Date of Birth18 December 1946, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Birth NameSteven Allan Spielberg
Height5' 7½" (1.71 m)
Mini BiographyUndoubtedly one of the most influential film personalities in the history of film, Steven Spielberg is perhaps Hollywood's best known director and one of the wealthiest filmmakers in the world. Spielberg has countless big-grossing, critically acclaimed credits to his name, as producer, director and writer. He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1946. He went to California State University Long Beach, but dropped out to pursue his entertainment career. He gained notoriety as an uncredited assistant editor on the classic western "Wagon Train" (1957). Among his early directing efforts were Battle Squad (1961), which combined World War II footage with footage of an airplane on the ground that he makes you believe is moving. He also directed Escape to Nowhere (1961), which featured children as World War Two soldiers, including his sister Anne Spielberg, and The Last Gun (1959), a western. All of these were short films. The next couple of years, Spielberg directed a couple of movies that would portend his future career in movies. In 1964, he directed Firelight (1964), a movie about aliens invading a small town. In 1967, he directed Slipstream (1967), which was unfinished. However, in 1968, he directed Amblin' (1968), which featured the desert prominently, and not the first of his movies in which the desert would feature so prominently. Amblin' also became the name of his production company, which turned out such classics as E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Spielberg had a unique and classic early directing project, Duel (1971) (TV), with Dennis Weaver. In the early 1970s, Spielberg was working on TV, directing among others such series as Rod Serling's "Rod Serling's Night Gallery" (1969), "Marcus Welby, M.D." (1969) and "Columbo: Murder by the Book (#1.1)" (1971). All of his work in television and short films, as well as his directing projects, were just a hint of the wellspring of talent that would dazzle audiences all over the world.
Spielberg's first major directorial effort was The Sugarland Express (1974), with Goldie Hawn, a film that marked him as a rising star. It was his next effort, however, that made him an international superstar among directors: Jaws (1975). This classic shark attack tale started the tradition of the summer blockbuster or, at least, he was credited with starting the tradition. His next film was the classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), a unique and original UFO story that remains a classic. In 1978, Spielberg produced his first film, the forgettable I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978), and followed that effort with Used Cars (1980), a critically acclaimed, but mostly forgotten, Kurt Russell\Jack Warden comedy about devious used-car dealers. Spielberg hit gold yet one more time with Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), with Harrison Ford taking the part of Indiana Jones. Spielberg produced and directed two films in 1982. The first was Poltergeist (1982), but the highest-grossing movie of all time up to that point was the alien story E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Spielberg also helped pioneer the practice of product placement. The concept, while not uncommon, was still relatively low-key when Spielberg raised the practice to almost an art form with his famous (or infamous) placement of Reece's Pieces in "E.T." Spielberg was also one of the pioneers of the big-grossing special-effects movies, like "E.T." and "Close Encounters", where a very strong emphasis on special effects was placed for the first time on such a huge scale. In 1984, Spielberg followed up "Raiders" with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), which was a commercial success but did not receive the critical acclaim of its predecessor. As a producer, Spielberg took on many projects in the 1980s, such as The Goonies (1985), and was the brains behind the little monsters in Gremlins (1984). He also produced the cartoon An American Tail (1986), a quaint little animated classic. His biggest effort as producer in 1985, however, was the blockbuster Back to the Future (1985), which made Michael J. Fox an instant superstar. As director, Spielberg took on the book The Color Purple (1985), with Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey, with great success. In the latter half of the 1980s, he also directed Empire of the Sun (1987), a mixed success for the occasionally erratic Spielberg. Success would not escape him for long, though.
Spielberg has been extremely active in films there are many other things he has done as well. He produced the short-lived TV series "SeaQuest 2032" (1993), an anthology series entitled "Amazing Stories" (1985), created the video-game series "Medal of Honor" set during World War Two, and was a starting producer of "ER" (1994). Spielberg, if you haven't noticed, has a great interest in World War Two. He and Tom Hanks collaborated on Shooting War (2000) (TV), a documentary about World War II combat photographers, and he produced a documentary about the Holocaust called Eyes of the Holocaust (2000). With all of this to Spielberg's credit, it's no wonder that he's looked at as one of the greatest ever figures in entertainment.
|Kate Capshaw||(12 October 1991 - present) 5 children|
|Amy Irving||(27 November 1985 - 2 February 1989) (divorced) 1 child|
Trade MarkUses powerful flashlights in dark scenes (Jurassic Park (1993); The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)). The outline of the beam is often made visible through dust, mist, or fog.
Frequently uses music by John Williams.
Often shows shooting stars (Jaws (1975)).
Onscreen performers staring, usually at something off camera.
He often uses images of the sun (Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Color Purple (1985), Empire of the Sun (1987), Saving Private Ryan (1998)).
His films often show children in some sort of danger.
Consistent references to World War II.
Frequent references to Disney films, music, or theme parks.
Frequently uses a piano as an element in key scenes (Schindler's List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), Minority Report (2002)).
Important images, or characters, are often seen through the rear-view mirror of a car (Duel (1971) (TV), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler's List (1993), A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)).
Frequently casts Tom Hanks, Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford, Frank Welker and Tom Cruise.
Protagonists in his films often come from families with divorced parents, with fathers portrayed as reluctant, absent or irresponsible, most notably in _E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)_ (Elliot's mother is divorced and father is absent) and Catch Me If You Can (2002) (Frank Abagnale's mother and father split early in the film). This reflects Spielberg's own experience as a youth with his parents breaking up.
A common theme in many of his films is ordinary people who discover something extraordinary - people, places, artifacts, creatures, etc. (Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)).
Since Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), all of his movies have featured visual effects (even those that were undetected) by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), the F/X house created by his friend George Lucas. The only exception has been The Terminal (2004), which had F/X work by Digital Imageworks.
Is credited for starting the summer blockbuster tradition with 1975's first $100 million megahit, Jaws (1975).
His films are almost always edited by 'Michael Kahn'
Known on-set for being able to work and come up with ideas very quickly (the best example of this would be the filming of "Saving Private Ryan", where Spielberg came up with angles and shot ideas on the spot, due to the fact that the film was largely un-storyboarded). Perhaps this is a habit he picked up after the filming of "Jaws", which was, very famously, a torturously slow shoot due to technical problems.
Personal QuotesI think that the Internet is going to effect the most profound change on the entertainment industries combined. And we're all gonna be tuning into the most popular Internet show in the world, which will be coming from some place in Des Moines. We're all gonna lose our jobs. We're all gonna be on the Internet trying to find an audience.
Once a month the sky falls on my head, I come to and I see another movie I want to make.
[on winning the Best Director Oscar for Saving Private Ryan (1998)]: Am I allowed to say I really wanted this?
Before I go off and direct a movie I always look at 4 films. They tend to be: "Seven Samurai" (Seven Samurai (1954)); Lawrence of Arabia (1962); It's a Wonderful Life (1946) and The Searchers (1956).
[On friend Joan Crawford]: She is five feet four, but she looks six feet on the screen. In a two-shot with anyone, even Gable, (Clark Gable), your eyes fix on her. She is imperious, yet with a childlike sparkle. She is haughty, yet tender. She has no great range as an actress, yet within the range she can perform better than any of her contemporaries.
I have made almost as many films in England as I have in America. I will come back to England again and again.
I would love to see the British film industry get back on its feet again.
I don't drink coffee. I've never had a cup of coffee in my entire life. That's something you probably don't know about me. I've hated the taste since I was a kid.
I dream for a living.
I'd rather direct than produce. Any day. And twice on Sunday.
[on the film Poltergeist (1982)]: Poltergeist is the darker side of my nature, it's me when I was scaring my younger sisters half to death. In Poltergeist, I wanted to terrify and I also wanted to amuse - I tried to mix the laughs and screams together.
With Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), George (George Lucas) put the butter back into the popcorn.
I always like to think of the audience when I am directing. Because I am the audience.
The older I get, the more I look at movies as a moving miracle. Audiences are harder to please if you're just giving them special effects, but they're easy to please if it's a good story. The audience is also the toughest critic - a good story that exists in your world may not be the first choice for an audience. So I just do the best I can.
[When asked about being conflicted whether to make more artistic films, or more commercial films]: All the time, but when you have a story that is very commercial and simple, you have to find the art. You have to take the other elements of the film and make them as good as possible, and doing that will uplift the film.
Godzilla (Godzilla, King of the Monsters! (1956)) was the most masterful of all dinosaur movies because it made you believe it was really happening.
I don't work weekends. Weekends are for my kids. And I have dinner at home every night when I'm not physically directing a movie - I get home by six. I put the kids to bed and tell them stories and take them to school the next morning. I work basically from 9.30 to 5.30 and I'm strict about that.
I think every film I make that puts characters in jeopardy is me purging my own fears, sadly only to re-engage with them shortly after the release of the picture. I'll never make enough films to purge them all.
I'm as guilty as anyone, because I helped to herald the digital era with Jurassic Park (1993). But the danger is that it can be abused to the point where nothing is eye-popping any more. The difference between making Jaws (1975) 31 years ago and War of the Worlds (2005) is that today, anything I can imagine, I can realize on film. Then, when my mechanical shark was being repaired and I had to shoot something, I had to make the water scary. I relied on the audience's imagination, aided by where I put the camera. Today, it would be a digital shark. It would cost a hell of a lot more, but never break down. As a result, I probably would have used it four times as much, which would have made the film four times less scary. Jaws is scary because of what you don't see, not because of what you do. We need to bring the audience back into partnership with storytelling.
I've never used John Williams to tell people how to feel. I use John Williams to enhance my vision and my thoughts emotionally from scene to scene. He'll signal when the shark is coming, which are the most famous single notes next to Beethoven's Fifth. In telling a story, I will use every tool in my arsenal. I will do anything in my power to communicate the best story as I know how.
[On Janusz Kaminski] I was watching television and saw his name on a TV movie, Wildflower (1991) (TV), that was beautifully photographed, so I called up the head of my TV department and asked him to consider hiring him to do a pilot we produced about the Civil War, Class of '61 (1993) (TV). The director agreed to use Janusz and he was great. I think Janusz has brought a lighting style to my movies that I'd never had before. Even Allen Daviau who had done three pictures with me, who I think is the greatest lighting cameraman in town. But Janusz brought more daring, dangerous light into my films. I set the camera. I do all the blocking. I choose the lenses. I compose everything. But Janusz, basically, is my lighting guy. And he's a master painter with light; he's made tremendous contributions to my work through his art.
[on if the soldier's journey is the ultimate hero's journey] - For one thing, I don't think that anybody in any war thinks of themselves as a hero. The minute anybody presumes that they are heroes, they get their boots taken away from them and buried in the sand. That's not going to happen. In the re-creation of combat situations, and this is coming from a director who's never been in one, being mindful of what these veterans have actually gone through, you find that the biggest concern is that you don't look at war as a geopolitical endeavor. You look at war as something that is putting your best friend in jeopardy. You are responsible for the person in front of you and the person behind you, and the person to the left of you and the person to the right of you. Those are the small pods that will inadvertently create a hero, but that is someone else's observation, not the observation of those kids in the foxholes.
[on working on "The Pacific" (2010), "Band of Brothers" (2001) and Saving Private Ryan (1998)] - What moved us to tell these stories, based on these survivors and veterans, was to see what happens to the human soul throughout this particular engagement. These islands were stepping stones to the mainland of Japan. We weren't trained by the drill instructors stateside. We were trained by the enemy, in how to fight the enemy. They trained us how to fight like them. I don't want to compare one war to the other, in terms of savagery, but there's a level when nature and humanity conspire against the individual. To see what happens to those individuals, throughout the entire course of events, leading up to the dropping of the two atomic bombs, is something that was very, very hard for the actors, the writers and all of us to put on the screen, but we felt we had to try.
In Saving Private Ryan (1998) I had a sense that I was establishing a template, based on the experiences communicated to me by the veterans who fought that morning on Dog Green, Omaha Beach, and their experiences, and the very few surviving photographs of the great war correspondent, Robert Capa. I combined those photographs to try to find a 24-frame-per-second equivalent for how I can show that kind of terror and chaos without making a movie that looked elegant and beautiful and in full living color, very much like war movies had been made in the past. It wasn't that I was trying to break the mold of the old war movie approach, visually, but I was simply trying to validate all of this testimony that had been communicated to us, based on the young men that lived and survived that battle. I didn't know it was going to establish a look for war movies, but it was certainly what I thought was right for that particular story.
I committed to directing Catch Me If You Can (2002) principally because Frank Abagnale did things that were the most astonishing scams I had ever heard. And I'm a big fan of scams. I love The Flim-Flam Man (1967). I love Scarecrow (1973) with Gene Hackman. I loved Elmer Gantry (1960) - which I think is a bit of a scam movie. The Sting (1973) and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) were kind of scams. You know, some of those villains, you have to sympathize with them.
I've had darkness in all the films, in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jaws (1975). There are moments in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) that are brutally dark. I just don't think people have stopped to study. They may not have stopped to think when they assume that I suddenly developed a dark side because of Schindler's List (1993). When critics carp about my dark side, I always wonder, "Well, did they really look in the shadows?"
I'm very relaxed about Oscars. I'll admit to you that I wasn't relaxed before I won for Schindler's List (1993). I was pretty much worried about it and almost wanted to get one behind me to get the anxiety out of my gut every time December reared its ugly head. So after I won for Schindler's and Saving Private Ryan (1998), I have no expectations of ever winning again. Whatever happens, happens.
[On Akira Kurosawa] Kurosawa is the pictorial Shakespeare of our time
I had a lot to prove when I made Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) because I had done three movies in a row that had gone wildly over budget and schedule, 1941 (1979), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Jaws (1975). I was ready to turn over a new leaf and Raiders was my chance to make a movie responsibly - under schedule and under budget. Fortunately George Lucas gave me a lot of support and help with preparation. I wasn't dreaming of big box office or making a classic; all I was focused on was making a film the audience would like and doing it in a way that was fiscally responsible. I think we were all surprised by the worldwide success of Raiders. I remember hearing people quote lines from the film or seeing kids pretend to be the characters, and realizing that the film had gone beyond box office success and had entered popular culture. That was one of the happy aftershocks of making that movie. More than anything, we want our films to be watchable and Raiders is a movie I can watch with my kids and completely detach myself from the fact that I directed it. I sit back and enjoy it. For a kid who grew up dreaming of making memorable images, it's a thrill to know Raiders is one of those films where people just have to see the silhouette of the main character, and they immediately think, "Indiana Jones!"
[About Munich (2005)] I am not attacking Israel with this film. In no way, shape or form am I doing that. I'm simply asking why the world feels that the only acceptable response to violence is counter-violence. I'm not answering that question. Just asking it.
Daniel Day-Lewis would have always been counted as one of the greatest of actors, were he from the silent era, the golden age of film or even some time in cinema's distant future.
|War Horse (2011)||$20,000,000|
|Jurassic Park III (2001)||$72,000,000|
|Schindler's List (1993)||$0 (Asked not to be paid.)|
|Jurassic Park (1993)||$250,000,000 (gross and profit participations)|
|Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)||$1,500,000 + % of gross|