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Why Steven Spielberg was 'envious' of Martin Scorsese

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Responsible for the creation of some of cinema’s most iconic stories, from Jurassic Park to Jaws, director Steven Spielberg is perhaps the most famous filmmaker of all time, elevating the quality of the late 20th-century blockbuster. Inspiring the likes of J.J. Abrams, Edgar Wright, and David Fincher among many others, Spielberg’s immense impact on the landscape of cinema would help it to transition the medium into a new world marked by vast technological innovation.

No doubt one of cinema’s most important filmmakers, Spielberg also works rigidly within the Hollywood studio system, rarely breaching the walls of its limited style and form. Often leaving the screenplays of his films to a bevvy of different budding writers, it is rare that Steven Spielberg takes full creative control over his projects. Although each of his films may contain a certain emotional, whimsical tone, the director is far from an auteur, quietly drawing inspiration from cinema history to blend in with each of his stories. 

This is clearly something that Steven Spielberg is well aware of too, revealing in an interview with the American Film Institute that his cinematic parallels lie with the likes of Victor Fleming and Michael Curtiz rather than visionaries Martin Scorsese and Orson Welles. As Spielberg stated, “You have a filmmaker like Orson Welles who could only make an Orson Welles picture, and that’s all he could do. I have always envied filmmakers like Scorsese, who make quintessential Scorsese pictures”. 

Continuing, the director adds: “I never felt I had a style, I always felt that I was styleless. That I was a really good storyteller, I could tell a highly stylised story as told by the screenwriter and I would more adapt his/her style in the way I would tell the story, I would serve the screenwriter and I would be a good storyteller”. 

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Commenting on his similarities to filmmakers Victor Fleming and Michael Curtiz, Spielberg further explained: “People like Victor Fleming and Michael Curtiz I identify with more because they didn’t have styles either but they were chameleons and they could quickly adapt, they could go from a story about heaven and an afterlife to the civil war in Gone with the Wind”. 

“They could do a lot of different subjects and they could do them well because they were good craftsmen and they were good with actors and they could draw out good performances but they didn’t impose a kind of who they were on what that was and I always felt I was more in their game,” Spielberg finally concluded. 

Such comments from Spielberg shouldn’t detract from his success as a filmmaker, as whilst he may not match the vision of Scorsese or Welles, he remains one of cinema’s most all-time important directors. 

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