Everybody assumes, logically enough, that attitudes toward guns are a central dividing line between Red State and Blue State America, and that Hollywood is Deep Blue.
Except … my impression from living around a lot of low level TV and movie industry grunts is that an awful lot of people in Hollywood, low and high, are crazy about guns, for ten reasons I suggested a couple of years ago.
It’s not surprising that the most prestigious Republican in the movie business, Clint Eastwood, directed the hit Navy SEAL movie American Sniper. But I hadn’t realized until researching my review in Taki’s Magazine that the property had originally been developed by the most prestigious Democrat in the movie business, Steven Spielberg.
you mostly find dull articles about how when Spielberg reissued E.T. in 2002 he had the authorities’ shotguns digitally altered into walkie-talkies.
But if you dig a little more, it turns out that Spielberg is a lifelong passionate shooter, although it’s practically impossible to find a picture anywhere on the Web of Spielberg shooting a gun. Above is the only one I could find, from the “Clients” page of the Italian gunmaker Fabbri.
This website features photos of four satisfied customers: the King of Spain, Tom Selleck, Spielberg, and Spielberg’s old friend, the writer-director-wild man John Milius, screenwriter of Apocalypse Now and director of Conan the Barbarian, an alarming yet strangely central figure in the history of 1970s Hollywood.
Milius wrote for Eastwood the .44 Magnum speech in Dirty Harry:
I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well to tell you the truth in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and would blow your head clean off, you’ve gotta ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?
Spielberg and Milius were close friends from way back in the Seventies. From Joseph McBride’s book Steven Spielberg: A Biography:
The two Bobs [Zemeckis and Gale, future writers of 1941 and Back to the Future] began hanging out with Spielberg and Milius on Thursday nights at the Oak Tree Gun Club in the Newhall Pass north of Los Angeles. Milius had introduced Spielberg to the sport of skeet shooting, a male-bonding ritual for Milius and his fellow Hollywood gun enthusiasts. … Spielberg, who had learned to shoot from his father while growing up in Arizona, still visits the Oak Tree Gun Club. “He’s a darn good shot,” says club member Robert Stack, himself a world-class target shooter. “He has terrific reactions. Clay target shooting is a very subtle, highly sophisticated sport; it takes a lot of nerve. He shot some very good scores.”
Spielberg remains a devoted shooter. From a 2008 Vanity Fair profile of Spielberg’s protege / alter ego Shia LeBeouf:
LaBeouf owns just one gun, but he practically lusts over the collection owned by his Hollywood—and sport-shooting—mentor, Steven Spielberg. “He has the most ridiculous collection,” LaBeouf says. “He’s got a gun for every movie he’s made. He buys old Perazzi guns, Italian—beautiful, beautiful guns—and gets them engraved. It takes like a year. He’s got the Jaws gun; he’s got E.T. He let me shoot with the Jurassic Park gun. He just got his Saving Private Ryan back from the engraver’s.”
I doubt that Spielberg’s love of guns is an anomaly in Hollywood: guys who shoot movies often shoot guns as well.
For a little more on movie directors and guns, see my new review of American Sniper.