Steven Allan Spielberg (born December 18, 1946) is an American director, producer, and screenwriter. He is considered one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era and one of the most popular directors and producers in film history. He is also one of the co-founders of DreamWorks Studios.
In a career spanning more than four decades, Spielberg’s films have spanned many themes and genres. Spielberg’s early science fiction and adventure films, such as Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), were seen as archetypes of modern Hollywood escapist filmmaking. In later years, his films began addressing numerous humanistic issues such as the Holocaust, the transatlantic slave trade, civil rights, war, and terrorism in such films as The Color Purple (1985), Empire of the Sun (1987), Schindler’s List (1993), Amistad (1997), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Munich (2005), War Horse (2011), Lincoln (2012), Bridge of Spies (2015), and The Post (2017). His other films include Jurassic Park (1993), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001), and War of the Worlds (2005).
Spielberg won the Academy Award for Best Director for Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, as well as receiving five other nominations. Three of Spielberg’s films—Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Jurassic Park—achieved box office records and came to epitomize the blockbuster film. The unadjusted gross of all Spielberg-directed films exceeds $9 billion worldwide, making him the highest-grossing director in history. His personal net worth is estimated to be more than $3 billion. He is also known for his long-standing associations with several actors, producers, and technicians, most notably composer John Williams, who has composed music for all but three of Spielberg’s films (The Color Purple, Bridge of Spies, and Ready Player One).
Spielberg was born on December 18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His mother, Leah (née Posner, later Adler; January 12, 1920 – February 21, 2017), was a restaurateur and concert pianist, and his father, Arnold Spielberg (born 1917), was an electrical engineer involved in the development of computers. His family was Orthodox Jewish. Spielberg’s paternal grandparents were Jewish Ukrainian immigrants who settled in Cincinnati in the 1900s; his grandmother was from Sudylkiv, while his grandfather was from Kamianets-Podilskyi. In 1950, his family moved to Haddon Township, New Jersey, when his father took a job with RCA. Three years later, the family moved to Phoenix, Arizona. Spielberg attended Hebrew school from 1953 to 1957, in classes taught by Rabbi Albert L. Lewis.
As a child, Spielberg faced difficulty reconciling being an Orthodox Jew with the perception of him by other children he played with. “It isn’t something I enjoy admitting,” he once said, “but when I was seven, eight, nine years old, God forgive me, I was embarrassed because we were Orthodox Jews. I was embarrassed by the outward perception of my parents’ Jewish practices. I was never really ashamed to be Jewish, but I was uneasy at times.” Spielberg also said he suffered from acts of anti-Semitic prejudice and bullying: “In high school, I got smacked and kicked around. Two bloody noses. It was horrible.” His first home movie was of a train wreck involving his toy Lionel trains, then age 12. Throughout his early teens, and after entering high school, Spielberg continued to make amateur 8 mm “adventure” films.
In 1958, he became a Boy Scout and fulfilled a requirement for the photography merit badge by making a nine-minute 8 mm film entitled The Last Gunfight. Years later, Spielberg recalled to a magazine interviewer, “My dad’s still-camera was broken, so I asked the scoutmaster if I could tell a story with my father’s movie camera. He said yes, and I got an idea to do a Western. I made it and got my merit badge. That was how it all started.” At age thirteen, while living in Phoenix, Spielberg won a prize for a 40-minute war film he titled Escape to Nowhere, using a cast composed of other high school friends. That motivated him to make 15 more amateur 8mm films. In 1963, at age sixteen, Spielberg wrote and directed his first independent film, a 140-minute science fiction adventure called Firelight, which would later inspire Close Encounters. The film was made for $500, most of which came from his father, and was shown in a local cinema for one evening, which earned back its cost.
After attending Arcadia High School in Phoenix for three years, his family next moved to Saratoga, California, where he later graduated from Saratoga High School in 1965. He attained the rank of Eagle Scout. His parents divorced while he was still in school, and soon after he graduated Spielberg moved to Los Angeles, staying initially with his father. His long-term goal was to become a film director. His three sisters and mother remained in Saratoga. In Los Angeles, he applied to the University of Southern California‘s film school, but was turned down because of his “C” grade average. He then applied and was admitted to California State University, Long Beach, where he became a brother of Theta Chi Fraternity.
While still a student, he was offered a small unpaid intern job at Universal Studios with the editing department. He was later given the opportunity to make a short film for theatrical release, the 26-minute, 35mm, Amblin’, which he wrote and directed. Studio vice president Sidney Sheinberg was impressed by the film, which had won a number of awards, and offered Spielberg a seven-year directing contract. It made him the youngest director ever to be signed for a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio. He subsequently dropped out of college to begin professionally directing TV productions with Universal. Spielberg later returned to Cal State Long Beach and completed his BA degree in Film and Electronic Arts in 2002.
Spielberg’s first professional TV job came when he was hired to direct one of the segments for the 1969 pilot episode of Night Gallery, written by Rod Serling and starring Joan Crawford. Crawford, however, was “speechless, and then horrified” at the thought of a twenty-one-year-old newcomer directing her, one of Hollywood’s leading stars. “Why was this happening to me?” she asked the producer. Her attitude changed after they began working on her scenes:
When I began to work with Steven, I understood everything. It was immediately obvious to me, and probably everyone else, that here was a young genius. I thought maybe more experience was important, but then I thought of all of those experienced directors who didn’t have Steven’s intuitive inspiration and who just kept repeating the same old routine performances. That was called ‘experience.’ I knew then that Steven Spielberg had a brilliant future ahead of him. Hollywood doesn’t always recognize talent, but Steven’s was not going to be overlooked. I told him so in a note I wrote him. I wrote to Rod Serling, too. I was so grateful that he had approved Steven as the director. I told him he had been totally right.
She and Spielberg were reportedly close friends until her death. The episode is unusual in his body of work, in that the camerawork is more highly stylized than his later, more “mature” films. After this, and an episode of Marcus Welby, M.D., Spielberg got his first feature-length assignment: an episode of The Name of the Game called “L.A. 2017.” This futuristic science fiction episode impressed Universal Studios and they signed him to a short contract. He did another segment on Night Gallery and did some work for shows such as Owen Marshall: Counselor at Law and The Psychiatrist, before landing the first series episode of Columbo (previous episodes were actually TV films).
Based on the strength of his work, Universal signed Spielberg to do four TV films. The first was a Richard Matheson adaptation called Duel. The film is about a psychotic Peterbilt 281 tanker truck driver who chases the terrified driver (Dennis Weaver) of a small Plymouth Valiant and tries to run him off the road. Special praise of this film by the influential British critic Dilys Powell was highly significant to Spielberg’s career. Another TV film (Something Evil) was made and released to capitalize on the popularity of The Exorcist, then a major best-selling book which had not yet been released as a film. He fulfilled his contract by directing the TV film-length pilot of a show called Savage, starring Martin Landau. Spielberg’s debut full-length feature film was The Sugarland Express, about a married couple who are chased by police as the couple tries to regain custody of their baby. Spielberg’s cinematography for the police chase was praised by reviewers, and The Hollywood Reporter stated that “a major new director is on the horizon.” However, the film fared poorly at the box office and received a limited release.
Studio producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown offered Spielberg the director’s chair for Jaws, a thriller-horror film based on the Peter Benchley novel about an enormous killer shark. Spielberg has often referred to the gruelling shoot as his professional crucible. Despite the film’s ultimate, enormous success, it was nearly shut down due to delays and budget over-runs. But Spielberg persevered and finished the film. It was an enormous hit, winning three Academy Awards (for editing, original score and sound) and grossing more than $470 million worldwide at the box office. It also set the domestic record for box office gross, leading to what the press described as “Jawsmania.” Jaws made Spielberg a household name and one of America’s youngest multi-millionaires, allowing him a great deal of autonomy for his future projects. It was nominated for Best Picture and featured Spielberg’s first of three collaborations with actor Richard Dreyfuss.
Rejecting offers to direct Jaws 2, King Kong and Superman, Spielberg and actor Richard Dreyfuss re-convened to work on a film about UFOs, which became Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). One of the rare films both written and directed by Spielberg, Close Encounters was a critical and box office hit, giving Spielberg his first Best Director nomination from the Academy as well as earning six other Academy Awards nominations. It won Oscars in two categories (Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond, and a Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing, Frank E. Warner). This second blockbuster helped to secure Spielberg’s rise. His next film, 1941, a big-budgeted World War II farce, was not nearly as successful and though it grossed over $92.4 million worldwide (and did make a small profit for co-producing studios Columbia and Universal) it was seen as a disappointment, mainly with the critics.
Spielberg then revisited his Close Encounters project and, with financial backing from Columbia Pictures, released Close Encounters: The Special Edition in 1980. For this, Spielberg fixed some of the flaws he thought impeded the original 1977 version of the film and also, at the behest of Columbia, and as a condition of Spielberg revising the film, shot additional footage showing the audience the interior of the mother-ship seen at the end of the film (a decision Spielberg would later regret as he felt the interior of the mother-ship should have remained a mystery). Nevertheless, the re-release was a moderate success, while the 2001 DVD release of the film restored the original ending.
Next, Spielberg teamed with Star Wars creator and friend George Lucas on an action adventure film, Raiders of the Lost Ark, the first of the Indiana Jones films. The archaeologist and adventurer hero Indiana Jones was played by Harrison Ford (whom Lucas had previously cast in his Star Wars films as Han Solo). The film was considered an homage to the cliffhanger serials of the Golden Age of Hollywood. It became the biggest film at the box office in 1981, and the recipient of numerous Oscar nominations including Best Director (Spielberg’s second nomination) and Best Picture (the second Spielberg film to be nominated for Best Picture). Raiders is still considered a landmark example of the action-adventure genre. The film also led to Ford’s casting in Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner.
A year later, Spielberg returned to the science fiction genre with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. It was the story of a young boy and the alien he befriends, who was accidentally left behind by his companions and is attempting to return home. E.T. went on to become the top-grossing film of all time. It was also nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director and it won four of them.
Between 1982 and 1985, Spielberg produced three high-grossing films: Poltergeist (for which he also co-wrote the screenplay), a big-screen adaptation of The Twilight Zone (for which he directed the segment “Kick The Can”), and The Goonies (Spielberg, executive producer, also wrote the story on which the screenplay was based). Spielberg appeared in a cameo on Cyndi Lauper‘s music video for the movie’s theme song, “The Goonies ‘R’ Good Enough.”
His next directorial feature was the Raiders prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Teaming up once again with Lucas and Ford, the film was plagued with uncertainty for the material and script. This film and the Spielberg-produced Gremlins led to the creation of the PG-13 rating due to the high level of violence in films targeted at younger audiences. In spite of this, Temple of Doom is rated PG by the MPAA, even though it is the darkest and, possibly, most violent Indy film. Nonetheless, the film was still a huge blockbuster hit in 1984. It was on this project that Spielberg also met his future wife, actress Kate Capshaw.
In 1985, Spielberg released The Color Purple, an adaptation of Alice Walker‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, about a generation of empowered African-American women during depression-era America. Starring Whoopi Goldberg and future talk-show superstar Oprah Winfrey, the film was a box office smash and critics hailed Spielberg’s successful foray into the dramatic genre. Roger Ebert proclaimed it the best film of the year and later entered it into his Great Films archive. The film received eleven Academy Award nominations, including two for Goldberg and Winfrey. However, Spielberg did not get a Best Director nomination.
In 1987, as China began opening to Western capital investment, Spielberg shot the first American film in Shanghai since the 1930s, an adaptation of J. G. Ballard‘s autobiographical novel Empire of the Sun, starring John Malkovich and a young Christian Bale. The film garnered much praise from critics and was nominated for several Oscars, but did not yield substantial box office revenues. Reviewer Andrew Sarris called it the best film of the year and later included it among the best films of the decade. Spielberg was also a co-producer of the 1987 film *batteries not included.
After two forays into more serious dramatic films, Spielberg then directed the third Indiana Jones film, 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Once again teaming up with Lucas and Ford, Spielberg also cast actor Sean Connery in a supporting role as Indy’s father. The film earned generally positive reviews and was another box office success, becoming the highest-grossing film worldwide that year; its total box office receipts even topped those of Tim Burton’s much-anticipated film Batman, which had been the bigger hit domestically. Also in 1989, he re-united with actor Richard Dreyfuss for the romantic comedy-drama Always, about a daredevil pilot who extinguishes forest fires. Spielberg’s first romantic film, Always was only a moderate success and had mixed reviews.
In 1991, Spielberg directed Hook, about a middle-aged Peter Pan, played by Robin Williams, who returns to Neverland. Despite innumerable rewrites and creative changes coupled with mixed reviews, the film proved popular with audiences, making over $300 million worldwide (from a $70 million budget).
In 1993, Spielberg returned to the adventure genre with the film version of Michael Crichton‘s novel Jurassic Park, about a theme park with genetically engineered dinosaurs. With revolutionary special effects provided by friend George Lucas‘s Industrial Light & Magic company, the film would eventually become the highest-grossing film of all time (at the worldwide box office) with $914.7 million. This would be the third time that one of Spielberg’s films became the highest-grossing film ever.
Spielberg’s next film, Schindler’s List, was based on the true story of Oskar Schindler, a man who risked his life to save 1,100 Jews from the Holocaust. Schindler’s List earned Spielberg his first Academy Award for Best Director (it also won Best Picture). With the film a huge success at the box office, Spielberg used the profits to set up the Shoah Foundation, a non-profit organization that archives filmed testimony of Holocaust survivors. In 1997, the American Film Institute listed it among the 10 Greatest American Films ever Made (#9) which moved up to (#8) when the list was remade in 2007.
In 1994, Spielberg took a hiatus from directing to spend more time with his family and build his new studio, DreamWorks, with partners Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen. In 1996, he directed the sequel to 1993’s Jurassic Park with The Lost World: Jurassic Park, which generated over $618 million worldwide despite mixed reviews, and was the second biggest film of 1997 behind James Cameron‘s Titanic (which topped the original Jurassic Park to become the new record holder for box office receipts).
His next film, Amistad, was based on a true story (like Schindler’s List), specifically about an African slave rebellion. Despite decent reviews from critics, it did not do well at the box office. Spielberg released Amistad under DreamWorks Pictures, which has produced all of his films from Amistad onwards with the exception of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, The Adventures of Tintin and Ready Player One.
His 1998 theatrical release was the World War II film Saving Private Ryan, about a group of U.S. soldiers led by Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) sent to bring home a paratrooper whose three older brothers were killed in the same twenty-four hours, June 5–6, of the Normandy landing. The film was a huge box office success, grossing over $481 million worldwide and was the biggest film of the year at the North American box office (worldwide it made second place after Michael Bay’s Armageddon). Spielberg won his second Academy Award for his direction. The film’s graphic, realistic depiction of combat violence influenced later war films such as Black Hawk Down and Enemy at the Gates. The film was also the first major hit for DreamWorks, which co-produced the film with Paramount Pictures (as such, it was Spielberg’s first release from the latter that was not part of the Indiana Jones series). Later, Spielberg and Tom Hanks produced a TV mini-series based on Stephen Ambrose‘s book Band of Brothers. The ten-part HBO mini-series follows Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division‘s 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment. The series won a number of awards at the Golden Globes and the Emmys.
In 2001, Spielberg filmed fellow director and friend Stanley Kubrick‘s final project, A.I. Artificial Intelligence which Kubrick was unable to begin during his lifetime. A futuristic film about a humanoid android longing for love, A.I. featured groundbreaking visual effects and a multi-layered, allegorical storyline, adapted by Spielberg himself. Though the film’s reception in the US was relatively muted, it performed better overseas for a worldwide total box office gross of $236 million.
Spielberg and actor Tom Cruise collaborated for the first time for the futuristic neo-noir Minority Report, based upon the science fiction short story written by Philip K. Dick about a Washington D.C. police captain in the year 2054 who has been foreseen to murder a man he has not yet met. The film received strong reviews with the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 92% approval rating, reporting that 206 out of the 225 reviews they tallied were positive. The film earned over $358 million worldwide. Roger Ebert, who named it the best film of 2002, praised its breathtaking vision of the future as well as for the way Spielberg blended CGI with live-action.
Spielberg’s 2002 film Catch Me If You Can is about the daring adventures of a youthful con artist (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). It earned Christopher Walken an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. The film is known for John Williams‘ score and its unique title sequence. It was a hit both commercially and critically.
Spielberg collaborated again with Tom Hanks along with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Stanley Tucci in 2004’s The Terminal, a warm-hearted comedy about a man of Eastern European descent who is stranded in an airport. It received mixed reviews but performed relatively well at the box office. In 2005, Empire magazine ranked Spielberg number one on a list of the greatest film directors of all time.
Also in 2005, Spielberg directed a modern adaptation of War of the Worlds (a co-production of Paramount and DreamWorks), based on the H. G. Wells book of the same name (Spielberg had been a huge fan of the book and the original 1953 film). It starred Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning, and, as with past Spielberg films, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) provided the visual effects. Unlike E.T. and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which depicted friendly alien visitors, War of the Worlds featured violent invaders. The film was another huge box office smash, grossing over $591 million worldwide.
Spielberg’s film Munich, about the events following the 1972 Munich Massacre of Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games, was his second film essaying Jewish relations in the world (the first being Schindler’s List). The film is based on Vengeance, a book by Canadian journalist George Jonas. It was previously adapted into the 1986 made-for-TV film Sword of Gideon. The film received strong critical praise, but underperformed at the U.S. and world box-office; it remains one of Spielberg’s most controversial films to date. Munich received five Academy Awards nominations, including Best Picture, Film Editing, Original Music Score (by John Williams), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Director for Spielberg. It was Spielberg’s sixth Best Director nomination and fifth Best Picture nomination.
In June 2006, Steven Spielberg announced he would direct a scientifically accurate film about “a group of explorers who travel through a worm hole and into another dimension,” from a treatment by Kip Thorne and producer Lynda Obst. In January 2007, screenwriter Jonathan Nolan met with them to discuss adapting Obst and Thorne’s treatment into a narrative screenplay. The screenwriter suggested the addition of a “time element” to the treatment’s basic idea, which was welcomed by Obst and Thorne. In March of that year, Paramount hired Nolan, as well as scientists from Caltech, forming a workshop to adapt the treatment under the title Interstellar. The following July, Kip Thorne said there was a push by people for him to portray himself in the film. Spielberg later abandoned Interstellar, which was eventually directed by Christopher Nolan.
Spielberg directed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which wrapped filming in October 2007 and was released on May 22, 2008. This was his first film not to be released by DreamWorks since 1997. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, and was financially successful, grossing $786 million worldwide.
In early 2009, Spielberg shot the first film in a planned trilogy of motion capture films based on The Adventures of Tintin, written by Belgian artist Hergé, with Peter Jackson. The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, was not released until October 2011, due to the complexity of the computer animation involved. The world premiere took place on October 22, 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. The film was released in North American theaters on December 21, 2011, in Digital 3D and IMAX. It received generally positive reviews from critics, and grossed over $373 million worldwide. The Adventures of Tintin won the award for Best Animated Feature Film at the Golden Globe Awards that year. It is the first non-Pixar film to win the award since the category was first introduced. Jackson has been announced to direct the second film.
Spielberg followed with War Horse, shot in England in the summer of 2010. It was released just four days after The Adventures of Tintin, on December 25, 2011. The film, based on the novel of the same name written by Michael Morpurgo and published in 1982, follows the long friendship between a British boy and his horse Joey before and during World War I – the novel was also adapted into a hit play in London which is still running there, as well as on Broadway. Distributed by Walt Disney Studios, with whom DreamWorks made a distribution deal in 2009, War Horse was the first of four consecutive Spielberg films released by Disney. War Horse received generally positive reviews from critics, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
Spielberg next directed the historical drama film Lincoln, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as United States President Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. Based on Doris Kearns Goodwin‘s bestseller Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, the film covered the final four months of Lincoln’s life. Written by Tony Kushner, the film was shot in Richmond, Virginia, in late 2011, and was released in the United States in November 2012. Upon release, Lincoln received widespread critical acclaim, and was nominated for twelve Academy Awards (the most of any film that year) including Best Picture and Best Director for Spielberg. It won the award for Best Production Design and Day-Lewis won the Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Lincoln, becoming the first three-time winner in that category as well as the first to win for a performance directed by Spielberg.
It was announced on May 2, 2013, that Spielberg would direct the film about the story of U.S. sniper Chris Kyle, titled American Sniper. However, on August 5, 2013, it was announced that Spielberg had decided not to direct the film, which was instead directed by Clint Eastwood.
Spielberg directed 2015’s Bridge of Spies, a Cold War thriller based on the 1960 U-2 incident, and focusing on James B. Donovan‘s negotiations with the Soviets for the release of pilot Gary Powers after his aircraft was shot down over Soviet territory. The film starred Tom Hanks as Donovan, as well as Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda, with a script by the Coen brothers. The film was shot from September to December 2014 on location in New York City, Berlin and Wroclaw, Poland (which doubled for East Berlin), and was released on October 16, 2015. Bridge of Spies received positive reviews from critics, and was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture; Rylance won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, becoming the second actor to win for a performance directed by Spielberg.
Spielberg’s The BFG is an adaptation of Roald Dahl‘s celebrated children’s story, starring newcomer Ruby Barnhill, and Rylance as the titular Big Friendly Giant. DreamWorks bought the rights in 2010, originally intending John Madden to direct. The film was the last to be written by E.T. screenwriter Melissa Mathison before she died. It was co-produced and released by Walt Disney Pictures, marking the first Disney-branded film to be directed by Spielberg. The BFG premiered out of competition at the Cannes Film Festival on May 14, 2016 and received a wide release in the US on July 1, 2016.
Spielberg directed Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep in The Post, an account of The Washington Post‘s printing of the Pentagon Papers. Production began in New York on May 30, 2017. The film began a limited release on December 22, 2017, with a wide release following on January 12, 2018.
Spielberg’s next film is an adaptation of the popular sci-fi novel Ready Player One by Ernest Cline which stars Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance. The film began production in London in July 2016, a year before The Post, which was filmed, edited and released during the lengthy, effects-heavy post-production period for Ready Player One. It was originally slated to be released on December 15, 2017 by Warner Bros., but was pushed back to March 30, 2018, to avoid competition with Star Wars Episode VIII.
Spielberg first plans to film a fifth instalment in the Indiana Jones series. The untitled film is set to star Harrison Ford and will be produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It is being written by David Koepp, who has written numerous other films for Spielberg, including the last Indiana Jones film. It was originally set for release by Disney on July 19, 2019, but will now come out on July 10, 2020.
Spielberg plans to then direct a film remake of the musical West Side Story. Tony Kushner stated in July 2017 that he is adapting the classic show’s book for Spielberg, though the musical score will remain unchanged, as will the late-1950s setting. In January 2018, he began an open casting search for the four lead roles, three of the roles being specifically for Latino actors.
Spielberg had planned to film his long-planned adaptation of David Kertzer‘s The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara in early 2017 for release at the end of that year, but production has been postponed. The book follows the true story of a young Jewish boy in 1858 Italy who was secretly baptized by a family servant and then kidnapped from his family by the Papal States, where he was raised and trained as a priest, causing international outrage and becoming a media sensation. It was first announced in 2014, with Kushner adapting the book for the screen. Mark Rylance, in his fourth consecutive collaboration with Spielberg, was announced to star in the role of Pope Pius IX. Oscar Isaac was set to star as Mortara’s father, but eventually dropped out. Spielberg had difficulty casting the title role, though he saw more than 2000 kids.
Spielberg is attached to direct Cortes, a historical epic written by Steven Zaillian about the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, and Hernán Cortés‘s relationship with Aztec ruler Montezuma. The script is based on an earlier one from 1965 by Oscar-winner Dalton Trumbo. The project at one time had Javier Bardem attached to play the lead role of explorer Hernán Cortés.
Projects on hold
Spielberg was scheduled to shoot a $200 million adaptation of Daniel H. Wilson‘s novel Robopocalypse, adapted for the screen by Drew Goddard. The film would follow a global human war against a robot uprising about 15–20 years in the future. Like Lincoln, it was to be released by Disney in the United States and Fox overseas. It was set for release on April 25, 2014, with Anne Hathaway and Chris Hemsworth set to star, but Spielberg postponed production indefinitely in January 2013, just before it had been set to begin.
In 2009, Spielberg reportedly tried to obtain the screen rights to make a film based on Microsoft‘s Halo series. In September 2008, Steven Spielberg bought film rights for John Wyndham‘s novel Chocky and is interested in directing it. He is also interested in making an adaptation of A Steady Rain, Pirate Latitudes, The 39 Clues, and a remake of When Worlds Collide.
In May 2009, Steven Spielberg bought the rights to the life story of Martin Luther King, Jr. Spielberg will be involved not only as producer but also as a director. However, the purchase was made from the King estate, led by son Dexter, while the two other surviving children, the Reverend Bernice and Martin III, immediately threatened to sue, not having given their approvals to the project.
Since the mid-1980s, Spielberg has increased his role as a film producer. He headed up the production team for several cartoons, including the Warner Bros. hits Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Toonsylvania, and Freakazoid!, for which he collaborated with Jean MacCurdy and Tom Ruegger. Due to his work on these series, in the official titles, most of them say, “Steven Spielberg presents” as well as making numerous cameos on the shows. Spielberg also produced the Don Bluth animated features, An American Tail and The Land Before Time, which were released by Universal Studios. He also served as one of the executive producers of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and its three related shorts (Tummy Trouble, Roller Coaster Rabbit, Trail Mix-Up), which were all released by Disney, under both the Walt Disney Pictures and the Touchstone Pictures banners. He was furthermore, for a short time, the executive producer of the long-running medical drama ER. In 1989, he brought the concept of The Dig to LucasArts. He contributed to the project from that time until 1995 when the game was released. He also collaborated with software publishers Knowledge Adventure on the multimedia game Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair, which was released in 1996. Spielberg appears, as himself, in the game to direct the player. The Spielberg name provided branding for a Lego Moviemaker kit, the proceeds of which went to the Starbright Foundation.
In 1993, Spielberg acted as executive producer for the highly anticipated television series seaQuest DSV; a science fiction series set “in the near future” starring Roy Scheider (who Spielberg had directed in Jaws) and Jonathan Brandis that aired on NBC. While the first season was moderately successful, the second season did less well. Spielberg’s name no longer appeared in the third season and the show was cancelled midway through it.
Spielberg served as an uncredited executive producer on The Haunting, The Prince of Egypt, Just Like Heaven, Shrek, Road to Perdition, and Evolution. He served as an executive producer for the 1997 film Men in Black, and its sequels, Men in Black II and Men in Black III. In 2005, he served as a producer of Memoirs of a Geisha, an adaptation of the novel by Arthur Golden, a film to which he was previously attached as director. In 2006, Spielberg co-executive produced with famed filmmaker Robert Zemeckis a CGI children’s film called Monster House, marking their eighth collaboration since 1990’s Back to the Future Part III. He also teamed with Clint Eastwood for the first time in their careers, co-producing Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima with Robert Lorenz and Eastwood himself. He earned his twelfth Academy Award nomination for the latter film as it was nominated for Best Picture. Spielberg served as executive producer for Disturbia and the Transformers live action film with Brian Goldner, an employee of Hasbro. The film was directed by Michael Bay and written by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, and Spielberg continued to collaborate on the sequels, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Transformers: Age of Extinction, and Transformers: The Last Knight. In 2011, he produced the J. J. Abrams science fiction thriller film Super 8 for Paramount Pictures.
Other major television series Spielberg produced were Band of Brothers, Taken and The Pacific. He was an executive producer on the critically acclaimed 2005 TV miniseries Into the West which won two Emmy awards, including one for Geoff Zanelli‘s score. For his 2010 miniseries The Pacific he teamed up once again with co-producer Tom Hanks, with Gary Goetzman also co-producing’. The miniseries is believed to have cost $250 million and is a 10-part war miniseries centered on the battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Writer Bruce McKenna, who penned several instalments of (Band of Brothers), was the head writer.
In 2007, Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett co-produced On the Lot a short-lived TV reality show about filmmaking. Despite this, he never gave up working on television. He currently serves as one of the executive producers on United States of Tara, a show created by Academy Award winner Diablo Cody which they developed together (Spielberg is uncredited as creator).
In 2011, Spielberg launched Falling Skies, a science fiction television series, on the TNT network. He developed the series with Robert Rodat and is credited as an executive producer. Spielberg is also producing the Fox TV series Terra Nova. Terra Nova begins in the year 2149 when all life on the planet Earth is threatened with extinction resulting in scientists opening a door that allows people to travel back 85 million years to prehistoric times. Spielberg also produced The River, Smash, Under the Dome, Extant, The Whispers, a TV adaptation of Minority Report, and Bull.
In 2008, Spielberg and DreamWorks acquired the rights to produce a live-action film adaptation of the original Ghost in the Shell manga. Avi Arad and Steven Paul were later confirmed as producers, Rupert Sanders directed, and Scarlett Johansson stars in the lead role.
In March 2013, Spielberg announced that he was “developing a Stanley Kubrick screenplay for a miniseries, not for a motion picture, about the life of Napoleon.” In May 2016, it was announced that Cary Fukunaga is in talks to direct the miniseries for HBO, from a script by David Lenland based on extensive research materials accumulated by Kubrick over many years.
Spielberg had cameo roles in The Blues Brothers, Gremlins, Vanilla Sky, and Austin Powers in Goldmember, as well as small uncredited cameos in a handful of other films, such as a life-station worker in Jaws. He also made numerous cameo roles in the Warner Bros. cartoons he produced, such as Animaniacs, and even made reference to some of his films. Spielberg voiced himself in the film Paul, and in one episode of Tiny Toon Adventures titled Buster and Babs Go Hawaiian.
In 2017, Spielberg, along with fellow directors Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo del Toro, Paul Greengrass and Lawrence Kasdan were featured in the Netflix documentary series Five Came Back, which discussed the contributions of film directors Frank Capra, John Ford, John Huston, George Stevens and William Wyler towards recording the events of World War II. Spielberg also served as an executive producer on the series.
Involvement in video games
Apart from being an ardent gamer Spielberg has had a long history of involvement in video games. He has been giving thanks to his games of his division DreamWorks Interactive most notable as Someone’s in the Kitchen with script written by Animaniacs‘ Paul Rugg, Goosebumps: Escape from HorrorLand, The Neverhood (all in 1996), Skullmonkeys, Dilbert’s Desktop Games, Goosebumps: Attack of the Mutant (all 1997), Boombots (1999), T’ai Fu: Wrath of the Tiger (1999), and Clive Barker’s Undying (2001). In 2005 the director signed with Electronic Arts to collaborate on three games including an action game and an award-winning puzzle game for the Wii called Boom Blox (and its 2009 sequel: Boom Blox Bash Party). Previously, he was involved in creating the scenario for the adventure game The Dig. In 1996, Spielberg worked on and shot original footage for a movie-making simulation game called Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair. He is the creator of the Medal of Honor series by Electronic Arts. He is credited in the special thanks section of the 1998 video game Trespasser. In 2013, Spielberg has announced he is collaborating with 343 Industries for a live-action TV show of Halo.
Spielberg’s films often deal with several recurring themes. Most of his films deal with ordinary characters searching for or coming in contact with extraordinary beings or finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances. In an AFI interview in August 2000 Spielberg commented on his interest in the possibility of extraterrestrial life and how it has influenced some of his films. Spielberg described himself as feeling like an alien during childhood, and his interest came from his father, a science fiction fan, and his opinion that aliens would not travel light years for conquest, but instead curiosity and sharing of knowledge.
A strong consistent theme in his family-friendly work is a childlike sense of wonder and faith, as attested by works such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hook, A.I. Artificial Intelligence and The BFG. According to Warren Buckland, these themes are portrayed through the use of low height camera tracking shots, which have become one of Spielberg’s directing trademarks. In the cases when his films include children (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Empire of the Sun, Jurassic Park, etc.), this type of shot is more apparent, but it is also used in films like Munich, Saving Private Ryan, The Terminal, Minority Report, and Amistad. If one views each of his films, one will see this shot utilized by the director, notably the water scenes in Jaws are filmed from the low-angle perspective of someone swimming. Another child oriented theme in Spielberg’s films is that of loss of innocence and coming-of-age. In Empire of the Sun, Jim, a well-groomed and spoiled English youth, loses his innocence as he suffers through World War II China. Similarly, in Catch Me If You Can, Frank naively and foolishly believes that he can reclaim his shattered family if he accumulates enough money to support them.
The most persistent theme throughout his films is tension in parent-child relationships. Parents (often fathers) are reluctant, absent or ignorant. Peter Banning in Hook starts off in the beginning of the film as a reluctant married-to-his-work parent who through the course of the film regains the respect of his children. The notable absence of Elliott’s father in E.T., is the most famous example of this theme. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it is revealed that Indy has always had a very strained relationship with his father, who is a professor of medieval literature, as his father always seemed more interested in his work, specifically in his studies of the Holy Grail, than in his own son, although his father does not seem to realize or understand the negative effect that his aloof nature had on Indy (he even believes he was a good father in the sense that he taught his son “self reliance,” which is not how Indy saw it). Even Oskar Schindler, from Schindler’s List, is reluctant to have a child with his wife. In The Color Purple, the main character, Celie, has been impregnated by her father multiple times. Munich depicts Avner as a man away from his wife and newborn daughter. There are exceptions; Brody in Jaws is a committed family man, while John Anderton in Minority Report is a shattered man after the disappearance of his son. This theme is arguably the most autobiographical aspect of Spielberg’s films, since Spielberg himself was affected by his parents’ divorce as a child and by the absence of his father. Furthermore, to this theme, protagonists in his films often come from families with divorced parents, most notably E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (protagonist Elliot’s mother is divorced) and Catch Me If You Can (Frank Abagnale’s mother and father split early on in the film). Little known also is Tim in Jurassic Park (early in the film, another secondary character mentions Tim and Lex’s parents’ divorce). The family often shown divided is often resolved in the ending as well. Following this theme of reluctant fathers and father figures, Tim looks to Dr. Alan Grant as a father figure. Initially, Dr. Grant is reluctant to return those paternal feelings to Tim. However, by the end of the film, he has changed, and the kids even fall asleep with their heads on his shoulders.
Most of his films are generally optimistic in nature. Though some critics accuse his films of being a little overly sentimental, Spielberg feels it is fine as long as it is disguised. He is still a highly praised director as well as being credited as one of the most influential directors of all time. The influence comes from directors Frank Capra and John Ford.
In terms of casting and production itself, Spielberg has a known penchant for working with actors and production members from his previous films. For instance:
- He has cast Richard Dreyfuss in three films – Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Always.
- He has has cast Harrison Ford in five films – as a head teacher in T. the Extra-Terrestrial (though the scene was ultimately cut) and in the four Indiana Jones films.
- He has has used Tom Hanks in five films – Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, Bridge of Spies, and The Post.
- He has cast Mark Rylance in four films – Bridge of Spies, The BFG, and the upcoming films Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and Ready Player One.
- He has directed veteran voice actor Frank Welker once (in Raiders of the Lost Ark, for which he voiced many of the animals), Welker has lent his voice in a number of productions Spielberg has executive produced from Gremlins to its sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch, as well as The Land Before Time, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and television shows such as Tiny Toons, Animaniacs, and SeaQuest DSV.
Spielberg prefers working with production members with whom he has developed an existing working relationship. An example of this is his production relationship with Kathleen Kennedy who has served as producer on all his major films from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial to the recent Lincoln. For cinematography, Allen Daviau, a childhood friend and cinematographer, shot the early Spielberg film Amblin and most of his films up to Empire of the Sun; Janusz Kamiński who has shot every Spielberg film since Schindler’s List (see List of film director and cinematographer collaborations); and the film editor Michael Kahn who has edited every film directed by Spielberg from Close Encounters to Munich (except E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial). Most of the DVDs of Spielberg’s films have documentaries by Laurent Bouzereau.
A famous example of Spielberg working with the same professionals is his long-time collaboration with John Williams and the use of his musical scores in all of his films since The Sugarland Express (except for Bridge of Spies, Ready Player One, The Color Purple, and Twilight Zone: The Movie). One of Spielberg’s trademarks is his use of music by Williams to add to the visual impact of his scenes and to try and create a lasting picture and sound of the film in the memories of the film audience. These visual scenes often uses images of the sun (e.g. Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan, the final scene of both Jurassic Park and War Horse, and the end credits of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (where they ride into the sunset)), of which the last three feature a Williams score at that end scene. Spielberg is a contemporary of filmmakers George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, John Milius, and Brian De Palma, collectively known as the “Movie Brats.” Aside from his principal role as a director, Spielberg has acted as a producer for a considerable number of films, including early hits for Joe Dante and Robert Zemeckis. Spielberg has often never worked with the same screenwriter in his films, beside Tony Kushner and David Koepp, who have written a few of his films more than once.
Marriages and children
Spielberg first met actress Amy Irving in 1976 at the suggestion of director Brian De Palma, who knew he was looking for an actress to play in Close Encounters. After meeting her, Spielberg told his co-producer Julia Phillips, “I met a real heartbreaker last night.” Although she was too young for the role, she and Spielberg began dating and she eventually moved into what she described as his “bachelor funky” house. They lived together for four years, but the stresses of their professional careers took a toll on their relationship. Irving wanted to be certain that whatever success she attained as an actress would be her own: “I don’t want to be known as Steven’s girlfriend,” she said, and chose not to be in any of his films during those years.
As a result, they broke up in 1979, but remained close friends. Then in 1984 they renewed their romance, and in November 1985, they married, already having had a son, Max Samuel. After three and a half years of marriage, however, many of the same competing stresses of their careers caused them to divorce in 1989. They agreed to maintain homes near each other as to facilitate the shared custody and parenting of their son. Their divorce was recorded as the third most costly celebrity divorce in history.
Spielberg subsequently developed a relationship with actress Kate Capshaw, whom he met when he cast her in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. They married on October 12, 1991. Capshaw is a convert to Judaism. They currently move among their four homes in Pacific Palisades, California; Quelle Farm, Georgica Pond in East Hampton, New York; New York City; and Naples, Florida.
There are seven children in the Spielberg-Capshaw family:
- Jessica Capshaw (born August 9, 1976) – daughter from Kate Capshaw’s previous marriage to Robert Capshaw
- Max Samuel Spielberg (born June 13, 1985) – son from Spielberg’s previous marriage to actress Amy Irving
- Theo Spielberg (born August 21, 1988) – son adopted by Capshaw before her marriage to Spielberg, who later also adopted him
- Sasha Rebecca Spielberg (born May 14, 1990, Los Angeles)
- Sawyer Avery Spielberg (born March 10, 1992, Los Angeles)
- Mikaela George (born February 28, 1996) – adopted with Kate Capshaw
- Destry Allyn Spielberg (born December 1, 1996)
Spielberg grew up in a Jewish household, including having a bar mitzvah ceremony in Phoenix when he turned 13. He grew away from Judaism after his family moved to various cities during his high school years, where they became the only Jews in the neighborhood. Before those years, his family was involved in the synagogue and had many Jewish friends and nearby relatives.
He remembers his grandparents telling him about their life in Russia, where they were subjected to religious persecution, causing them to eventually flee to the United States. He was made aware of the Holocaust by his parents, who he says “talked about it all the time, and so it was always on my mind.” His father had lost between sixteen and twenty relatives during the Holocaust.
Spielberg “rediscovered the honor of being a Jew,” he says, before he made Schindler’s List, when he married Kate Capshaw. Until then, having become a filmmaker, he only felt his connection to Judaism when he visited his parents. He says he made the film partly to create “something that would confirm my Judaism to my family and myself.”He credits her with fuelling his family’s current level of observance and for keeping the “momentum flowing” in their lives, as they now observe Jewish holidays, light candles on Friday nights, and give their children Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. “This shiksa goddess has made me a better Jew than my own parents.”
Kate is Protestant and she insisted on converting to Judaism. She spent a year studying, did the “mikveh,” the whole thing. She chose to do a full conversion before we were married in 1991, and she married me after becoming a Jew. I think that, more than anything else, brought me back to Judaism.
Producing Schindler’s List in 1993 also renewed his faith, Spielberg says, but “it really was the fact that my wife took a profound interest in Judaism.” He waited ten years after being given the story in 1982 to make the film, as he did not yet feel “mature” enough. He first wanted to have a family, “to figure out what my place was in the world…. When my first son, [Max] was born, it greatly affected me…. A spirit began to ignite in me, and I became a Jewish dad…”
He said that making the film became a “natural experience” for him, adding, “I had to tell the story. I’ve lived on its outer edges.” The film, writes biographer Joseph McBride, thereby became the “culmination” of Spielberg’s long personal struggle with his Jewish identity. Some claim the film has made Spielberg “the one true heir to the great Jewish moguls who created Hollywood,” most of whom had actively avoided depicting Jews or the Holocaust in their films.
Forbes magazine places Spielberg’s personal net worth at $3.7 billion.
In 2013, Spielberg purchased the 282-foot (86 m) mega-yacht Seven Seas for US$182 million. He has since put it up for sale and in the meantime has made it available for charter. At US$1.2 million per month, it is one of the most expensive charters on the market. He has ordered a new 300-foot (91 m) yacht costing a reported US$250 million.
In 2002, Spielberg was one of eight flag bearers who carried the Olympic Flag into Rice-Eccles Stadium at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. In 2006, Premiere listed him as the most powerful and influential figure in the motion picture industry. Time listed him as one of the 100 Most Important People of the Century. At the end of the 20th century, Life named him the most influential person of his generation. In 2009, Boston University presented him an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.
According to Forbes‘ Most Influential Celebrities 2014 list, Spielberg was listed as the most influential celebrity in America. The annual list is conducted by E-Poll Market Research and it gave more than 6,600 celebrities on 46 different personality attributes a score representing “how that person is perceived as influencing the public, their peers, or both.” Spielberg received a score of 47, meaning 47% of the US believes he is influential. Gerry Philpott, president of E-Poll Market Research, supported Spielberg’s score by stating, “If anyone doubts that Steven Spielberg has greatly influenced the public, think about how many will think for a second before going into the water this summer.”
Spielberg usually supports U.S. Democratic Party candidates. He has donated over $800,000 to the Democratic party and its nominees. He has been a close friend of former President Bill Clinton and worked with the President for the USA Millennium celebrations. He directed an 18-minute film for the project, scored by John Williams and entitled The American Journey. It was shown at America’s Millennium Gala on December 31, 1999, in the National Mall at the Reflecting Pool at the base of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
Spielberg resigned as a member of the national advisory board of the Boy Scouts of America in 2001 because of his disapproval of the organization’s anti-homosexuality stance. In 2007 the Arab League voted to boycott Spielberg’s movies after he donated $1 million for relief efforts in Israel during the 2006 Lebanon War. On February 20, 2007, Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, and David Geffen invited Democrats to a fundraiser for Barack Obama. In February 2008, Spielberg pulled out of his role as advisor to the 2008 Summer Olympics in response to the Chinese government’s inaction over the War in Darfur. Spielberg said in a statement that “I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual.” It also said that “Sudan’s government bears the bulk of the responsibility for these on-going crimes, but the international community, and particularly China, should be doing more.” The International Olympic Committee respected Spielberg’s decision, but IOC president Jacques Rogge admitted in an interview that “[Spielberg] certainly would have brought a lot to the opening ceremony in terms of creativity.” Spielberg’s statement drew criticism from Chinese officials and state-run media calling his criticism “unfair,” In September 2008, Spielberg and his wife offered their support to same-sex marriage, by issuing a statement following their donation of $100,000 to the “No on Proposition 8” campaign fund, a figure equal to the amount of money Brad Pitt donated to the same campaign less than a week prior.
A collector of film memorabilia, Spielberg purchased a balsa Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane (1941) in 1982. He bought Orson Welles‘s own directorial copy of the script for the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds (1938) in 1994. Spielberg has purchased Academy Award statuettes being sold on the open market and donated them to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, to prevent their further commercial exploitation. His donations include the Oscars that Bette Davis received for Dangerous (1935) and Jezebel (1938), and Clark Gable‘s Oscar for It Happened One Night (1934).
Spielberg is a major collector of the work of American illustrator and painter Norman Rockwell. A collection of 57 Rockwell paintings and drawings owned by Spielberg and fellow Rockwell collector and film director George Lucas were displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum July 2, 2010 – January 2, 2011, in an exhibition titled Telling Stories.
Spielberg is an avid film buff, and, when not shooting a picture, he will watch many films in a single weekend. He sees almost every major summer blockbuster in theaters if not preoccupied and enjoys most of them.
Since playing Pong while filming Jaws in 1974, Spielberg has been an avid video gamer. Spielberg played many of LucasArts adventure games, including the first Monkey Island games. He owns a Wii, a PlayStation 3, a PSP and Xbox 360, and enjoys playing first-person shooters such as the Medal of Honor series and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. He has also criticized the use of cutscenes in games, calling them intrusive, and feels making story flow naturally into the gameplay is a challenge for future game developers.
In 2001, Spielberg was stalked by conspiracy theorist and former social worker Diana Napolis. She accused him, along with actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, of controlling her thoughts through “cybertronic” technology and being part of a satanic conspiracy against her. Napolis was committed to a mental institution before pleading guilty to stalking, and released on probation with a condition that she have no contact with either Spielberg or Hewitt.
Jonathan Norman was arrested after making two attempts to enter Spielberg’s Pacific Palisades home in June and July 1997. Norman was jailed for 25 years in California. Spielberg told the court: “Had Jonathan Norman actually confronted me, I genuinely, in my heart of hearts, believe that I would have been raped or maimed or killed.”
Awards and honors
Spielberg has won three Academy Awards. He has been nominated for seven Academy Awards for the category of Best Director, winning two of them (Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan), and ten of the films he directed were up for the Best Picture Oscar (Schindler’s List won). In 1987, he was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a creative producer.
Drawing from his own experiences in Scouting, Spielberg helped the Boy Scouts of America develop a merit badge in cinematography in order to help promote filmmaking as a marketable skill. The badge was launched at the 1989 National Scout Jamboree, which Spielberg attended, and where he personally counselled many boys in their work on requirements. That same year, 1989, saw the release of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The opening scene shows a teenage Indiana Jones in scout uniform bearing the rank of a Life Scout. Spielberg stated he made Indiana Jones a Boy Scout in honor of his experience in Scouting. For his career accomplishments, service to others, and dedication to a new merit badge Spielberg was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.
In 1998, he was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit with Ribbon of the Federal Republic of Germany. The Award was presented to him by President Roman Herzog in recognition of his film Schindler’s List and his Shoa-Foundation.
In 1999, Spielberg received an honorary degree from Brown University. Spielberg was also awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service by Secretary of Defense William Cohen at the Pentagon on August 11, 1999; Cohen presented the award in recognition of Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan.
In 2004, he was admitted as knight of the Légion d’honneur by president Jacques Chirac. On July 15, 2006, Spielberg was also awarded the Gold Hugo Lifetime Achievement Award at the Summer Gala of the Chicago International Film Festival, and also was awarded a Kennedy Center honor on December 3. The tribute to Spielberg featured a short, filmed biography narrated by Liam Neeson and included “thank-you” letters from World War II veterans for Saving Private Ryan, as well as a performance of the finale to Leonard Bernstein‘s Candide, conducted by John Williams (Spielberg’s frequent composer)
The Science Fiction Hall of Fame inducted Spielberg in 2005, the first year it considered non-literary contributors. In November 2007, he was chosen for a Lifetime Achievement Award to be presented at the sixth annual Visual Effects Society Awards in February 2009. He was set to be honored with the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the January 2008 Golden Globes; however, due to the new, watered-down format of the ceremony resulting from conflicts in the 2007–08 writers strike, the HFPA postponed his honor to the 2009 ceremony. In 2008, Spielberg was awarded the Légion d’honneur.
In June 2008, Spielberg received Arizona State University‘s Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence.
Spielberg received an honorary degree at Boston University‘s 136th Annual Commencement on May 17, 2009. In October 2009 Steven Spielberg received the Philadelphia Liberty Medal; presenting him with the medal was former US president and Liberty Medal recipient Bill Clinton. Special guests included Whoopi Goldberg, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.
On October 22, 2011 he was admitted as a Commander of the Belgian Order of the Crown. He was given the badge on a red neck ribbon by the Belgian Federal Minister of Finance Didier Reynders. The Commander is the third highest rank of the Order of the Crown. He was the president of the jury for the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
On November 19, 2013, Spielberg was honored by the National Archives and Records Administration with its Records of Achievement Award. Spielberg was given two facsimiles of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution, one passed but not ratified in 1861, as well as a facsimile of the actual 1865 amendment signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln. The amendment and the process of passing it were the subject of his film Lincoln.
On May 26, 2016, Spielberg was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts by Harvard University.
Praise and criticism
- In 2005, Steven Spielberg was rated the greatest film director of all time by Empire magazine. In 1997, a Wall Street sell-side analyst said, “There are only two brand names in the business: Disney and Spielberg.”
- After watching the unconventional, off-center camera techniques of Jaws, Alfred Hitchcock praised “young Spielberg,” for thinking outside of the visual dynamics of the theater, saying “He’s the first one of us who doesn’t see the proscenium arch.”
- Some of Spielberg’s most notable admirers include Robert Aldrich, Ingmar Bergman, Werner Herzog, Stanley Kubrick, David Lean, Sidney Lumet,] Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese, François Truffaut, David Lynch and Zhang Yimou.
- Spielberg’s movies have also influenced many directors that followed, including Adam Green, J. Abrams, Paul Thomas Anderson, Neill Blomkamp, James Cameron, Guillermo del Toro, Roland Emmerich, David Fincher, Peter Jackson, Kal Ng, Robert Rodriguez, John Sayles, Ridley Scott, John Singleton, Kevin Smith, Steven Soderbergh, Quentin Tarantino, and Gareth Edwards. In 2016, Jeffrey Katzenberg said of Spielberg: “You can take James Cameron, Chris Nolan or Martin Scorsese – all brilliant and in many ways his peers, but look at quality and consistency, and no one compares.”
- British film critic Tom Shone has said of Spielberg, “If you have to point to any one director of the last twenty-five years in whose work the medium of film was most fully itself – where we found out what it does best when left to its own devices, it has to be that guy.” Jess Cagle, the managing editor of Entertainment Weekly, called Spielberg “…arguably (well, who would argue?) the greatest filmmaker in history.”
- Spielberg’s critics complain that his films are overly sentimental and tritely moralistic. In his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood, Peter Biskind summarized the views of Spielberg’s detractors, accusing the director of “infantilizing the audience, reconstituting the spectator as child, then overwhelming him and her with sound and spectacle, obliterating irony, aesthetic self-consciousness, and critical reflection.”
- Critics of mainstream film such as Ray Carney and American artist and actor Crispin Glover (who starred in the Spielberg-produced Back to the Future and who sued Spielberg for using his likeness in Back to the Future Part II)] claim that Spielberg’s films lack depth and do not take risks.
- French New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard stated that he holds Spielberg partly responsible for the lack of artistic merit in mainstream cinema and accused Spielberg of using his film Schindler’s List to make a profit off tragedy while Schindler’s wife, Emilie Schindler, lived in poverty in Argentina. In defense of Spielberg, critic Roger Ebert said “Has Godard or any other director living or dead done more than Spielberg, with his Holocaust Project, to honor and preserve the memories of the survivors?” Author Thomas Keneally has also disputed claims that Emilie Schindler was never paid for her contributions to the film, “not least because I had recently sent Emilie a check myself.”
- Film critic Pauline Kael, who had championed Spielberg’s films in the 1970s, expressed disappointment in his later development, stating that “he’s become, I think, a very bad director…. And I’m a little ashamed for him, because I loved his early work…. [H]e turned to virtuous movies. And he’s become so uninteresting now…. I think that he had it in him to become more of a fluid, far-out director. But, instead, he’s become a melodramatist.”
- Imre Kertész, Hungarian Jewish author, Nazi concentration camp survivor, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, criticized Spielberg’s depiction of the Holocaust in Schindler’s List as kitsch, saying “I regard as kitsch any representation of the Holocaust that is incapable of understanding or unwilling to understand the organic connection between our own deformed mode of life and the very possibility of the Holocaust.” Veteran documentary filmmaker and professor Claude Lanzmann also labeled Schindler’s List “pernicious in its impact and influence” and “very sentimental.”
- Stephen Rowley wrote an extensive essay about Spielberg and his career in Senses of Cinema. In it, he discussed Spielberg’s strengths as a filmmaker, saying “there is a welcome complexity of tone and approach in these later films that defies the lazy stereotypes often bandied about his films” and that “Spielberg continues to take risks, with his body of work continuing to grow more impressive and ambitious,” concluding that he has only received “limited, begrudging recognition” from critics.
- Shia LaBeouf, who worked with Spielberg on a number of films including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and various DreamWorks productions (notably the Transformers film series), described his experiences working with the director in a wide-ranging interview with Variety in 2016. He stated, “I grew up with this idea, [that] if you got to Spielberg, that’s where it is – I’m not talking about fame, and I’m not talking about money. You get there, and you realize you’re not meeting the Spielberg you dream of. You’re meeting a different Spielberg, who is in a different stage in his career. He’s less a director than he is a fucking company.” He went on to discuss his on-set actor/director relationship with Spielberg, as well as the films they made together, “Spielberg’s sets are very different – everything has been so meticulously planned. You got to get this line out in 37 seconds. You do that for five years, you start to feel like not knowing what you’re doing for a living.” He concluded his point by stating: “I don’t like the movies that I made with Spielberg. The only movie that I liked that we made together was [the first] Transformers [film].” Later in the interview, LaBeouf recited and criticized the advice given to him by Spielberg following the mixed reaction to both Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and LaBeouf’s performance in the film. He claims Spielberg told him not to read about himself in the media, but LaBeouf felt irritated by what he perceived to be non-advice and a lack of understanding, saying “There’s no way to not do that. For me to not read that means I need to not take part in society. The generation previous to mine didn’t have the immediate response [of the internet]. If you were Mark Hamill [in Star Wars], you could lie to yourself. You could find the pockets of joy, and turn a blind eye to the shit over there.”
- In 1999, Spielberg, then a co-owner of DreamWorks, was involved in a heated debate in which the studio proposed building on wetlands near Los Angeles, though development was later dropped for economic reasons.
- In August 2007, Ai Weiwei, artistic consultant for the Beijing Olympic Stadium, known as the “Bird’s Nest,” accused those choreographing the Olympic opening ceremony, including Spielberg, of failing to live up to their responsibility as artists by allowing their work to be used by the Chinese government, which has suppressed human rights in China, including those of Ai’s family, for the purpose of “propaganda.” Ai said, “It’s disgusting. I don’t like anyone who shamelessly abuses their profession, who makes no moral judgment.”