Where the front lot stages meet the backlot perimeter. Producers row sits with offices of top award-winning film makers. Sidney Pollack had his office next door in refurbished bungalow. Michael J. Fox is next door to him. This was back in the day when I had full access to all things Universal…we were M.C.A. in the day. Music Corporation of America, yes- we rock and roll here!
Even the Beatles visited our studio 1965 and quickly became friends with the cast of The Munsters. Due to insurance issues involving the band’s exploding popularity, Lew Wasserman offered up some of our star dressing rooms for their visit before the Dodger stadium concert.
When you see a sign involving a bicycle flying with E.T. in the basket, you’re here. You’re greeted by a wood gate that will open if you belong here, it’s nestled in a southwestern style location of offices and bungalows. A Koi Pond, nestled below tall trees, provides a relaxation area outside. Inside, depending on your visit, is where many of your favorite all time films were negotiated and came to life. A rolling popcorn cart sits just inside from the patio. A quaint theater sits adjacent to entrance. Kathleen Kennedy has offices here. Several films were coproduced by these two.
This sloped agora area also has offices of several of the studio’s top bread winners, including Imagine Entertainment, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard’s company. Here is a list of doors to knock on in the 80’s and 90’s etc…
Dino De Laurentis had a bungalow adjacent to theirs while making Red Dragon with Anthony Hopkins. That complex was at one time Alfred Hitchcock’s.
Tom Shadyac– Shady Acres complex
Ivan Reitman maintained a very plush office just outside the Amblin fences. Kindergarten Cop and Twins were done at our facility.
This area is like the old New York Yankees, Murderer’s Row...Each office has the potential to produce the top film at this lot. Normally, just bet on Spielberg.
Films I have touched bases with him as lead man include;
Amazing Stories- TV
Back to the Future 1, 2 and 3
Jurassic Park 1,2 and 3
Casper– the feature.
Amistad– a prison set on Stage 12
Jaws: The Revenge
War of the Worlds -Starring Tom Cruise
Minority Report- Starring Tom Cruise
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull- starring Harrison Ford
One enormous benefit of production at Universal is the promotional end, trams talk all things Universal films. Especially his, then the hope is you go buy a dinosaur T-Shirt. Go ride Jurassic Park, or E.T. Films interact with promotional caveats to hoist profits upwards in ways no other studio can utilize.
Yes, this man practically lives on this lot during filming and Universal gave him the production office he’s in since they don’t ever want him to leave. It’s quite the marriage, win- win. Sidney Sheinberg is the man responsible for signing on this young director and gave him a project titled –Duel-1971. Lew Wasserman was the last movie mogul in Hollywood at this time. Sid was Lew’s right-hand man.
Steven directed Night Gallery as his starter at the studio in 1969. This episode stars Joan Crawford and also my friend Roddy McDowall. Roddy and I first met on Planet of the Apes, MGM. Then again at Universal on Tales of the Gold Monkey.
Two memorable episodes of Amazing Stories on the backlot were…
One–The Daddy Mummy episode. A hospital bound daddy -to- be, mummified for his role in a horror film, grunts and stumbles his way through our backlot steeped in the Egyptian eerie legend of mummy Ra Amin Ka.
Two–You Gotta Believe Me… Convinced the vivid nightmare of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet crashing into his house is more than a dream. Earl Sweet tries to alter the tale.
Ironically, this would not be the last full scale jumbo jet Mr. Spielberg would bring to our lot. War of the Worlds had a similar fate.
Fast forward to Indiana Jones– Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, the last feature I worked on of his. This show had sets on the backlot and on stages.
Universal’s ancient stage numbered 27 was used as a native jungle temple set. I was on set blowing a fan on our star Harrison Ford- to simulate a breeze.
Harrison is about to grab a blow dart gun from an Indian who is about to launch a poison dart. Indiana Jones blows into it, reversing the dart into the native ‘s mouth. Close-up stuff… all face to face. A pretty slick scene indeed…
Michael Bay happened to be on New York street filming Transformers at this same time.
It was then the A.D. tells Steven,”Michael Bay is here and about to enter inside Stage 27.” In a comic moment, Mr. Spielberg started yelling at his crew in a disrespectful way. That’s because Michael Bay is known to behave that way. So, Spielberg pretended to be rude and crude as Mr. Bay entered, that went on for a few seconds – expletives were being delivered left and right by our director before everyone split their gut in laughter.
Thanks for letting us visit Mr. Spielberg, and especially… for your magnificent film making!
Written and lived by Donnie Norden…