My first love is the printed word. That's a hell of thing to say for a man who's spent almost 40 years in the visual world, but the printed word is what propels a movie. The script. It's written down. In Shakespeare, it says, "The play's the thing wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king," meaning: to make a good movie is unachievable without a great story.

I guess since the beginning of civilized recorded history storytelling has always been something that enchanted people. Before there was writing, there was the oral tradition -- the people told stories and passed it on down to the next generation. As a little boy, I remember living on Alamo Street [in Houston], and there was a Mr. Barlow, a fellow across the street -- must have been about 70 years old, with a white beard -- and 10 or 12 of my buddies and myself would sit around with him. He'd have a little kind of a campfire in the back of his house, and he would tell us stories. A lot of ghost stories. I couldn't have been more than 8, 9 years old. I know that I was just held enthralled by this. Any movie star, any director, any writer, any producer, any studio executive, this is what we do: We make movies, we beguile people, and we do it with a story.

In every country in the world, people love movies. They really do, and I find that to be both startling and exciting at the same time. You make a movie here, in California or wherever, and people of every creed, culture and country respond to it. They speak a different language, maybe worship a different god; their mores and their customs are different; their tribal rights are different. And yet, this movie gathers all of these disparate people together and causes them to be excited. That's pretty good. It's hard to do. But it's magic. And that's why I think that the hardest art form in which to achieve superiority is making a movie, because between the idea and the finished print so much can go wrong, and often does. I don't have the skills for making a movie, but I sure know a good one when I see it.

-- Interview by Patricia Murret