Steven Spielberg

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Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg

Steven Allan Spielberg KBE (born on December 18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio but raised in the suburbs of Haddonfield, New Jersey and Scottsdale, Arizona) is an Oscar winning Jewish American film director and producer. He is noted in recent years for his willingness to tackle emotionally powerful issues, such as the horrors of the Holocaust in Schindler's List, slavery in Amistad, and the hardships of war in Saving Private Ryan. One consistent theme in his family friendly work is a childlike, even naïve, sense of wonderment and faith, as attested by works such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Hook and A.I..


The director

Spielberg is the most financially successful motion picture director of all time. He has directed and/or produced an astounding number of feature films that have become enormous box-office hits, and this has given him enormous influence in Hollywood. As of 2004, he has been listed in Premiere and other magazines as the most "powerful" and influential figure in the motion picture industry.

In 2005, Empire magazine created a list of the 50 greatest film directors of all time. Spielberg was number one on the list.

Currently, he has won two Academy Awards for Best Director, one for Schindler's List and another for Saving Private Ryan.He is seen as a figure who has the influence, financial resources, and acceptance of Hollywood studio authorities to make any movie he wants to make, be it a mainstream action-adventure movie (Jurassic Park) or a three-hour-long black and white drama about a heavy historical subject (Schindler's List).

His beginnings

Spielberg is known by film historians as one of the famous "film-school generation" (also known as "the movie brats" or "the New Hollywood") of the 1970s: along with fellow filmmakers (and personal friends) George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, John Milius, and Brian De Palma, Spielberg grew up making movies. He was making amateur 8mm "adventure" movies with his friends as a teenager (scenes from these amateur films have been included on the DVD edition of Saving Private Ryan), and he made his first short film for theatrical release, Amblin', in 1968 at the age of twenty one. (Spielberg's own production company, Amblin Entertainment, was named after this short film.) His maiden directorial work was a segment of the pilot film to Rod Serling's Night Gallery. While working on this segment its star Joan Crawford collared a production executive and said, "Keep an eye on this kid, he's going places." After directing episodes of various TV shows, including an early Columbo TV movie, Spielberg directed his first well-known feature with a 1971 TV "movie-of-the-week" entitled Duel (later released to theatres overseas and eventually in the U.S.). This film, about a truck mysteriously terrorizing an average citizen, has become a cult classic, having been released on video several times over the years.

Move to theatrical films

Spielberg's debut theatrical feature film, The Sugarland Express (takes place and filmed on location in Sugar Land, Texas and is about a husband and wife attempting to escape the law), won him critical praise and enough studio backing to be chosen as the director of a summer movie that would secure him a place in the history of motion pictures. Jaws, a horror film based on the Peter Benchley novel about a killer shark that attacks people off the coast of a small island. Jaws won four Academy Awards (for editing and sound), and grossed over USD$100 million at the box office, setting the domestic record for box office gross.

In 1976, Spielberg was asked by Alexander Salkind to direct Superman, but decided instead to expand on a pet project he had had in mind since his youth: a film about UFOs, which became Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). The film remains a cult sci-fi classic among its fans.

The success Spielberg was beginning to enjoy, as well as his eventual tendency to make films with wide mainstream and commercial appeal, also subjected him to disdain in critical circles by film reviewers. For example, Spielberg's next film was 1941, a big-budgeted World War II comedy farce set in L.A. days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the two top stars from Saturday Night Live, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, along with other all-stars. Although the film did make a small profit, it is considered by some to be Spielberg's first flop, although today it is also considered a cult classic. An expanded version has been shown on network television and later on Laserdisc and DVD.

Spielberg at his pinnacle

Indiana Jones

But what some would consider Spielberg's greatest film work was still to come, beginning in the 1980s. In 1981, Spielberg teamed up for the first time with his friend George Lucas to make Raiders of the Lost Ark, his homage to the cliffhanger serials of the Golden Age of Hollywood, with Harrison Ford (whom Lucas directed in Star Wars) as the dashing hero Indiana Jones. Raiders itself spawned two sequels, also directed by Spielberg and executive produced by Lucas.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

One year later, Spielberg returned to his alien visitors motif with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a Disney-inspired story of a boy and the alien whom he befriends (and is trying to get back "home" to outer space). E.T. went on to become the top-grossing film of all time for many years.

When E.T. was released, Spielberg, a Porsche 928 aficionado, had his car's moon-roof button re-designed with the movie's logo as both a gag for passengers, and a tribute to the movie's success. Despite their enormous appeal, few film scholars and critics place such Spielberg films as Raiders or E.T. in the same class as The Godfather, Citizen Kane, or many other classics of the cinema.

Spielberg also negotiated an unusually lucrative video game licensing deal with Atari for a E.T. video game. This was a famously expensive failure which contributed to the video game crash of 1983.

The Color Purple

Steven Spielberg on the July 15, 1985 cover of TIME.
Steven Spielberg on the July 15, 1985 cover of TIME.

In 1985, Spielberg made The Color Purple, an adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Many critics were unsure of whether or not Spielberg could handle such serious material, as his output to that point had been viewed as "lighter" entertainment.

Hook & Jurassic Park

Spielberg had tried numerous times to film a live-action version of Peter Pan without success. He eventually decided to create his own take on the Pan legend in 1991. Hook focused on a middle-aged Pan (played by Robin Williams), who returns to Neverland to face the title character (Captain Hook, played by Dustin Hoffman). However, by the time the film began shooting, innumerable rewrites and creative changes made by the numerous major Hollywood players attached to project resulted in a film regarded by most critics as hit-and-miss at best. The film was made for $70 million (at that time a huge amount) and made $119 million domestically, but it was not as successful as some had hoped.

In 1993, Spielberg decided to once again tackle the adventure genre, as he directed the movie version of Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park, about killer dinosaurs rampaging through a tropical island resort. The adaptation muted somewhat the novel's message about the consequences of mankind tampering with nature, instead focusing on the adventure aspects of the story. With the aid of revolutionary special effects provided by friend George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic, the film became an instant classic. It would eventually overtake E.T. as the all-time top grossing film-- a position it held for several years (until James Cameron's Titanic).

Schindler's List & Saving Private Ryan

It was in that same year that Jurassic Park was released that Spielberg finally won the critical acclaim he had long sought for making Schindler's List (based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a man who sacrificed everything to save 1,100 people from the wrath of the Holocaust). That film earned him his first regular Academy Award for Best Director (it also won Best Picture).

Another of Spielberg's most critically acclaimed films, the World War II drama Saving Private Ryan, was released in 1998. Spielberg considered it one of his finest works, yet in a highly publicized "showdown", it lost the Best Picture Oscar at the 1999 Academy Awards to Shakespeare in Love. However, Spielberg would win his second Academy Award for his direction in the war epic.

Into a new century


In 2001, Spielberg filmed fellow director and friend Stanley Kubrick's final project, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, a project planned by the two directors for many years but which Kubrick was unable to begin during his lifetime. The futuristic story of a humanoid android longing for love, A.I. featured groundbreaking visual effects, but unfortunately was not the blockbuster film Spielberg had hoped for. The film polarized both critics and audiences, many stating that the film was overly long and a pretentious impression of Kubrick, while others believed it to be a masterpiece.

In recent years, Spielberg has consolidated his popularity with more mainstream fare such as Minority Report (2002), starring Tom Cruise as a futuristic cop on the run from his own fate; and Catch Me If You Can (also in 2002), a biopic based on the life of Frank Abagnale (with Leonardo di Caprio and Tom Hanks), which completed the director's unofficial "Running Man" trilogy following both A.I.: Artificial Intelligence and Minority Report. Spielberg used Hanks again in 2004 for The Terminal, the story of an East European traveller who has to live in a terminal at JFK International Airport.

War of the Worlds

Spielberg's latest released film, a modernized adaptation of War of the Worlds, featuring Tom Cruise, was released in the U.S. on June 29, 2005. As with past Spielberg films, Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) provided the special effects.

In his films E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Spielberg portrayed alien visitors as potentially friendly for human beings willing to connect with them. War of the Worlds marked a departure from those optimistic themes; more violent alien invaders visiting havoc on the earth.

Upcoming projects

On the same day as the release of War of the Worlds, Spielberg began shooting Munich, a film about the events following the Munich Massacre. The film, formerly known as Vengeance, is written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner and screenwriter Charles Randolph. The movie is said to be an examination of the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, followed by the event's aftermath in which Israel's intelligence agency hunted down and killed each of the perpetrators. The project is predicted to be extremely controversial due to the sensitivity of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and may be upsetting to the Jewish American community, which has generally respected Spielberg's work in the past. Because of the controversial nature of his subject, Spielberg has consulted a wide range of authorities to avoid the threat of causing possible agitation and further violence in the Middle East. New York Times columnist David Halbfinger notes: "Mr. Spielberg has sought counsel from advisers ranging from his own rabbi to the former American diplomat Dennis Ross, who in turn has alerted Israeli government officials to the film's thrust. Mr. Spielberg has also shown the script to Mr. Ross's old boss, former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Clinton's aides said Mr. Spielberg reached out to him first more than a year ago and again as recently as Tuesday. Mr. Spielberg is also being advised by Mike McCurry, Mr. Clinton's White House spokesman, and Allan Mayer, a Hollywood spokesman who specializes in crisis communications."

Also in the works are an Abraham Lincoln bio-pic starring Liam Neeson as the 16th President of the United States, and a 4th Indiana Jones film. Both are scheduled for release in 2007.

He is also serving as the executive producer of Memoirs of a Geisha, an adaptation of the best-selling novel by Arthur Golden, a film he was previously attached to as director. Spielberg is also an executive producer on the critically acclaimed 2005 TV miniseries Into the West. He is also co-executive producing the new Transformers live action film with Brian Goldmer, an employee of Hasbro.

In October, 2005, Spielberg announced that he had been signed by Electronic Arts to direct three video game projects.

Films by Spielberg

See also: List of Steven Spielberg films


Side projects

Spielberg has produced (without directing) a considerable number of films, and can be credited with launching the career of Robert Zemeckis. He is also a lover of animated cartoons, and has produced several hit cartoons (and a few flops), including Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Freakazoid.

He was also, for a short time, the executive producer of the long-running medical drama ER which currently airs on NBC.

In 1989 he brought the concept of The Dig to LucasArts. He contributed with the project from that time to 1995 when the game was released.

He is one of the co-founders of DreamWorks Pictures (DreamWorks SKG, with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen providing the other letters in the company name), which has released all of his movies since Amistad in 1997.

Following the critical and box office success of Schindler's List in 1993, Spielberg founded and continues to finance the Shoah Project, a non-profit organization with the goal of providing an archive for the filmed testimony of as many survivors of the Holocaust as possible, so that their stories will not be lost in the future.

Personal life

Spielberg has been married to actress Kate Capshaw, whom he met when he casted her in Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom since 12 October 1991. He has seven children—four biological: Max Spielberg (by actress Amy Irving, whom he married on 27 November 1985), Sasha, Sawyer, and Destry (by Capshaw); two adopted (Theo and Mikaela); and one stepdaughter (Jessica Capshaw). Both Max and Sasha were born out of wedlock, but Spielberg legitimated each child by marrying Irving and Capshaw. Irving recieved a whopping US $100 million settlement from Spielberg in their 1989 divorce.

As an adult, Spielberg was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, explaining in part some of his social tendencies and childhood obsessive about filmmaking.


Perhaps the most prominent critic of Steven Spielberg is American artist and actor Crispin Glover. In a 2005 essay titled What Is It? Glover says that Spielberg has “wafted his putrid stench upon our culture, a culture he helped homogenize and propagandize.” Among Glover’s accusations are that Spielberg purchased the Rosebud sled used in Orson Welles’ 1941 film Citizen Kane for $50,000 but refused to hire Welles to write a screenplay in the later years of his life, that he received money from the United States government to promote his personal religious and cultural beliefs, that his films do not take risks, that he exploited tragedy for personal gain in the films Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, and that he, as a co-owner of DreamWorks, considered building a studio on the last remaining wetland in Southern California.

Another criticism occasionally mentioned by science fiction fans is that Spielberg made the ending to A.I.: Artificial Intelligence too happy and sappy, which may not have been in accordance with Stanley Kubrick’s original vision for the film, considering the sarcastic endings of films such as Dr. Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange. However, both Kubrick's long-time assistant Jan Harlan and the film's original story writer Ian Watson have said that the ending is exactly what Kubrick intended.

Spielberg's unabashed support for Israel has also put him in the hot seat. In 2002, a rumor circulated that Spielberg was planning a film about Palestinian suffering during the Israeli/Palestinian feud. The director's spokesman, Marvin Levy, called the report "an obvious, vicious hoax." Spielberg is, however, currently in production on Munich, a highly controversial project which deals with the Israeli retaliation to the massacre of the Israeli Olympic athletes during the 1972 Munich Games. In order to deflect claims of bias, the filmmaker has consulted various sources in creating the film (see Projects).


  • While the films that Steven Spielberg directed have won numerous awards, no actor or actress has won an Academy Award for a performance for one of his films.
  • Spielberg had a cameo role as the Cook County assessor in the last minutes of the 1980 film The Blues Brothers.
  • In 1982 Ben Kingsley won Best Actor and Richard Attenborough won Best Director for the film Gandhi, which beat Steven Spielberg's film E.T. for Best Picture. Eleven years later, in 1993, Steven Spielberg cast Richard Attenborough as the grandfather in Jurassic Park (his first performance in 13 years) and Ben Kingsley in Schindler's List. Steven Spielberg won Best Director and Best Picture Oscars that year.
  • Spielberg, an Eagle Scout, designed the requirements for the Boy Scout Cinematography merit badge.
  • While attending college, Spielberg was a member of Theta Chi Fraternity. Fraternity rumor states that many of his films have very low-key symbols referring to the ritual of the fraternity.
  • The asteroid 25930 Spielberg is named in his honour.
  • Supports the U.S. Democratic Party.
  • Attended Arcadia High School in Scottsdale, AZ and graduated from Saratoga High School in California.
  • On attending Saratoga High School, he said that it was the "worst experience" of his life and "hell on Earth". [1]
  • In 2002 Spielberg was awarded a B.A. in Film Production and Electronic Arts with an option in Film/Video Production from California State University, Long Beach. He first enrolled at Long Beach State in 1965.
  • Applied to, and was rejected by, the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television three separate times. The prominent school later awarded Spielberg an honorary degree in 1994. Two years later, Spielberg became a Trustee of the University and has since tirelessly devoted himself to supporting USC, despite its many snubbings.
  • The A&E Network is expected to announce that it will produce a two-hour drama about the relationship between filmmakers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. According to Daily Variety, the biopic, tentatively titled Celluloid Titans, is being executive produced by Jody Brockway.
  • For his work on the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation since 1994, he was awarded with the Great Cross of Merit with Star, the German version of the Great Officer's Cross, in September 1998 for "a very noticeable contribution to the issue of the Holocaust".
  • Spielberg is expected to make a cameo appearance within an episode of the second season of Extras, the BBC comedy TV series written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant (previously responsible for The Office).[2]
  • Steven Spielberg is recreated as a LEGO minifigure in the LEGO Studios series of sets.
  • His mother, the former Leah Adler, owns a Kosher restaurant in Los Angeles, California.
  • In the 2005 edition of Forbes' "400 Richest People in America", his net worth is estimated at $2.7 billion, a $100 million improvement over 2004 (due mostly to his share of the DreamWorks Animation public stock offering). He, and good friend George Lucas (net worth: $3.5 billion) are the only filmmakers on the list.

Urban legends

Spielberg started a fanciful story of how he broke into Hollywood by sneakily squatting in an unoccupied office on the Universal Studios lot. In fact, he had an unpaid summer job on the lot.


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