How Steven Spielberg Convinced A Game Of Thrones Director To Helm The Tom Hanks Robot-Dog Movie

Tom Hanks as Finch in Finch
(Image credit: Apple TV+)

You would think that making a decision like directing a Tom Hanks robot-dog movie like Finch would be a no-brainer. For director Miguel Sapochnik it absolutely was, and the concept behind the film was so solid that he was on-board after being presented the script. But perhaps the greatest signal that Sapochnik was ready to make Finch into Apple TV+’s latest original film was the fact that Steven Spielberg himself called the Game of Thrones director to discuss making it happen.

As he spoke with CinemaBlend's own Sean O’Connell, the Finch director discussed a very special phone call that helped cement the film in more ways than one. That first conversation between Miguel Sapochnik and Steven Spielberg was especially vital, as it found the film a home at Amblin Partners. But as Sapochnik also revealed when speaking to CinemaBlend, he also found himself along for the ride when it came to Finch’s road trip into production:

One of the things that happened when I first was approached by Amblin to make the movie, we had been shopping it around town, and I was in Belfast on Season 8 (of Game of Thrones), and I got home and got a phone call saying, ‘Steven Spielberg is going to call you in the next 15 minutes.’ I bricked it. Like, I completely just didn’t know what to do with myself! … Then the phone rang, and it was him. He was very easy to talk to, and I sat in my kitchen for three quarters of an hour and we talked about films, and this film.

Talking to Steven Spielberg about movies is something that sounds like a magical experience to whomever gets to experience it. Even more so when it's about a Tom Hanks movie like Finch, which was built over time and collaboration outside of said conversations. As he describes the process of shaping the script from writers Craig Luck and Ivor Powell, Miguel Sapochnik’s excitement about getting Finch into fighting shape is palpable in this interview, and even in the press notes for the film. 

Which leads to the next part of Miguel Sapochnik’s conversation about how Finch eventually found the tone of action for its post-apocalyptic road trip with Tom Hanks. As he continued to talk with Steven Spielberg, the idea for the film continued to change through some very homegrown inspiration. Seeing as the movie had become a project under the Amblin Partners banner, Spielberg’s legendary brand of heartfelt adventure became part of the coding that would make Finch the story you see today. Sapochnik’s Amblin experience took full flight, as he describes below:

One of the things that evolved from our conversations is the idea of, ‘What is an Amblin movie?’ And I think Amblin is this kind of -- they are adult family movies. They have a certain quirk to them. There’s a certain darkness to them. But in the end, they are made for families. They maybe aren’t family movies, in the conventional sense of the word. But they are made for fathers and sons, for mothers and daughters. They’re made for people to interact and converse over. They are built on people’s memories. Their nostalgia, their dreams, and their aspirations. And I feel like Steven was interested in this movie because for him, it fit into that Amblin territory. Once we talked about it, and I understood better what they were going after, I feel like I also steered the movie towards that, as well.

Originally intended for theatrical release through Universal Pictures, Finch found itself becoming another Apple TV+ exclusive, much like Greyhound, that’d see Tom Hanks broadening the streaming market. For some, that might have been a sign of lost confidence, but the critical reaction to the film so far dispels that notion rather well. Though it also bodes well for Steven Spielberg, as his future in the streaming market looks pretty bright as well. 

If anything, getting Finch to the masses would only help boost the movie’s profile, especially when it happens to be an Amblin-style film that families can enjoy together. Currently available exclusively on Apple TV+, Finch is a refreshingly wholesome spin on the apocalypse. But if you’re curious if your family can enjoy it safely, we’ve covered that very subject. Otherwise, enjoy the film, and don’t forget to check the 2021 release schedule to help lock in the rest of your moviegoing year. Last but not least, you can learn more about Tom Hanks’ upcoming projects, and when to expect them. 

Mike Reyes
Senior Movies Contributor

Mike Reyes is the Senior Movie Contributor at CinemaBlend, though that title’s more of a guideline really. Passionate about entertainment since grade school, the movies have always held a special place in his life, which explains his current occupation. Mike graduated from Drew University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but swore off of running for public office a long time ago. Mike's expertise ranges from James Bond to everything Alita, making for a brilliantly eclectic resume. He fights for the user.