Considered to be one of the greatest film makers of our time, it is unfortunate that Steven Spielberg is often reluctant to discuss his films, preferring instead to let them stand on their own merit. In the seven years since the release of "A.I. Artificial Intelligence", it can be said that this film continues to be a source of interesting discussion and debate, just as you would expect for a film with such a storied history as this one. When the opportunity arose for a documentary featuring Mr. Spielberg discussing his career and films at great length that premiered on Turner Classic Movies on 9-July-2007, then even if for no other reason other than simple respect, his words and insight should be shared to help deepen the understanding and appreciation for his films. One segment of that documentary was devoted to the film we celebrate today, and I am sure you will agree it was well worth the effort to transcribe what he had to say.

From the exceptional Richard Schickel documentary titled "Spielberg on Spielberg", and featured on this seventh anniversary since the release of the true masterpiece that is "A.I.", here we have Steven Spielberg in his own words....


Spielberg on Spielberg
TCM, 9-July-2007

 

"The whole superstructure of "A.I." is Stanley Kubrick's vision. I got as close to his vision as I possibly could, even though his treatment left out vast quantities of the story that I eventually had to fill in. It's kind of like in "Jurassic Park" where we talk about filling in the gene sequence gaps with frog DNA; I was the frog DNA in Stanley Kubrick's interrupted vision of "A.I.".

He began talking to me about this movie when he was going to direct it back in the 80's. The only thing Stanley ever really actively involved me in of any of his projects was "A.I.". He kept saying to me you should make this, not me, this is more your sensibility than mine. Every single beat that I put in my version of Stanley's story was first in Stanley's 95-page treatment, almost in detail. I wrote the screenplay because Stanley wasn't alive to write it, and he wasn't alive to make the movie, or I wouldn't have made the movie. But those were Stanley's ideas.

I don't think the mother ever loved David. David was a placebo and the mother felt better because she was getting large doses of a life-like boy that she could take care of and protect.

Stanley intended Teddy to be Jiminy-Cricket, to be let your conscience be your guide. Jiminy-Cricket was always warning David of all the dangers of the human world.

I think it's about two hours and twenty minutes of not child abuse at all, but questioning the audience that came to see "A.I.", about what is the difference between sentient behaviour and the behaviour of a doll. Where is your moral judgment going to fall... where, how are you going to judge creatures that look and act and behave just like us. I think a lot of people were offended that that question was put to them. However, if all the mecha looked like panda bears and fluffy puffy giraffes, or looked like C3PO, there would never be a question that we would ever grow fearful, and therefore hateful of them.

I found when I looked at Stanley's two thousand storyboards on the unscripted part of that treatment he did, which was the flesh fair where David is abandoned by his mother and has to fend for himself, meets Gigolo Joe, and starts having a series of very dark Alice in Wonderland / Into the Looking Glass type adventures that Stanley Kubrick detailed the Flesh Fair. It looked like a concentration camp; it looked like a death camp with all the sub-human mechas being utterly destroyed by the bushel by a very terrified human race. It was so afraid of losing their identities and losing their jobs, first and foremost, to a race of serving men and women, that they just delighted in the inventiveness of decapitation, chainsaw massacring, draw-and-quartering, all of these poor helpless mecha. Stanley's storyboards did not disguise the fact that this all looked like a kind of 24th century holocaust.

People assume that Stanley ended "A.I." with David and Teddy underwater trapped by the Ferris wheel, and then end credits role, and they are going to be down there until their batteries run out. That's where they assume Stanley ended it, and I of course get criticised for carrying the film two thousand years into an advanced future where the robots that we created have replaced us, and super-mechas rule the world. It has become a silicon-based society, no longer a carbon-based society, and they certainly assume that's how I wrecked Stanley's movie. When in fact Stanley's treatment, along with Ian Watson, went right into the two thousand year future. This was where Stanley was going to take the movie had he lived to direct it. This is where I was obligated to take the picture, and even if I didn't feel such an obligation to fulfill Stanley's vision, that would have been my vision as well."

 

Now that you have heard Steven Spielberg's thoughts on A.I., listen to Haley Joel Osment speak about the tremendous impact the film had on his life

 

 


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