Duel: A Conversation with Director Steven Spielberg

Synopsis: Director Steven Spielberg discusses the making of his motion picture Duel (1971).
36 min

You just never know.

You just go along figuring

some things don't change, ever.

Like being able to drive

on a public highway...

without somebody

trying to murder you.

And then one stupid thing happens.

And it's like, there you are,

right back in thejungle again.

My God!

I'd like to report a truck driver

that's been endangering my life.

I was sitting around the office one day,

looking through scripts...

continuing to write, trying to get

my feature film ideas off the ground...

trying to get hired.

My assistant, Nona Tyson,

found Duel.

She said, "I read an article, a short

story by Richard Matheson in Playboy. "

I said, "Why are you reading

Playboy, Nona? Are you kidding?"

She said, "No. I love the fiction. "

She said, "I want you to read this.

I think it's right up your alley. "

I read the short story,

and I said, "Wow. This is terrifying.

This is like a Hitchcock movie. "

It's like Psycho or The Birds,

only it's on wheels.

A truck chasing a salesman

through the desert.

She said, "I also found out that Richard

Matheson is writing a screenplay.

They're gonna do a Movie of the Week,

produced by George Eckstein. "

She gave me this info. I called

Eckstein, who didn't know me from Adam.

Knew of me, because they used

to call me "Sheinberg's Folly"...

'cause I was the young kid

he had hired.

I think I was the youngest person ever

signed to a term contract at Universal.

I wasn't really that highly regarded.

I was this abstract young person...

that only loved lenses and dolly shots

and didn't know anything about acting.

That's the reputation I had then.

I called George Eckstein up and said...

"I've read the short story, but not the

script. Let's talk about this. "

He invited me over to his office

and asked me to bring my best work...

so he could see an example

of my most recent work.

I brought over the rough cut

of Columbo, which hadn't aired yet.

I brought the rough cut over and left it

with him after this conversation.

He saw the cut.

He called me back to his office.

He said, "Okay. Gimme your ideas on how

you'd like to make this into a movie. "

He gave me the script of Duel.

I read the script. I came back,

had another meeting with George.

Gave him all my ideas,

and he said, "I'll get back to you. "

A day went by, two days went by.

I didn't hear a thing.

The third day, I got a call from George.

He said, "I'd like you to direct this. "

It was like the greatest phone call. The

second greatest phone call I ever had.

The first being when Sheinberg called me

and got me out of college...

to, you know, be a director.

The second one was when Eckstein called

and said, "I'd like you to direct Duel. "

That's how it all began.

I was intimately familiar

with the work of Richard Matheson...

because I was a complete obsessive-

compulsive Twilight Zone follower.

So I knew of his work

on the Twilight Zone.

Some of the really

great episodes of that.

You are getting smaller.

Certainly I'm a fan of The Incredible

Shrinking Man, which he authored.

I actually, in one week, got to meet him

and Ray Bradbury for the first time.

It was kind of

a banner week for me.

My attraction to it wasn't

because it was a horror movie.

I didn't really see anything

about it as a western.

I thought it was just

a complete exercise...

in a cat-and-mouse game

of classic suspense.

To give credit where credit is due,

it's Richard Matheson...

that was very clear in his teleplay

that you didn't see the driver.

You might see a hand out the window

telling him to go into oncoming traffic.

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Laurent Bouzereau

Laurent Bouzereau is a French-American documentary filmmaker, producer, and author. more…

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Submitted on August 05, 2018

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    "Duel: A Conversation with Director Steven Spielberg" Scripts.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 5 Aug. 2021. <https://www.scripts.com/script/duel:_a_conversation_with_director_steven_spielberg_7339>.

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