Judging from Steven Spielberg's latest films last year's A.I. and Minority Report (opening June 21) the director finds America's future as fascinating (and foreboding) as aliens, sharks and dinosaurs. Report's vision of the year 2054 in which psychic sentries help policeman Tom Cruise arrest murderers before they slay may seem like far-fetched fiction. But Spielberg says the current anti-terrorism campaign gives merit to such sci-fi paranoia.
"I am a little frightened of how much The Powers That Be will be able to observe us," he says. "With new [surveillance camera] technology, you get an average of how people behave when they're crossing the street and compare that to people whose behavior is more erratic. What really disturbs me is that a nerd like me who has a weird walk, and who doesn't exactly look like a normal person... Suddenly, I imagine I'll be hauled into a van and taken to an interrogation for being different!"
He doesn't just blame the government for the demise of personal privacy. "In this movie, the public gets eye-scanned," Spielberg explains. "Advertising targets and tries to seduce people and that's what happens with Internet cookies on our computers now." Ironically, this doomsaying comes from a guy who has no moral qualms about subjecting Minority Report's captive audience to heavy brand placements from Lexus, The Gap, American Express and many others throughout the movie.
Even if tomorrow's world inspires trepidation today, Spielberg isn't too scared to prepare for his future: He can now confirm his schedule for the fourth Indiana Jones flick, starring Harrison Ford. "We're going to begin shooting it in May or June of 2004," he says, "and it will come out for the July 4th weekend of 2005. The only thing that would change that is... the unforeseen."