Here’s an intriguing clip from early 1976: A camera rolls as a 29-year-old Steven Spielberg sits down with friends to watch the televised announcement of the Academy Award nominations for 1975. Spielberg’s film from that year, Jaws, was a monster hit–the highest-grossing movie in history up until then–so he was feeling pretty cocky. “You’re about to see a sweep of the nominations,” he says as the broadcast begins. But when the nominees for Best Director are named, his jaw drops:
- Federico Fellini for Amacord
- Stanley Kubrick for Barry Lyndon
- Sidney Lumet for Dog Day Afternoon
- Robert Altman for Nashville
- Milos Forman for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
“I got beaten out by Fellini!” Spielberg says to his friends, the character actors Joe Spinell and Frank Pesce. And he’s right. When the list for Best Picture is announced, the very same movies make it–all except for Fellini’s Amacord, which is replaced by Jaws.
Milos Forman and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest went on to win the Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture that year. Despite directing a string of beautifully crafted blockbusters–Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial–Spielberg would not win an Academy Award for Best Director for another 18 years, with Schindler’s List.
The video of Spielberg’s defeat 36 years ago is fascinating to watch. “What makes it so great,” writes Erik Davis at Movies.com, “is being able to watch a rare slice of history in which a master of his craft actually fails at something. He fails at getting that directing nod, and you can tell in his face that he wanted it. He wanted it bad.” H/T Metafilter