Spielberg Reacts to the 1975 Oscar Nominations: ‘Commercial Backlash!’

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

Relat­ed con­tent:

Steven Spiel­berg Admits Swal­low­ing a Tran­sis­tor to Andy Warhol and Bian­ca Jag­ger

Ter­ry Gilliam: The Dif­fer­ence Between Kubrick (Great Film­mak­er) and Spiel­berg (Less So)

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