Today’s guest contributor is former Wall Street Journal and Fortune writer, Erik Calonius. Erik collaborated with Dan Ariely on Predictably Irrational and he has a new book out from Penguin Portfolio, Ten Steps Ahead: What Separates Successful Business Visionaries from the Rest of Us.
Do you remember that famous scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indy confronts a Tunisian swordsman: The swordsman twirls his weapon menacingly. Indy backs off, perplexed. Then he suddenly brightens, pulls out his pistol, and bang, shoots his opponent dead.
In a newly published memoir, The True Adventures of the World’s Greatest Stuntman, the film’s stunt co-coordinator (and Harrison Ford look-alike), Vic Armstrong, describes how the scene came about.
And with it comes something special–an insight into Steven Spielberg’s special brand of visionary thinking. It happened like this, Armstrong says:
The cast and crew were in Tunisia. It was blisteringly hot. A stunt team had worked for two weeks choreographing an elaborate fight scene between Indy and a hulking swordsman.
But as they presented the scene to Spielberg one morning, a problem arose. “Look, I’m going to shoot whatever I can until three o’clock because then I’m getting out of here,” Armstrong recalls Spielberg saying. Peter Diamond, the stunt coordinator, was dumbstruck. He told Spielberg it would take four days to film the scene. Spielberg would have none of it. “I’ve got a plane coming at three, I’m out of here; I’ve got enough.” Other members of the crew protested, but Spielberg was adamant.
Assistant Director Dave Tomblin stood there in disbelief. “Well, it’s stupid doing the whole routine,” he fumed. “You might as well just shoot the guy with the gun.”
And here comes Spielberg’s visionary moment: There was silence, and then Spielberg brightened. “I’ll tell you what,” he exclaimed. “Let’s try that. Yes, let’s try just shooting him.”
And the rest is history.
The point is this: Some of us might have delayed our flight. Others might have created an elaborate plan to delegate the scene to others. But Spielberg displayed the mark of a true visionary. His thinking was completely out of the box: He grabbed an offhand comment, saw the genius in it and committed to it completely—and that’s what makes visionary thinking what it is.
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