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Steven Spielberg OJ Simpson Chase Reaction Joke: ‘Stealing My Thunder’

Steven Spielberg OJ Simpson Chase Reaction Joke: ‘Stealing My Thunder’

Most of the action in Steven Spielberg‘s 1974 directorial debut, Sugarland Express, unfolds over the course of an extended car chase as Goldie Hawn and William Atherton’s characters try to evade a long convoy of police vehicles in an effort to regain custody of their young son from foster care.

While the film predated high-speed freeway car chases, modern audiences might be reminded of such events, including O.J. Simpson’s infamous white Bronco chase, which unfolded roughly 30 years ago, on June 17, 1994.

And sure enough, Spielberg himself admitted he thought of his own film when he saw the Bronco chase, which riveted audiences as it took over TV.

Speaking after a 50th-anniversary screening of Sugarland at the 2024 Tribeca Festival, Spielberg jokingly said he thought, “Shit, they’re stealing my thunder,” when he saw the Simpson chase.

Elsewhere during the post-screening Q&A, Spielberg reflected on making the film, including casting lead Hawn and its struggles at the box office as well as how it led to his next film, Jaws.

After a brief video message from Hawn, who shared fond memories of working with the Hollywood legend, Spielberg spoke about how he thought of her for his lead role when studio Universal said they wouldn’t make the movie without a star.

“She has a pure and honest heart,” said Spielberg. “The movie wouldn’t have gotten made without her.”

Though Hawn wasn’t previously known for projects like Sugarland, Spielberg felt she was right for it. However, he noted expectations backfired as he argued audiences expected to see a Goldie Hawn movie and got his film, complete with its tragic ending.

Indeed, Spielberg recalled how the film got great reviews but performed so poorly at the box office that the studio yanked it after two weeks.

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So, he joked, “You’re the first audience to ever see Sugarland Express in 50 years.” The BMCC venue in lower Manhattan was packed, with the audience even giving Spielberg a standing ovation when he took the stage.

Sugarland producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown went on to bring Spielberg to Jaws through a serendipitous turn of events.

The award-winning director recalled seeing the galley for the Jaws book at Zanuck’s office. His assistant let Spielberg read it, and the filmmaker devoured it over the weekend. Though a filmmaker was already attached, he left the project, and Spielberg got the film.

The director also revealed a fun Easter egg for film fans: Zanuck’s son plays baby Langston, whom Hawn and Atherton’s characters are trying to get back, in Sugarland Express.

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