With the impending arrival “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the months ahead will feature lots of reminiscences about the first time various show business big shots encountered the franchise or what the characters and films meant to so many childhoods. But no one will have J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves beat when it comes a tale of happenstance that changed their lives, starting them on the path that would lead their career’s as filmmakers and see one of them get a chance to direct a bona fide ‘Star Wars’ movie.
Chatting with Vanity Fair, producer Kathleen Kennedy shared the great story about how Abrams and Reeves first crossed her path decades ago, and met Steven Spielberg, thanks to a dusty box found in a basement in Arizona. Read on….
It was funny. I was working with Steven, and I got a phone call one day. And this man was living in a house up on Lookout Mountain [in Arizona]. He’d been down in his basement, and he found this box covered in dust. And he said to me, “These are all home movies, and I think they belong to Steven Spielberg.” Now, my first cynical thought, unfortunately, was, you know, this is just somebody trying to get money. And so I’m going to not act overly excited about this. I just said, “Well, you know, great. If you don’t mind, we’re on the Universal lot. Maybe you could just swing by and drop the box off, and we’ll take a look and see if in fact they belong to Steven.” So I hang up the phone. The first thing I say to Steven is, “Did you ever live on Lookout Mountain?” He goes, “Yes, I did.” Now I’m thinking, Okay, this guy’s not making this up. So I said, “Well, somebody thinks they found your home movies.” He goes, “Oh, my God, you’re kidding!” And he had just assumed all these early Super 8 films he had made when he was 15, 16 years old were long gone. He’d lost them; he didn’t know where they were.
So this man arrives. Here’s the box. He couldn’t have been sweeter, couldn’t have been nicer. Drops off this box. Sure enough, Steven’s beside himself because here are all his old movies that he made. So ironically, I had picked up the L.A. Times that morning and read about these two kids who had won this film award, and their movies were being shown at the Nuart Theatre [in Los Angeles]. And I said to Steven, “You know what would be really great? Why don’t you hire these two kids who just won this film award, who would probably give anything to meet you, and they could clean up your movies and transfer them to tape so that we never run the risk of these movies disappearing again?” And those two kids were J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, who just did Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
And they came in. They were 15, 16 years old. And they ended up doing exactly that, cleaning up the Super 8 movies, and we’ve all stayed great friends ever since. All our kids went to the same elementary school. We followed J.J.’s career, so when he committed to Star Wars, it was this kind of fantastic coincidence of fate, I guess—preordained destiny or something.
That’s some kind of Amblin magic right there.