Steven Spielberg Gets Nostalgic About ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ At TCMFF

Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977
Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

Fans got a real treat at the recent Turner Classic Movies Film Festival as TCM Host Ben Mankiewicz interviewed Steven Spielberg ahead of a special screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Fans did not watch the version released in theaters in 1977 but Spielberg’s director’s version. It was a slightly extended version that featured elements originally omitted due to budget constraints. Spielberg ended up cutting a deal where he was eventually able to film the scenes.

Spielberg also spoke about how he was working on Jaws while filming Close Encounters and actor Richard Dreyfuss heard about the new film and wanted to be considered. So he would jokingly diss other actors in hopes that Spielberg would give him the part (for instance, he might go Al Pacino has no sense of humor!). Spielberg had considered Steve McQueen for the role but ultimately decided to cast Dreyfuss after his persistence.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind Richard Dreyfuss 1977

Everett Collection

He added that he loves the casting choice of Teri Garr for the role of Ronnie, Roy Neary’s wife because she brought a lightness to the character amid an intense storyline and helped to give some comedic relief to the movie. Spielberg said, “I didn’t want the character, her character, Ronnie, to just be despairing and to fall apart and to be dark about his darkness. I wanted somebody that could figure out how can I be normal in the middle of my husband melting down?”

Director Steven Spielberg on the set of Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977

Everett Collection

Spielberg revealed that his own childhood led him to want to create the film as he had a fascination with aliens and the unknown. He said he was very influenced by his parents and shared that one night, his dad woke him up, put him in the car and drove him to a park. People were filling up the park with flashlights, looking at the sky and he said his dad wanted him to see a meteor shower. He said that it helped open up his imagination and he felt “romanced by the night sky.”

Tell us, what is your favorite scene in Close Encounters of the Third Kind? Check out the entire interview below:

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March 2020

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