Interview: How Kristie Macosko Krieger Went From Steven Spielberg's Assistant to His Producer on 'Bridge of Spies'

Interview: How Kristie Macosko Krieger Went From Steven Spielberg's Assistant to His Producer on 'Bridge of Spies'

Feb 02, 2016

It's a safe bet that there are a ton of Steven Spielberg fans who would love to tap into the brain of Kristie Macosko Krieger. She's been working with Spielberg for over two decades and has been involved with every single project he's been involved with since 1997. That means she's been privy to every stage of production on movies like Minority Report, War of the Worlds, and Lincoln, on TV shows like Band of Brothers and The Pacific and in Spielberg's prolific philanthropy, including the Shoah foundation. 

But Krieger has long since been promoted beyond being just Spielberg's assistant. She's now an active, full on producer and her latest production with Spielberg is one of the best movies of 2015, Bridge of Spies. Out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD, it's an entertaining, inspiring and important movie about the true story of James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), a seemingly ordinary man whose life had an extraordinary effect on America during the Cold War.

We recently spoke with Krieger about how she transitioned from being Spielberg's assistant to his producer, about how they came across Donovan's incredible story, and what's next for her and Spielberg, including Ready Player One and a return to '80s era Amblin movies.


On going from being Steven Spielberg's assistant to his producer:

Kristie Macosko Krieger: I started out working for Shoah Foundation, which is Steven's foundation that takes testimonies of holocaust survivors. I started there in 1995, and before that I worked at Amblin in the publicity department, before DreamWorks even started. Then I went to the Shoah Foundation and was a publicist for two-and-a-half years, and then in 1997 I started working for Steven as his first assistant. So I worked on every movie with Steven that he's done since postproduction on Saving Private Ryan until now. I've worked on every movie for him, so I was mentored by Spielberg and Kathy Kennedy, Frank Marshall, I went from assistant and just got more and more responsibility and learned more and more and then Steven made me a producer.


On lessons learned from Kathleen Kennedy:

Krieger: I think the biggest lesson that I've learned from everybody that I've worked with, and the great ones do it seamlessly, is that you are always in service of the film. You are always in service of the director's vision, which in my case has always been Steven. Every decision you make, every problem you solve is with that in mind.


On When Steven Spielberg just became her coworker, Steven:

Krieger: That's an interesting question. I started working for Steven Spielberg directly because I felt he was a great human being, not necessarily as an amazing filmmaker. I worked with him on the side of the holocaust testimonies, so I saw the humanitarian side of him. I knew him as a human and was more in awe of that than the filmmaking, to be honest. So for me, I've always had a rapport with Steven where we've just been two people coming to work to do the same thing. My job was to always put on whatever hat he was wearing that day, and it didn't matter if it was his family, his philanthropy, his business, the movies, TV. You name it, it didn't matter, I just put on the hat, we linked arms and worked together.

On how much they knew about James B. Donovan before doing the movie:

Krieger: We didn't know anything. When we heard the pitch, the only thing I ever knew was Gary Powers. You sort of knew about Francis Gary Powers, and that was it. I knew about him because he actually died in a helicopter crash in the valley in the '70s. I always found it fascinating that he survived this important plane crash, only to die in another crash in California many, many years later.

Matt Charman found the story from a footnote in a book he was reading about John Kennedy. It said something like 'James Donovan secured the capture of 1,300 prisoners from Cuba and the Bay of Pigs.' He wanted to know who Donovan was, so he researched it and then came to us and we said, 'Can that possibly be true? And if it is true, wow that would make a great movie!'

He was highly principled. He was also on the prosecution team on the Nuremberg trials. His biography is quite astounding. He should be a bigger historical figure, to be honest. And hopefully because of our movie, he now may be.


On the Donovan family's reaction to the movie:

Krieger: His family all saw the movie right before we premiered the movie. They had 80 members of the family and friends there and Steven's biggest worry was if he had gotten Donovan right, and they all said he had. For Steven, that was the best affirmation that he had done right by them in making this film.


On how hard it is to make a modestly budgeted movie like Bridge of Spies these days:

Krieger: It feels hard. It definitely feels harder unless you're a big tentpole action figure or comic book. It is tough. We were lucky. We made the movie for just $55 million, and we shot in three countries in four different places, so I feel like it is all up there on the screen. This movie gets made because you have Steven Spielberg and you have Tom Hanks.

On whether or not the movie could work without Tom Hanks:

Krieger: I don't know, he was the only person we thought of for it. Could we have made it with someone else? Probably. But I don't think, in my mind, anyone could have been James Donovan except for Tom Hanks. And luckily he thought so too! That was the best part of it for us. We were thrilled that he was thrilled.


On what '80s pop culture icons they're actually allowed to use in Ready Player One:

Krieger: It's called weekly clearance calls. Loooong weekly calls with Warner Bros.' clearance. But it does seem like a lot of people are on board. It's a huge volume of things we have to clear, but we're very fortunate that most people are wanting to sign on just to be a part of it. It'll really make the movie iconic in the reverence to the '80s culture. It's a lot of work. A lot of work. It does make it easier when you say a film is being directed by Steven Spielberg.


On the future of Amblin Pictures and what kind of movies they'll make:

Krieger: I think we're just saying to ourselves, ' Amblin was an amazing production company that made amazing movies. Those are the types of films we want to make.' They are family films. They're four quadrant with something for everybody, whether it's Goonies or Gremlins or American Tail or Back to the Future...every movie we did in the '80s and '90s. We are going back to that. We want to tell stories that feel Amblin-like.


On if we'll ever see another Adventures of Tin-tin:

Yes, I think we will. I think we will. Peter Jackson will direct the next Tin-tin, they are working on the story. We don't know when it will happen, but the hope and the prayer is to make Tin-tin 2. But it's up to Peter Jackson. Peter's directing it and Steven is producing, which was always their plan together.  

Bridge of Spies is out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.


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