Spielberg Became Spielberg
Producers David Brown and Richard D. Zanuck were taking a real risk when they hired Spielberg — after all, this was a high-profile adaptation of a very big book, and at the time, he only had one theatrical feature to his name (The Sugarland Express), which hadn’t exactly taken the world by storm. But his low-budget man vs. machine TV movie Duel had convinced them he could pull off Jaws, and he proved them very, very right. Had the movie tanked, or had they not taken that chance in the first place, we might’ve seen a very different career for Mr. Spielberg; in a 1976 Playboy interview, Robert Altman noted, “I think Steven Spielberg will endure, though it’s tough when a picture like Jaws brings you a lot of success and money overnight that may not strictly be related to the merit of your work. I am not knocking Jaws, which was a magnificent accomplishment for a kid that age. But will he now be able to go off and make a small personal film?” The answer to Altman’s question was probably another one: “Does he want to?” He would eventually make a few such films, but for the most part, he seemed content to become the biggest director in the business.