Interview with Charlton Heston

EDITOR’S NOTE: Charlton Heston died April 5, 2008 at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. Lydia, his wife of 64 years, was by his side. Heston was president of the National Rifle Association, America’s most powerful lobbying organization, from 1998 until he resigned in 2003 when his health began faltering due to Alzheimer’s. At the 2000 NRA convention, Heston raised a flintlock rifle over his head and yelled that a potential Democratic presidency could take away his gun rights only from his “cold, dead hands.”

Here’s an interview with Charlton Heston in 1997. This interview won first prize in “The $21,000 Great Stories Contest,” a nationwide writing competition sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Outdoor Writers Association of America:

Charlton Heston led the NRA from 1998 to 2003. Photo courtesy of Heston’s PR agency. Image used with permission


‘MOSES’ LEADS THE PRO-GUN CHARGE

By RONI TOLDANES

He is known worldwide for his magnificent portrayals of remarkable men. He has portrayed presidents, generals and statesmen; even win­ning an Academy Award for playing the title character in one of Hollywood’s greatest epics, Ben-Hur. But for millions of his movie fans around the world, Charlton Heston is Moses, the scepter-wielding prophet who led his people to freedom from the tyrannical grip of a despotic pharaoh in the blockbuster film The Ten Commandments.

Now, looking back over a career that has spanned half a century and more than 70 motion pictures, Hes­ton shares his views about gun ownership and his active par­ticipation in the defense of the Second Amendment. He is back in the limelight after his election as president of the beleaguered National Rifle Association, a key position in the fight of Americans to pre­serve their right to bear arms. He has become a real-life Moses for gun owners.

Heston, who said he learned to use a shotgun at age 10 in rural Michigan and prides himself on a personal collection of at least 30 firearms at his Beverly Hills home, said he figured his best asset to the NRA was his fame. “I have my access in Congress because I’m so pretty,” he quipped. “That counts.”

Even those who disagree with Heston acknowledge that his dramatic role as “Moses” in The Ten Commandments is difficult to erase from the pub­lic’s mind. “It’s somewhat flattering to lose to Moses, the voice of God,” said Neal Knox, explaining why Heston was able to sweep onto the NRA board and defeat him.

Heston himself is eager to oblige to that notion, which he described in his recent autobiography as “my expanded persona, riding the tiger.” With his image as Moses, he said he gets invited to dinners with powerful politicians and influential world fig­ures. Before his interview with this writer, he trav­eled to Washington, D.C., for political kibitzing and to New York for a dinner with Prince Andrew hon­oring the American Air Museum in Britain.

A few years ago, Heston was busy promoting his book To Be a Man, which he dedicated to his grandson, Jack.  Thousands queued for his book signing. One of the memorable comments he’d received was from an elderly woman who said, “I quit the NRA because of its bad image. I’m joining again because I know you can straighten things out.”

Photo provided by Charlton Heston. Image used with permission

Both gun lobbyists and gun control advocates say that Heston provided the kind of shot-in-the-arm desperately needed by the NRA and all American gun owners. His primary value lies in being a credible conservative. “Heston can make sure that people understand that the NRA is a mainstream organization,” Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) said. “He can deflect some of this criticism that the NRA represents the fringe elements of society. Charl­ton Heston is not a fringe person. ”

Observers attribute the scope of Heston’s appeal not only to his stardom but to a reputation untarnished by the sexual and drug-related peccadilloes that dog so many celebrities. “Charlton Heston is a man motivated by commitment,” said Washington-based political consultant Tony Makris. “He’s been married to the same woman, Lydia, for 63 years – his first and only love, the first woman he ever dated.”

RAP CONTROVERSY

In conversation, Heston was his usual affable self – a kind of old-school combination of court­liness, disarming self-mockery and perfect dic­tion. He took advantage of that diction in 1992 when Time-Warner was under attack for releas­ing rapper Ice-T’s controversial “Cop Killer” CD.

Heston, who owned several hundred shares of Time-Warner stock, barged into the stock­holders’ meeting in Beverly Hills that summer and condemned the company for putting out an anti-police album.

With about 1,000 stockholders intently lis­tening, Heston stood up and, with this sonorous voice, read the profane lyrics of “Cop Killer,” which almost no one in the room had heard or seen. The lyrics began with “F—k the police.” Heston’s move startled the stockholders and company executives. It was reminiscent of the movie scene when Moses raised his scepter and parted the Red Sea.

Time-Warner executives defended the album in terms of the First Amendment, but Heston told them, “Let me ask you: If this piece were titled ‘Fag Killer,’ or if the lyrics went ‘Die, die, kike, die!,’ would you still peddle it? It’s often been said that if Adolf Hitler came back with a dynamite treatment for a film, every studio in town would be after it. Would Warner be among them?”

Heston left the room in an echoing silence.

Several weeks later, Time-Warner caved in to crit­icism and intense national pressure, announc­ing that it had parted ways with Ice-T due to a dispute over album artwork. Industry observers credit Heston for the company’s decision.

“I’m proud of what I did, though now I’ll surely never be offered another film by Warner, nor get a good review from Time magazine,” Heston says. “On the other hand, I doubt I’ll get a traffic ticket very soon.” Heston has since sold his Time-Warner shares of stock.

OUTSPOKEN BELIEFS

Heston has devoted a great amount of his energy to causes in which he has strong and outspoken beliefs. He was an active supporter of Dr. Mar­tin Luther King Jr. in the early days of the strug­gle for civil rights in America, “long before it became fashionable.”

His unsullied reputation brought him respect and admiration from his colleagues in Hollywood. He was elected pres­ident of the Screen Actors Guild and served six terms on the board of directors; and was appointed co-chairman of President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 task force examining the fiscal worthiness of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Like most men in his generation, Heston learned about firearms at a young age because he often accompanied his dad hunting in the Michigan woods. Heston didn’t hunt for trophies but for the meat, mostly partridge. “Hunting requires patience and concentration,” he says. “Life has lent me these qualities since, but I lacked them as a boy.”

Heston believes that the media, in general, are mistaken for saying that the public is anti-gun and anti-NRA. “We’re not a lonely band. We represent mainstream America. Gun owner­ship is too deep a part of our culture.”

He recalled his recent appearance on the TV show Late Night with Conan O’Brien, on NBC. “When Conan mentioned the NRA and my participation in it, the audience cheered,” Heston says. “And this show was taped in New York City, the heart of Liberalville.”

SHIFTING PUBLIC OPINION

Public opinion on firearms, Heston says, seems to be shifting in the face of recent violent inci­dents. He recalled the Los Angeles riots in 1992, which helped many Hollywood folks change their views on gun ownership. As smoke from burning buildings smudged the skyline and the TV news showed vivid images of laughing loot­ers smashing windows and carting off boom boxes and booze, Heston got a few phone calls from firmly anti-gun friends. One conversation went this way:

“Umm, Chuck, you have quite a few … ah, guns, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Shotguns and … like that?”

“Indeed.”

“Could you lend me one for a day or so? I tried to buy one, but they have this waiting period … ”

“Yeah, I know; I remember you voted for that. Do you know how to use a shotgun?”

“No, I thought maybe you could teach me. This is getting a little scary.”

“I noticed. I could teach you, but not in an hour. You might shoot yourself instead of the bad guys. The Marines are coming up from Pendleton; that’ll end it. When it does, go buy yourself a good shotgun and take some lessons. It doesn’t get so scary then.”

Heston said his friend writer-director John Milius had more calls. His answer was more forthright: “Sorry. They’re all being used.”

Heston identified several famous Holly­wood people who own guns, including Steven Spielberg who owns one of the finest gun col­lections in California, but never refers to it, and never shoots publicly. Spielberg, who pro­duced the all-time blockbuster film The Lost Word – Jurassic Park, has been photographed shooting a shotgun at a Trap and Sporting Clays range in California, but asked the photogra­pher not to release his picture to the media. “Can you imagine the most famous filmmaker in town worried about his reputation?” Heston says, chuckling.

Charlton Heston’s letter to Roni Toldanes.

“There are numbers of gun owners, ­collectors, hunters, sport shooters in the film community, plus many more who keep firearms for protection,” Heston reveals. “I suspect, in fact, there are more Hollywood filmmakers who are closet gun enthusiasts than there are closet homosexuals.”

Can responsible gun owners really turn the tide of anti-gun sen­timent in this country? Heston’s answer: “I think we’re doing that now. You won’t get another anti-gun bill approved in this Congress.”

SHOWING THE FUN SIDE

These days, Heston also shoots Sporting Clays when his hectic schedule permits it. By hosting celebrity sports shooting tournaments near Dana Point, California, Hes­ton hopes to turn the tide of public opinion and encourage more Hollywood people to come out in the open in favor of responsible gun owner­ship. The competitions continue to attract more movie personalities each year, some of them coming from as far as New York.

Hollywood personalities, says Heston, are reluctant to come out in support of the Second Amendment “because they fear unemployment.” Heston hopes that by showing them that guns are not just for self defense, and people can actually have fun with guns at the shooting range, he could reverse their unfounded opinion.

Charlton Heston doesn’t need Moses’ scepter to do that. But his sporting shotgun would come in handy.

Editor’s Note: Managing Editor Roni Toldanes interviewed Charlton Heston in 1997. His feature story won first prize in “The $21,000 Great Stories Contest,” a nationwide writing contest sponsored by the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Toldanes received a standing ovation from more than 850 writers and editors during the OWAA national conference in Redding, California. Charlton Heston died on April 5, 2008 at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 84

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AN INCREDIBLE PASSION FOR GUNS

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Photo courtesy of Lou Ferrigno

 

By Roni Toldanes

As dramatic biographies go, this one sounds like it came straight from the soap opera archives: 12-year-old boy earns a few dollars after a nine-hour shift delivering groceries, goes home and puts all the money on the kitchen table. His father snatches his earnings despite his protests. “I worked hard for that money, Dad,” he bellowed indignantly, “what did you earn this morning?” His scowling father grabs a butcher knife and hurls it directly at him. It whistles past his face.

Fast forward 33 years. That boy is now a 45-year-old Lou Ferrigno, one of the world’s most successful bodybuilders and star of the 1980s TV series “The Incredible Hulk.”

Ferrigno, in a two-hour interview with this writer at his home in Santa Monica, California, avoided talking about his bleak childhood. Instead, he spoke enthusiastically about guns, his movie career, and his plan to introduce his two sons, Lou, Jr; and Brent, to the shooting sports.

“I like target shooting because it’s fun,” Ferrigno said in his baritone voice. “And it’s a good thing for a father to enjoy with his children.” His wife, Carla, also participates in the shotgun sports.

Ferrigno said he discovered the shooting sports last year and enjoyed the joshing and camaraderie at the firing range. He found the experience quite pleasant that in less than a year, his two glossy Fort Knox gun safes already contain at least 16 competition rifles, mostly equipped with long-range scopes; several shotguns and more than a dozen handguns.

Ferrigno’s enthusiasm towards introducing his sports to his children was in stark contrast with the emotional turmoil inflicted upon him by his father when he was a young boy in Brooklyn, New York.

At age 2, Ferrigno lost his hearing as a result of a severe inner-ear infection. His affliction made him reluctant to speak with people and his speech was somewhat askew.

Because of his handicap, Ferrigno was often ridiculed by his classmates. But he managed to take things in stride. That is, until the day he gathered enough courage to tell his father, a police lieutenant, of his dream to grow up just like Dad. His father shot down that dream with a terse comment: “The police department will never take a deaf kid onto the force. … The only thing that you’ll be able to do is drive a cab.”

With tears flowing down his cheeks, Ferrigno gathered his books and went to school with a heavy heart. From that day on, he promised himself that he would someday become a “big” person, someone bigger than a regular cop.

MARVELOUS COMICS

Ferrigno was always an action fan. As pictures served to stimulate and fire-up his imagination, he enjoyed reading comic books. His favorite was Marvel Comics’ The Incredible Hulk. But his interest on comic books was changed when he saw a bodybuilding magazine at a newsstand on his way to school. Soon, huge men with swollen biceps and flaring quadriceps became his heroes.

Ferrigno took bodybuilding lessons, working out at nights in the family basement and pushing himself to the limit. Within a few years, Ferrigno brought home some of the most prestigious titles in bodybuilding, including Mr. Teenage America, Mr. America and Mr. International. At age 21, he became the youngest athlete ever to win the Mr. Universe title.

But Ferrigno’s hearing problem would continue to hound him. After winning the Mr. Universe title, he was interviewed by the ABC television network which promised to broadcast the contest on their popular Wide World of Sports program. His father went to the ABS studios in New York and viewed an advanced copy of the tape. As soon as his father arrived, Ferrigno inquired what happened at the TV station. His father looked at him coldly and said, “You know something? They can’t use your interview because we can’t understand your speech! Your speech was awful!”

Ferrigno was absolutely defenseless for his father’s final shot:” You’re a misfit!”

“I was shocked, horrified, hurt and stunned into total silence,” Ferrigno said. “I’d gone from a world champion with a bright future to the lowest piece of trash on the planet.”

A PHONE CALL FROM JOE WEIDER

Ferrigno’s melancholic life would change after his bravura performance at the Mr. Universe contest captivated Joe Weider, the magazine publisher who had trained very major star in bodybuilding since the 1940s. Weider telephoned Ferrigno’s house in Brooklyn, expressing interest in having Lou move out to California to pursue his body career. But his father answered the call. “No, he’s not interested, Mr. Weider,” his father said and hung up the phone.

Ferrigno eventually realized that his father viewed him as his own “personal plough horse.” Every penny that he earned went to his father, he said. As a result, he had no motivation to work hard at any vocation — except bodybuilding.

CHANCE TO ESCAPE

In 1976, Ferrigno’s opportunity to escape presented itself when he was invited to guest pose in California. He encountered no resistance from his father, who was offered $200 for Lou’s public appearance. In one short stroke, Ferrigno’s vicarious sacrifice for his father would come to an end. He did what most other young men would have done in similar situations: He stayed in California and never again returned home. And the rest, as some writers would often say, is history.

With his 23-inch arms and a bodyweight that fluctuates between 290 and 310 pounds of grade-A muscle and standing 6 feet 5 inches, Ferrigno transformed himself into a TV hero. Over the years, he took lead roles in several action films, including Hercules, Cage and Desert Warrior.

Ferrigno has finished Stand Tall, the sequel to the classic bodybuilding film Pumping Iron. He has also appeared on several stage productions and provided the voice for the Incredible Hulk in a TV animated series.

Gale Anne Hurd, producer of such recent blockbuster films as Terminator and Relic, considered Ferrigno’s appearance on the TV series Incredible Hulk so pivotal that she decided to give him a role in the $100-million movie version of the Hulk.

Ferrigno wants to improve his knowledge of guns and shooting. He said he would soon attend the Gunsite training camp in Arizona.

“I want to portray guns in the movies in a very sophisticated way,” he said, as he laughed at a recent top-grossing film that showed a sniper firing-off rapid shots from a chopper. “Do you know how difficult it is to shoot a sniper’s rifle from a helicopter?”

Ferrigno knows what he’s talking about. Inside cabinets that were positioned near his dining room were stacks of gun magazines. On top of his TV are gun videos, including a set of tapes produced by David Tubb, the world’s most successful high-power rifle shooter.

Despite his late entry in the shooting field, which began after a friend gifted him a large-frame Desert Eagle pistol, Ferrigno’s gun collection is already quite impressive. Name your favorite caliber and, chances are, he’s got it. From Stoner rifles to Springfield M-1A long-range rifles to magnaported .454 Casulls. They’re all unloaded and secured.

Magazine editor Roni Toldanes interviews "The Incredible Hulk" Lou Ferrigno at his home in Santa Monica, Calif.

Magazine editor Roni Toldanes interviews “The Incredible Hulk” Lou Ferrigno at his home in Santa Monica, Calif. Photo by Y.Sued

“Other men like to visit bars and drink,” he said, “while others like to blow their money on cars. But I’d rather buy guns that I can shoot.”

Ferrigno strongly supports the Second Amendment, the constitutional right to bear arms. “You have the right to own a firearm for self-protection or to shoot for fun, but you have to learn how to use it properly and respect all the rules.” He said his children, including his daughter, Shanna, understand the basic firearm safety rules. They’ve been told that if they see a gun at another home, they should walk away and immediately inform an adult.

Ferrigno spoke with particular intensity about acting and shooting. Acting, he said, offers him a chance to play diversified characters and show a different dimension of himself. Shooting, on the other hand, gives him the thrill.

SHOOTING FOR SCORE

Each time he discussed the shooting sports, Ferrigno was impassioned. He was moving. He was possessed with fervor. “Shooting is a mental challenge,” he said. “It forces you to focus. And it’s very relaxing.” He said he found it “fascinating” to be able to pull the trigger, drive a bullet 400 yards downrange and see a tight cluster of hits. “I think it’s wonderful. It’s one of the phenomenal things in life.”

Even at his age, Ferrigno is still a sight to behold. Whenever he goes to shopping malls, heads turn to glimpse the muscles. And there is the sound of a wolf whistle, distant but distinct.

In 1994, Ferrigno joined the Masters Olympia — 19 years after retiring from his last competition — and finished among the top 10 winners. His “praying mantis” pose, with his powerful right arm cocked behind his ear, appeared to unleash all the fury of a crackling lightning bolt.

Ferrigno said his schedule may soon allow him to actively participate in the shooting sports. Because of his huge hands, however, Ferrigno can’t use out-of-the-box guns. When he held his compact Lock 26 pistol, even with its 30-round magazine, it looked like a lollipop. When he clutched a single-stack 1911, his trigger finger extended all the way to the compensator. Despite this, Ferrigno expressed confidence he can succeed on the shooting circuit.

“I have the passion and I’m self-driven,” he said, recalling his bodybuilding triumph against younger men after nearly two decades of retiring from competition. “That’s why I want to take that energy now to the shooting sports.”

Letter from "The Incredible Hulk" to Roni Toldanes after the SHOT SHOW in Las Vegas

With his stamina, tenacity, and a powerful grip that can easily tame recoil, muscleman Lou Ferrigno should find it easy to hit his goal — and his targets.

After all, the Hulk’s shooting ability was already impressive enough that some spectators, who saw him recently at a firing range, exclaimed in unison: “That’s Incredible!”

Letter from “The Incredible Hulk” to Roni Toldanes after the SHOT SHOW in Las Vegas

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THE LOST WORLD OF STEVEN SPIELBERG

 

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Photo courtesy of Steven Spielberg’s PR agency. Image used with permission.

HIS GUNS AND HIS SECRET LIFE AS A SHOOTER

By Roni Toldanes

It’s impossible not to mention the fairy tale character Peter Pan when writ­ing about Steven Spielberg. After all, the lonely and precocious son of a broken home himself said in 1985, “I have always felt like Peter Pan. I still feel like Peter Pan.”

It was difficult for Spielberg to “grow up” — both as a man and as a filmmaker.

For 20 years, Spielberg had Hollywood’s most profound and profitable case of arrested development. Critics condescendingly regarded him as a child-man fixated on the toys of moviemaking and incapable of dealing maturely with the darker side of life. In many of his films, Spielberg indulged his boyish fondness for pulp adventure, infantile humor and special-effects fantasy extravaganzas.

But, in reality, Spielberg was misunder­stood. The fellow who makes movies every­one wants to see was simply not like every­one else. “People like Steven don’t come along every day,” says his friend and fre­quent collaborator George Lucas, “and when they do, it’s an amazing thing. It’s like talk­ing about Einstein or Babe Ruth or Tiger Woods. He’s not in a group of filmmakers his age; he’s far, far away.”

Still, one can ask how a half-century of living and nearly a quarter-century’s reign as the most successful moviemaker in his­tory affect the man who took out a patent on perennial childhood.

From the short feature film he made as a 13-year-old (Escape to Nowhere), through a string of blockbusters such as E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Empire of the Sun, Jaws and the con­tinuing adventures of Indiana Jones, Spiel­berg has explored primeval fears, expressed children’s loneliness and tested their inno­cence. Even his version of Peter Pan in the movie Hook was sprinkled with childlike fantasy.

In 1993, however, moviedom’s Peter Pan finally “grew up.” Spielberg silenced many of his detractors with Schindler’s List, his masterful drama about a gentile business­man who saved 1,100 Jews from the Plaszow death camp during World War II. The film was the culmination of a long personal strug­gle with Spielberg’s Jewish identity, a plea by a preeminent popular artist that to remem­ber is to speed up the healing.

“I was so ashamed of being a Jew, and now I’m filled with pride,” he said in inter­views at the time the movie was released. “This film has kind of come along with me on this journey from shame to honor.” For that film with a wrenching theme, Spielberg would receive two Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Picture. The film also won five other Oscars.

With Schindler’s List, Spielberg became a proselytizer for a spiritual unification of Germans and Jews. “I feel it is time in Germany for this generation to teach its children,” he said. “Education is the way to stop another Holocaust from happening.”

Following the emotional pulse of Schindler’s List, Spielberg also directed Amistad, a film about a Spanish ship that brought 53 abducted Africans to the U.S. in 1839 and provoked a slave revolt and a trial in which the slaves’ case was argued by former President John Quincy Adams.

To an extent, most of Spielberg’s films were identical to certain cliff-hanging chapters of his life.

Steven Allan Spielberg’s ancestors were among the 2 million Jews who fled Russia and Eastern Europe for the United States between 1881 and 1914, settling in Cincinnati, where he was born on Dec. 18, 1946. Some of his relatives remained in Russia for generations to come, and some eventually went to Israel, but many of those who did not emigrate were murdered during the Nazi Holocaust.

Spielberg was raised in the suburbs of Haddonfield, New Jersey and Phoenix, Arizona, where the elder Spielbergs and their four kids — Steven and his three younger sisters — lived from 1957 to 1964. As a child growing up in Haddonfield, where archaeologists found the first virtually complete dinosaur skeleton, Spielberg became fascinated with dinosaurs.

In Phoenix, he was a one-man commando unit against neighbors who made anti-Semitic slurs, sneaking up and smearing their windows with peanut butter.

It was in Arizona where Spielberg started making amateur films while still in his teens, later studying at California State University, Long Beach. In 1969, Spielberg’s 22-minute short feature Amblin was shown at the Atlanta Film Festival. It made him the youngest director ever to be signed to a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio.

Four years later, he directed the suspense-filled telefilm Duel. He made his feature film directorial debut on The Sugarland Express, from a screenplay he co-wrote. His additional film credits include the Back to the Future trilogy, Always and The Color Purple. His film Saving Private Ryan, a World War II saga starring Tom Hanks, also landed on the blockbuster records.

Through the years, Steven Spielberg has directed, produced or executive produced eight of the top grossing films of all time. He had back-to-back block-buster hits with The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which he directed, and Men in Black, which he executive produced.

Steven Spielberg is, indeed, the most successful moviemaker in history. In 1996, Forbes Magazine estimated his net worth at $1 billion. Not bad for a kid who “felt like an alien” in America, and who turned to making movies as a way of finding social acceptance.

Observers say that Spielberg’s emotional isolation during his childhood may have helped delay his own maturation process. His parents, Leah and Arnold, divorced when he was 19. Steven remained close to his mother and her new husband Bernie Adler, who passed away several years ago.

Adler’s death shocked Steven into seeing the fragility of people’s lives. It also brought him closer to his father and to his growing family.

Spielberg shoots Sporting Clays in Europe with Harrison Ford.

Spielberg shoots Sporting Clays in Europe with Harrison Ford. Image used with photographer’s permission.

Like almost every American boy growing up in the 1950s, Spielberg received guidance about matters such as gun safety from his father, Arnold Spielberg. And he pictured himself doing the same thing, besides other fatherly duties, even before his first child (with his first wife Amy Irving), Max, was born. “The child was going to change my life … I want to be like most parents.”

When Max Samuel Spielberg was born on June 13, 1985 at the Santa Monica Hospital, the exultant father described his son as “my best production yet.”

Today, Spielberg spends more time with his burgeoning family. With Kate Capshaw, whom he married in 1991, Spielberg has a brood of seven: Max (whose custody he shares with Irving); Jessica, (from Capshaw’s first marriage); Theo, Sasha, Sawyer, Mikaela and Destry.

It was Spielberg’s father, an electrical engineer and amateur film buff, who spurred his interest in movie-making. It was also his dad, a World War II Air Force sharpshooter, who taught Steven his gun-handling skills.

As someone who never enjoyed much of the regular sports during his childhood, Steven Spielberg introduced his son Max, in 1995, to the sport he knows best — Sporting Clays.

Screenwriter and director John Milius (Apocalypse Now and Clear and Present Danger) describes Steven Spielberg as a sharpshooter. Spielberg, he said, regularly shoots an Italian over/under Fabri shotgun, an engraved model of which costs in the neighborhood of $85,000.

Milius said he began shooting sporting clays with Spielberg in the late 1960s at the Oak Tree Gun Club in southern California. During their younger days, Milius said, they used to play at least once a week. “We call it red-neck golf,” Milius said, “just like golf, you either like it or you don’t.”

Explaining Spielberg’s passion for collecting top-of-the-line shotguns, Milius told this writer, “They are just beautiful things. How many beautiful works of art can you take out and use?”

Milius would often shoot Sporting Clays with Spielberg. He admits having lost “a few times” to Spielberg, who actually received some shooting lessons from him in the past. “I’m the teacher and he’s the student, but on a good day he’s really good.”

Art Bright, manager of the Pachmayr Range in southern California, remembers giving Spielberg and young Max a few shooting tips. “Steven Spielberg is a pretty good shot,” Bright says. “He’s probably a solid B-class shooter.”

Rifle maker Butch Searcy confirmed having built two big-bore rifles that were used as props in the movie Jurassic Park. The .600 Nitro rifles, bearing the serial numbers Lost World 1 and Lost World 2, are valued at $40,000 each, Searcy said, adding that Spielberg’s aides had told him that one of the rifles became a part of the director’s collection.

Once upon a shooting star, there was a lonely young boy who aimed for success and social acceptance. That boy, Steven Spielberg, is now an adult. But is he completely grown up? “Sometimes he’ll howl with glee after breaking some of his clay targets,” a Sporting Clays champion, who requested anonymity, said. “Sometimes when he gets excited, he just can’t control himself. At times, he’s just like a little kid.”

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