in July 2016.

But Spielberg always fights back. After “The Terminal” there was “War Of The Worlds” and “Munich.” After “Crystal Skull” and “Tintin” Spielberg made the brazenly sentimental, but nevertheless impressive, “War Horse” and the astounding “Lincoln.” While the disappointment of “The BFG” was preceded by the unerring quality of “Bridge Of Spies,” and has now been followed the potently relevant and stirring “The Post.”

What makes the release of “The Post,” which has received numerous award nominations and has earned praise for both its timeliness and rousing depiction of one of the most important journalistic events in the history of America, even more impressive is just how quickly it was made.

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Steven Spielberg knew just how timely the story of The Pentagon Papers was, so in February, 2017, he decided to proceed full speed on the project. Production began on May 30, giving those involved less than 7 months to get it shot, edited, and shown to critics ahead of its December 25 release date and awards season push. This meant that “The Post” was Spielberg’s shortest ever production schedule.

But, for Spielberg, this was just par for the course, as the iconic director has often been able to create magic in the tightest of circumstances. This began with just his third film as a director, and the crazy production of “Jaws.” As Richard Dreyfus once famously stated, “Jaws” started “without a script, without a cast, and without a shark,” before then going over budget and nearly two months over schedule. Yet, amidst this chaos, Spielberg created one of the greatest films of all time.

Then, after Spielberg had suffered the first setback of his career with “1941,” he altered his approach for “Raiders Of The Lost Ark” like a sports star adjusting his normal game to overcome an annoying adversary. He used four storyboard artists to keep the film on budget, camera trickery, miniatures and puppets for special effects, and kept the amount of takes for each shot down to four. 

But while “The Post” is the ultimate example of Spielberg’s lean, speedy approach, there are many other examples. Astonishingly, both “Jurassic Park” and “Schindler’s List” were released in 1993, in June and November, respectively, with Spielberg editing both at the same time.

“The Lost World,” “Amistad,” and “Saving Private Ryan” then came out in a 14 month period between May 1997 and July 1998, as Spielberg was simultaneously editing, shooting, and in pre-production, while he only gave himself two months off before being back on set on each. 

“Minority Report” and “Catch Me If You Can” were separated by just 6 months in 2002, as were “War Of The Worlds” and “Munich” in 2005, the latter of which only had a 2 month post production period between end of shooting and its release date.

A lengthy post-production time and delayed release meant that “The Adventures Of Tintin” and “War Horse” were released within four days of each other in Christmas, 2011, with “Lincoln” then arriving 10 months later in October, 2012, just in time to be in Oscar contention. Even “Bridge Of Spies” and “The BFG” were released just 8 months apart.

No-one should be surprised then that another Steven Spielberg release will arrive on March 30 in the shape of “Ready Player One,” and that he already has “Indiana Jones 5” and a “West Side Story” remake in the pipeline, too.

All of which means that even at 71 Spielberg finds new ways to astonish, as well as making every other filmmaker out there look lazy in comparison.