Vulture has learned that J.J. Abrams has picked his next movie, and it’s both a tribute to and a collaboration with Steven Spielberg. An insider tells us that Abrams is just now finishing a script described as “a tip of the hat to [Spielberg’s] movies of the seventies and eighties.” We’re also told that Abrams plans to “roll up his sleeves and direct the script himself” by early this fall for Paramount Pictures, where he’s based. (After, of course, he ends ABC’s Lost, oversees Fox’s Fringe, launches NBC’s Undercovers, and produces Mission: Impossible 4, and a new Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford comedy, Morning Glory, at Paramount. And then eats breakfast.)
Plot details are top secret — as if there’s any other kind of plot detail in Abramsland — but we’re told that like Spielberg’s Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T., the project will deal with everyday people whose personal relationships are tested when they are thrown up against extraordinarily fantastic — and possibly otherworldly — events. (Could it involve sharks from outer space that befriend young, nerdy children of divorce? Will it find some way to redeem 1941? The mind reels!) Our sources tell us that Abrams is in discussions with Spielberg, and insist the DreamWorks co-founder will be involved in some capacity, whether as an executive producer or at least as an adviser, since “J.J. wants to make sure Steven is properly paid homage to. This is really an interpretation of some of Spielberg’s earlier films, but done in a personal way.” (Interestingly, in 2005, just before the release of M:I 3, Abrams was attached as a director to The Good Sailor, based on the true story of a seventh grader’s obsession with the scene in Jaws when Quint recounts the torpedoing of the U.S.S. Indianapolis.)
We’re told Abrams’s script does have a name, but like the Abrams-produced 2008 monster movie Cloverfield, the title is being kept under wraps for maximal marketing impact. It will also have a low budget for a studio movie, just like Cloverfield, which cost around $25 million. (It won’t, however, be shot in that movie’s shaky handheld style: Happily, we’re told, you can leave your Dramamine patch at home.) “It’s kind of the anti-Avatar,” explained one source, “Not that [J.J.] doesn’t love that movie or special effects movies — he has a real facility for effects. But he really wants to make this, and the way to do that is to be fiscally responsible.”
Finally (and please sit down, because this will surely astonish you), both Paramount and DreamWorks spokespersons denied any knowledge of the new Abrams project.