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Jamboree begins with assist from Spielberg

By TIM COX

FORT A.P. HILL, Va. -- Boy Scouts attending the National Jamboree got a chance to play junior reporters Wednesday and interviewed filmmaker and former scout Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg, who as a teenager attained the rank of Eagle, scouting's highest achievement, submitted to questions by a group of about 400 boy reporters representing their hometown newspapers and radio and television stations.

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'I've been a Boy Scout for most of my life,' said the bearded moviemaker, who wore a blue cap festooned with buttons and a traditional Boy Scout summer uniform complete with knee socks.

'Once you're a Scout, you're always a Scout,' he said as the boys whooped with delight.

Spielberg was interviewed by the youths in a tent and, at his request, the professional media had to wait outside.

Spielberg, 41, taught a cinematography Merit Badge class -- the award is brand new -- earlier in the day.

He was to receive a special award at the evening program formally opening the Jamboree. Spielberg helped put his special effects into a video that more than 30,000 Scouts and leaders would see.

The 12th Jamboree is home for Scouts from all 50 states and 40 foreign countries for a week. It is being held at this sprawling Army training base, which is the permanent home of the Jamboree.

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Spielberg said he had never been a leader in Scouting. 'I took more out of Boy Scouts than I put back in.' Now, it's his turn to contribute to the movement, he added.

He said his latest film, 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,' contains footage in specific tribute to his Scouting past as a boy in Arizona.

In the film, River Phoenix portrays hero Indiana Jones as a boy on a Scouting expedition and is caught up in a dramatic chase as he tries to save an artifact from falling into the wrong hands.

'That was sort of my thanking the Boy Scouts for putting me on the map, so to speak,' Spielberg said.

Scott Vales, 15, a life Scout from Troop 277 in Tempe, Ariz., was one of the lucky hometown correspondents who got to interview Spielberg. 'He's an excellent idol,' said Vales, who envisions a career in the entertainment industry and plans to seek the new cinematography Merit Badge.

But when asked if he had been to Spielberg's latest hit film, Vales confessed he had not seen it yet.

'I think it's a great movie,' said Jeff Lee, 18, with Explorer Post 9345 of Phoenix, Ariz. 'It's awesome,' he said slapping Vales on the back. 'You've got to see it.'

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Spielberg said that in the past several years he has renewed his ties with Scouting by helping build a youth recreation center in California.

He plans to encourage his 4-year-old son to join the Scouts and eventually to become 'as active as I was when I was 12 and 13.'

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