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Steven Spielberg

[speel-burg]

Steven Allan Spielberg, KBE (Hon), (born December 18, 1946) is an American film director, screenwriter and producer. Forbes magazine places Spielberg's net worth at $3.1 billion. In 2006, the magazine Premiere listed him as the most powerful and influential figure in the motion picture industry. Time listed him as one of the 100 Greatest People of the Century. At the end of the twentieth century, Life named him the most influential person of his generation. In a career that spans almost four decades, Spielberg's films have touched many themes and genres. During the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s four of his films, Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, and Indiana Jones became the highest grossing films for their time. During his early years as a director, his sci-fi and adventure films were often seen as the archetype of modern Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking. In later years, his movies began addressing such historical issues as the Holocaust, slavery, war and terrorism.

Early life

Spielberg was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of Jewish parents Leah Adler (née Posner), a restaurateur and concert pianist, and Arnold Spielberg, a computer engineer. Throughout his early teens, Spielberg made amateur 8 mm "adventure" movies with his friends, the first of which he shot at a restaurant (Pinnacle Peak Patio) in Scottsdale, Arizona. He charged admission (25 cents) to his home movies (which involved the wrecks he staged with his Lionel train set) while his sister sold popcorn.

He became a Boy Scout and in 1958, he fulfilled a requirement for the photography merit badge by making a nine-minute 8 mm film entitled The Last Gunfight. Spielberg recalled years later 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 13, Spielberg won a prize for a 40-minute war movie he titled "Escape to Nowhere". In 1963, at age 16, Spielberg wrote and directed his first independent movie, a 140-minute science fiction adventure called Firelight (which would later inspire Close Encounters). The movie, which had a budget of US$400, was shown in his local movie theater and generated a profit of $100. A writer for the local Phoenix press wrote that he could expect great things to come.

After his parents divorced, he moved to California with his father. His three sisters and mother remained in Arizona, where he attended Passover seders at the home of Zalman and Pearl Segal on an annual basis. Although he attended Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Arizona for three years, Spielberg ended up graduating from Saratoga High School in Saratoga, California, in 1965, which he called the "worst experience" of his life and "hell on Earth". It was during this time Spielberg attained the rank of Eagle Scout.

After moving to California, he applied to attend film school at the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television three separate times but was unsuccessful due to his C grade average. His actual career began when he returned to Universal studios as an unpaid, seven-day-a-week intern and guest of the editing department. He got this job by dressing up in a business suit, and walked into Universal Studios during a tour, looking important. He found a janitor's closet not being used and called it "his office." While attending college at Long Beach State in the 1960s, Spielberg also became member of Theta Chi Fraternity. After Spielberg became famous, USC awarded him an honorary degree in 1994, and in 1996 he became a trustee of the university. He attended California State University, Long Beach. In 2002, thirty-five years after starting college, Spielberg finished his degree via independent projects at CSULB, and was awarded a B.A. in Film Production and Electronic Arts with an option in Film/Video Production.

As an intern and guest of Universal Studios, Spielberg made his first short film for theatrical release, the 24 minute movie Amblin' in 1968. After Sidney Sheinberg, then the vice-president of production for Universal's TV arm, saw the film, Spielberg became the youngest director ever to be signed to a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio (Universal). He dropped out of Long Beach State in 1969 to take the television director contract at Universal Studios and began his career as a professional director.

Early career (1968–1975)

His first professional TV job came when he was hired to do one of the segments for the 1969 pilot episode of Night Gallery. The segment, "Eyes", starred Joan Crawford (who was very supportive of her twenty-two year-old rookie director), and 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 Name of the Game called "L.A. 2017". This futuristic science fiction episode impressed Universal Studios and they signed him on 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 movies).

Based on the strength of his work, Universal signed Spielberg to do three TV movies. The first was a Richard Matheson adaptation called Duel about a monstrous tanker truck which tries to run a small car 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 movie. He fulfilled his contract by directing the TV movie length pilot of a show called Savage, starring Martin Landau. Spielberg's debut theatrical 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 Zanuck and David Brown offered Spielberg the director's chair for Jaws, a horror film based on the Peter Benchley novel about an enormous killer-shark. Spielberg has often referred to the grueling 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 $470,653,000 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 him a household name, as well as one of America's youngest multi-millionaires, and allowed Spielberg 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.

Mainstream breakthrough (1975–1994)

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 movies 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.

Spielberg's success with mainstream and commercially appealing films also subjected him to disdain from film reviewers. His next film, 1941, a big-budgeted World War II farce, flopped with audiences and critics alike.

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, shot additional footage showing the audience the interior of the mothership seen at the end of the film (a decision Spielberg would later regret as he felt the interior of the mothership should have remained a mystery). 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, was an homage to the cliffhanger serials of the Golden Age of Hollywood, with Harrison Ford (whom Lucas had previously cast in his Star Wars films) as the archaeologist and adventurer hero Indiana Jones. 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 genre.

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 whom he befriends, who was accidentally left behind by his people and is trying to get back home to outer space. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial went on to become the top-grossing film of all time until it was beaten by another of his films, Jurassic Park, in 1993. E.T. was also nominated for nine Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

Between 1982 and 1985, Spielberg produced three high-grossing movies: 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.

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. Reviews were generally less positive than they were for its predecessor (although critic Roger Ebert gave the film four stars and Pauline Kael praised the movie after criticizing the original), and it was criticized for lacking the energy of the original, its questionable depiction of East Indian culture , and for the level of violence in a movie with a large audience of young viewers. This film and the Spielberg-produced Gremlins led to the creation of the PG-13 rating due to the high level of violence in movies 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" movie yet. 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 movie of the year and later entered it into his Great Films archive. The film received eleven Academy Award nominations, including two for Whoopi Goldberg and Oprah Winfrey. However, much to the surprise of many, Spielberg did not get a Best Director nomination. The Color Purple is the second of two Spielberg films not to be scored by John Williams, the first being Duel.

In 1987, as China began opening to the world, Spielberg shot the first American movie 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.

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 Ford'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 made $300 million worldwide (from a budget of $70 million).

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 and Magic company, the film would eventually become the highest grossing film of all time (at the worldwide box office) with $914 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 people 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 the Holocaust survivors. Some critics maintain that Schindler's List is the most accurate portrayal of the Holocaust, and in 1997 the American Film Institute listed it among the 10 Greatest American Films ever Made (#9).

Since 1997

In 1994, Spielberg took a hiatus from directing to spend more time with his family and build his new studio, DreamWorks. In 1997, he helmed 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 hit of 1997 behind James Cameron's Titanic (which topped the original Jurassic Park to become the new recordholder 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 issued all of his movies since Amistad, a streak that ended in May 2008 (see below).

In 1998, Spielberg released the World War II film Saving Private Ryan, about a group of U.S. soldiers led by Capt. Miller (Tom Hanks) who try to find a soldier missing in France. The film was again, a huge box office success, grossing over $481 million worldwide and was the biggest film of the year at the U.S./domestic box office. Spielberg won his second Academy Award for his direction. The film's graphic, realistic depiction of combat violence influenced later war movies 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 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 movie about a humanoid android longing for love, A.I. featured groundbreaking visual effects and a multi-layered, allegorical storyline, adapted by Spielberg himself.

Spielberg and actor Tom Cruise collaborated for the first time for the futuristic neo-noir Minority Report, based upon the sci-fi short story written by Philip K. Dick about a Washington, D.C., police captain who has been foreseen to murder a man he has not yet met. The film received strong reviews with the review tallying website rottentomatoes.com reporting that 199 out of the 217 reviews they tallied were positive. The film was praised as a futuristic homage to film noir, with its intelligent premise and "whodunit" structure. 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 and 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: The True Story of an Israeli Counter-Terrorist Team, a book by Canadian journalist George Jonas a book whose veracity has been largely questioned by journalists. 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.

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 has performed very well in theaters. As of June 30 2008, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has grossed $315 million domestically, and over $780 million worldwide.

Production credits

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 Brothers hits Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Toonsylvania, and Freakazoid!, for which he collaborated with Jean MacCurdy and Tom Ruegger. Spielberg also produced the Don Bluth animated features, An American Tail and The Land Before Time. 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 with the project from that time to 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. Spielberg was branded 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 akin to Star Trek: The Next Generation that aired on Sundays at 8:00 p.m. 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 mid way through the third season.

Spielberg served as an uncredited executive producer on The Haunting, The Prince of Egypt, Shrek, and Evolution. In 2005, he served as a 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. In 2006 Spielberg co-executive produced with famed filmmaker Robert Zemeckis a CGI children's movie called Monster House, marking their first collaboration together 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. Recently 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.

Other major television series Spielberg produced were Band of Brothers and Taken. 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.

In 2007, Steven Spielberg and Mark Burnett co-produced On the Lot an ill-fated TV reality show about filmmaking.

Acting credits

Steven Spielberg had cameo roles in The Blues Brothers, Vanilla Sky, and Austin Powers in Goldmember, as well as small uncredited cameos in a handful of other films.

Involvement in video games

Other than films, Spielberg has also revealed an interest in video games, revealing himself to be a gamer. In 2005 the director signed with Electronic Arts to collaborate on three games including a currently unnamed action game and a puzzle game for the Wii called Boom Blox. Previously, he was involved in creating the scenario for the adventure game The Dig. He is also the creator of the Medal of Honor series by Electronic Arts.

Upcoming projects

Spielberg is planning a motion capture film trilogy based on The Adventures of Tintin, with Peter Jackson. He will direct the first, which will be released by 2010 due to the necessary computer animation, while Jackson will direct the second which Spielberg will produce. The two will co-direct a third. Meanwhile, he will film an Abraham Lincoln biopic, titled Lincoln, starring Liam Neeson, in early 2009 and to release it by the end of the year. He is also developing the films The 39 Clues and Interstellar.

Jurassic Park IV is also in development. Another upcoming project is a miniseries which he will produce with Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, titled The Pacific. The miniseries will cost $150 million and will be a 10-part war miniseries in conjunction with the Australian Seven Network. The project is centered on the battles in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Writer Bruce McKenna, who penned several installments of the first miniseries (Band of Brothers), is the head writer. Filming is expected to begin in August 2008 and will continue for a year, with locations mostly in Australia, to include Far North Queensland, Melbourne, and the Northern Territory. Producers have chosen to base the series at Melbourne's Central City Studios. He is also producing two untitled Fox TV series, one focusing on fashion, another on time-travellers from World War II.

On April 29, 2008, it was announced that Spielberg will direct a film regarding the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103 over the town of Lockerbie in Scotland. The movie will be based on the book Flight 103 written by former MOSSAD agent Juval Aviv, who believes that Libyan national Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi, the only person convicted of the attacks, is actually innocent.

Although no plans have been confirmed, according to Reelzchannel, Spielberg has bought the rights to popular anime Ghost in the Shell.

Themes

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. This is especially evident in the Indiana Jones series. In an AFI interview in August 2000 Spielberg commented on his interest in the possibility of extra terrestrial 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, even naïve, sense of wonder and faith, as attested by works such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hook, and A.I.. 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 his 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. Munich depicts Avner as man away from his wife and newborn daughter. There are of course 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 movie). Little known also is Tim in Jurassic Park (early in the movie 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. Critics frequently accuse his films of being overly sentimental, though Spielberg feels it's fine as long as it is disguised. The influence comes from directors Frank Capra and John Ford.

Contemporaries

In terms of casting and production itself, Spielberg has a known trademark for working with actors and production members from his previous films. For instance he has cast Richard Dreyfuss in several movies: Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Always. Spielberg has also cast Harrison Ford for several of his movies from small roles, as the headteacher in a cut scene from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as well as in leading role in the Indiana Jones films. Recently Spielberg has used the actor Tom Hanks on several occasions and has cast him in Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me if You Can, and The Terminal. Spielberg also has collaborated with Tom Cruise twice on Minority Report and War of the Worlds. 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 Munich. Other working relationships include Allen Daviau, a childhood friend and cinematographer who shot the early Spielberg film Amblin' and most of his films up to Empire Of The Sun; Janusz Kaminski who has shot every Spielberg film since Schindler's List (see List of noted film director and cinematographer collaborations); and the film editor Michael Kahn who has edited every single 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 The Color Purple and Twilight Zone: The Movie). One of Spielberg's trademarks is his use of music by John 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 Jurassic Park, and the end credits of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (where they ride into the sunset)), of which the last two 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.

Personal life

Marriages and children

From 1985 to 1989 Spielberg was married to actress Amy Irving. In their 1989 divorce settlement, she received $100 million from Spielberg after a judge controversially vacated a prenuptial agreement written on a napkin. Their divorce was recorded as the third most costly celebrity divorce in history. Following the divorce, Spielberg and Irving shared custody of their son, Max Samuel.

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; New York City; East Hampton, NY; and Naples, Florida.

There are nine children in the Spielberg-Capshaw family:

  • Jessica Capshaw (August 9, 1976) - daughter from Capshaw's previous marriage to Robert Capshaw
  • Max Samuel Spielberg (June 13, 1985) - son from Spielberg's previous marriage to Amy Irving
  • Theo Spielberg (1988) - son adopted by Capshaw before her marriage to Steven; Steven later adopted Theo.
  • Sasha Rebecca (May 14, 1990 in Los Angeles)
  • Janet Sanders (November 28, 1990)
  • Sawyer Avery (March 10, 1992 in Los Angeles)
  • Mikaela George (February 28, 1996) - adopted with Capshaw
  • Destry Allyn (December 1, 1996)

Spielberg has several pets including a dog. His previous dog, Mikhaila, starred in several of his films in various guises including Jaws, Close Encounters, and 1941.

Starbright

In 1991 Steven Spielberg co-founded Starbright with Randy Aduana– a foundation dedicated to improving sick children's lives through technology-based programs focusing on entertainment and education. In 2002 Starbright merged with the Starlight Foundation forming what is now today – Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation.

Politics

  • Spielberg generally supports U.S. Democratic Party candidates. He has donated over $800,000 for 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 an advisory board member of his local boy scout council in 2001 because of his disapproval of the BSA's anti-homosexuality stance.
  • Spielberg joined Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban in endorsing the re-election of Hollywood friend Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican Governor of California, on August 7, 2006.
  • On February 20, 2007, Spielberg, Katzenberg, and David Geffen invited Democrats to a fundraiser for Barack Obama,. But on June 14, 2007, Spielberg endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) for President. While Geffen and Katzenberg supported Obama, Spielberg was always a supporter of Hillary Clinton.
  • In February 2008, Spielberg pulled out of his role as advisor to the 2008 Beijing 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 IOC 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.

Achievements

Spielberg is a winner of three Academy Awards. He has been nominated for six Academy Awards for the category of Best Director, winning two of them (Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan), and seven 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. The badge was launched at the 1989 National Scout Jamboree which Spielberg attended, personally counseling many boys in their work on requirements.

That same year, 1989, was 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 and service to others, Spielberg was awarded the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.

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 Spielberg the award in recognition of his movie Saving Private Ryan.

In 2001, he was created a honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.

In 2004 he was admitted as knight of the Légion d'honneur from 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 honour on December 3. The tribute to Spielberg featured a short filmed biography narrated by Tom Hanks and included thank-yous 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).

In November 2007, he was chosen for 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, the new, watered-down format of the ceremony result from conflicts from 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 was the recipient of Arizona State University’s Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence.

In Fall of 2008, Steven Speilberg will be named a Disney Legend due to his contributions to the Who Framed Roger Rabbit franchise as well as contribution to many other Disney/Amblin co-productions.

Criticism

Spielberg, as a then co-owner of DreamWorks, was involved in a heated debate in which the studio proposed building on the remaining wetlands in Southern California, though development was later dropped.

Spielberg's films are often accused of leaning towards sentimentalism at the expense of other aspects of the film.

French New Wave giant Jean-Luc Godard famously and publicly criticised Spielberg at the premiere of his film In Praise of Love. Godard, who has continuously complained about the commercial nature of modern cinema, holds Spielberg partly responsible for the lack of artistic merit in mainstream cinema. Godard accused Spielberg of using his film to make a profit of tragedy while Schindler's wife lived in poverty in Argentina.. American artist and actor Crispin Glover (who starred in the Spielberg-produced Back to the Future) also criticised Spielberg in his 2005 essay What Is It?. Among Glover's accusations are that Spielberg purchased a sled used in Orson Welles's 1941 film Citizen Kane for $50,000 but refused to fund Welles's would-be final film; that he received money from the United States government to promote his personal religious and cultural beliefs; and that he exploited tragedy for personal gain in the film Schindler's List.

Critics such as anti-mainstream film theorist Ray Carney also complain that Spielberg's films lack depth and do not take risks. In Spielberg's defense, critic Roger Ebert argues that Spielberg is very talented and has also 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? Spielberg's most intellectually respected proponent has been New York Press film critic Armond White, credited for writing the most substantive and persuasive arguments for Spielberg as a populist and humanist filmmaker. White's essays on The Color Purple (hailed as "post-modernist" and "feminist"), Minority Report, A.I. and Munich have been praised and argued-over as Spielberg's most insightful and appreciative critiques. White's view has done much to counter Spielberg's dismissal by most mainstream critics. Some of Spielberg's most famous fans include film legends Ingmar Bergman and Terry Gilliam (although he has criticised some of Spielberg's more recent work). The late French filmmaker François Truffaut admired his work and took a role in Spielberg's film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

One of the most accomplished critical assessments of Spielberg's work as an artist and thinker was Gregory Solman's "Awakening to A.I.'s Dream" which was published in Senses of Cinema, Issue 27, July/August 2003.

An episode of South Park, "Free Hat", satirizes Spielberg and Lucas for their revisions of previous films, such as E.T. and the Star Wars series. In the DVD commentary for this episode, Parker and Stone, the makers of South Park, assert that the films are being revised to make them more politically correct and profitable, disregarding the original work of art (Spielberg was specifically targeted for changes in the 20th Anniversary Edition of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, such as a scene where police brandishing guns on a group of boys was digitally altered to replace the guns with walkie-talkies). However, Spielberg has commented in subsequent media interviews that the removal of the firearms from the policemen's hands was done as a personal favor to Drew Barrymore, who starred in the film. Barrymore has outwardly expressed her dislike for guns, thus leading to the digital alterations done for E.T.'s re-release.

Parker and Stone criticized Spielberg again in The China Probrem, in which he and Lucas are accused by the boys of raping Indiana Jones, a crime for which they are later on arrested.

Filmography

Awards and nominations

Academy Award for Best Director

Academy Award for Best Picture

References

External links

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