Steven Spielberg uses lessons from Alfred Hitchcock all the time. So why didn't Hitch agree to meet Spielberg?
If I asked you to close your eyes and name the two most famous directors of all time, I think 90% of you would name Hitchcock and Spielberg. Their names are synonymous with their own types of movies. We even have the words "Hitchcockian" and "Spielbergian" to describe them.
It seems like these two directors could have gleaned a lot from one another.
I mean, Duel is basically Spielberg doing a Hitchcock film!
But when it came time for Spielberg to meet Hitchcock...he refused. But why?
Let's go back in time briefly. After the huge success of Jaws, Spielberg was riding high. He was beloved in Hollywood and able to get onto any lot and any set. He had his eyes set on meeting Alfred Hitchcock, who was shooting his final film Family Plot, which would be released one year later.
According to The Independent, in Stephen Schochet’s 2001 audio book Tales of Hollywood, Hitchcock’s morning routine was said to have been “upset by an uninvited young man hovering around [his] movie set”.
According to Schochet, that man was Spielberg. And he says Spielberg tried to meet Hitchcock on the set of Torn Curtain 10 years earlier.
Either way, the Family Plot story is that Hitchcock saw a guy skulking around and assumed it was a gawker, so he had a crew member remove him.
Imagine being the PA asked to chase away Steven Spielberg.
It was generally believed that it was all done by accident...but nothing in Hollywood is purely coincidental.
Enter Bruce Dern. In his 2014 memoir, Things I’ve Said, But Probably Shouldn’t Have, Dern recalls attempting to convince Hitchcock to introduce himself to Spielberg. “I said, ‘You’re his idol. He just [wants] to sit at your feet for five minutes and chat with you'...He said, ‘Isn’t that the boy who made the fish movie? I could never sit down and talk to him... because I look at him and feel like such a whore.’”
Wow—what a crazy reaction! But the story does not end there. Dern continued, “I said, ‘Why do you feel Spielberg makes you a whore?’ Hitch said, ‘Because I’m the voice of the Jaws ride [at the Universal Studios theme park]. They paid me a million dollars. And I took it and I did it. I’m such a whore. I can’t sit down and talk to the boy who did the fish movie. I couldn’t even touch his hand.'"
So let's get our facts straight. Many people do not know this, but Hitchcock was was the third-biggest investor in Universal Studios. A very lucrative investment. While we don't have tangible evidence linking him to doing the voiceover for the Jaws ride, there was a trailer he filmed for the Universal Studios Tour Hollywood, which featured snippets from the ride.
It seems like Hitchcock hated selling his moniker "The Master of Suspense" in order to advertise Spielberg's material. But if they really did pay him a million dollars to do it...perhaps he felt like he sold out at the end of his life?
This story really bums me out, because Jaws feels like the heir apparent to Hitchcock's The Birds. It focuses on characters, their flaws, and uniting people on an island against an attacker that they have no shot at defeating.
I get scared to ask for help and inspiration in Hollywood all the time. Spielberg was on top of the world. Really only a guy like Hitchcock could truly understand what he was going through and maybe could offer him some advice.
I mean, one of Steven Spielberg’s greatest heroes was Alfred Hitchcock.
To be spurned had to hurt.
Obviously, things turned out all right for Spielberg, but this should be a lesson to all of us not to big-time the people we deem to be below. The best part of being on top is reaching down to pull people up to stand next to you.
Those moves solidify your legacy for years to come.
Let us know what you think in the comments.