Star Wars vs Close Encounters

Richard Dreyfuss tells Ron Rosenbaum that cinematic history could have turned out very differently if Steven Spielberg had beaten George Lucas to the finishing post:

“George and Steven are best friends and when we were still shooting, [Lucas] had just finished in England, and he came to our set. And I remember we were all out to dinner one night and he [Lucas] was sitting there glum. And I said, ‘What’s the matter?’ And he said, ‘I made it [Star Wars] dumb for kids.’ And then I saw both films. And sure enough, George made a film for kids, while Close Encounters was made for adults. But Star Wars had seized the territory first.”

The territory being a visionary awe of the cosmos, and the potential for contact, versus comic book space opera-style villains. The soulful, obsessive longing Dreyfuss embodied in Close Encounters as Roy Neary, the everyman who went off with the aliens, lacked the comic book impact. “If Close Encounters had opened first,” Dreyfuss contends, “the idea of space and stories about aliens would have been lifted to a certain level of audience maturity. And I think that some of the great writers and some of the great screenwriters and directors would have been making films in that genre as opposed to bang-bang Star Wars and Star Wars sequels. Close Encounters was, from the beginning to the end, about something far more intelligent, or intellectual, or uplifting. It was mature.”

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