Steven Allan Spielberg, (born on December 18, 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio) is a Jewish-American film director whose films range from science fiction to historical drama to horror. He is noted in recent years, for his willingness to tackle controversial issues, such as in Schindler's List, Amistad and Saving Private Ryan. One consistent theme in his work is a childlike, even na´ve sense of wonderment and faith, as attested by works like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T., Hook and A.I..
The director, the man
Spielberg is arguably the most financially successful motion picture director of all time. He has helmed an astounding number of feature films that have become enormous box-office hits, and this has given him enormous influence in Hollywood. As of 2004, he has been listed in Premiere and other magazines as the most "powerful" and influential figure in the motion picture industry. He is seen as a figure who has the influence, financial resources, and acceptance of Hollywood studio authorities to make any movie he wants to make, be it a mainstream action-adventure movie (Jurassic Park) or a three-hour-long black and white drama about a controversial historical subject (Schindler's List).
Spielberg is known by film historians as one of the famous "movie brats" of the 1970s: along with fellow filmmakers (and personal friends) George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Brian De Palma, Spielberg grew up making movies. He was making amateur 8mm "adventure" movies with his friends as a teenager (scenes from these amateur films have been included on the DVD edition of Saving Private Ryan), and he made his first short film for theatrical release, Amblin', in 1968 at the age of eighteen. (Spielberg's own production company, Amblin Entertainment, was named after this short film.) His maiden directorial work was a segment of the pilot film to Rod Serling's Night Gallery. While working on this segment its star Joan Crawford collared a production executive and said 'Keep an eye on this kid, he's going places". After directing episodes of various TV shows, including some early Columbo TV movies, Spielberg directed his first well-known feature with a 1971 TV "movie-of-the-week" entitled Duel (later released to theatres overseas and eventually in the U.S.). This film, about a truck mysteriously terrorizing an average citizen, has become a cult classic, having been released on video several times over the years.
Move to theatrical films
Spielberg's debut theatrical feature film, The Sugarland Express, (about a husband and wife attempting to escape the law) won him critical praise and enough studio backing to be chosen as the director of a summer movie that would secure him a place in the history of motion pictures: Jaws, a horror film based on the Peter Benchley novel about encounters with a killer shark. Jaws won four Academy Awards (for editing and sound), and grossed over US$100 million at the box office, the record as of that time.
In 1976, Spielberg was asked by Alexander Salkind to direct Superman, but decided instead to expand on a pet project he had on his mind since his youth: a film about UFOs, which became Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). The film remains a cult sci-fi classic among its fans.
The success Spielberg was beginning to enjoy, as well as his eventual tendency to make films with wide mainstream and commercial appeal, also subjected him to disdain in critical circles by film reviewers. For example, Spielberg's next film was 1941, a big-budgeted World War II comedy farce set in L.A. days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the two top stars from Saturday Night Live, Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi, along with other all-stars. Although the film did make a small profit, it is considered by some to be Spielberg's first flop. An expanded version has been shown on network television and later on Laserdisc and DVD.
Spielberg at his pinnacle
But Spielberg's greatest film work was still to come, beginning in the 1980s. In 1981, Spielberg teamed up for the first time with his friend George Lucas to make Raiders of the Lost Ark, his homage to the cliffhanger serials of the Golden Age of Hollywood , with Harrison Ford (whom Lucas directed in Star Wars) as the dashing hero Indiana Jones. Raiders itself spawned two sequels, also directed by Spielberg and executive produced by Lucas.
One year later, Spielberg returned to his alien visitors motif with E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, a Disney-inspired story of a boy and the alien whom he befriends (and is trying to get back "home" to outer space). E.T. went on to become the top-grossing film of all time for many years.
When E.T. was released, Steven Spielberg, a Porsche 928 aficionado, had his car's moon-roof button re-designed with the movie's logo as both a gag for passengers, and a tribute to the movie's success. Despite their enormous appeal, few film scholars and critics place such Spielberg films as Raiders or E.T. in the same class as The Godfather, Citizen Kane, or many other classics of the cinema.
In 1985, Spielberg made The Color Purple, an adaptation of Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Many critics were unsure of whether or not Spielberg could handle such serious material, as his output to that point had been viewed as "lighter" entertainment. The film was released to great acclaim and proved Spielberg's ability as a serious, dramatic filmmaker. It received 11 Academy Award nominations in 1986, but Spielberg was not among the nominees, which sent shockwaves through Hollywood. However, Spielberg was awarded the Directors Guild Award for his work on the film.
Although nominated throughout his career for an Academy Award, the gold statuette had long eluded Spielberg, although in 1986 he was awarded The Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work up to that point.
Spielberg had tried numerous times to film a live-action version of Peter Pan without success. He eventually decided to create his own take on the Pan legend in 1991. Hook focused on a middle-aged Pan (played by Robin Williams), who returns to Neverland to face the title character (Captain Hook, played by Dustin Hoffman). The over-budget film was not a box-office success.
In 1993, Spielberg decided to once again tackle the adventure genre, as he released the movie version of Michael Crichton's novel Jurassic Park, about killer dinosaurs rampaging through a tropical island resort. It would eventually overtake E.T. as the all-time top grossing film for several years (until James Cameron's remake of Titanic).
It was in that same year that Spielberg finally won the critical acclaim he had long sought for making Schindler's List (based on a novel about a man who sacrificed everything to save thousands of people from the wrath of the Holocaust). That film earned him his first regular Academy Award for Best Director (it also won Best Picture).
Another of Spielberg's most critically acclaimed films, Saving Private Ryan, was released in 1998. Spielberg considered it one of his finest works, yet it lost the Best Picture Oscar at the 1999 Academy Awards to Shakespeare in Love.
Into a New Century
In 2001, Spielberg filmed fellow director and friend Stanley Kubrick's final project, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, a project planned for many years but which Kubrick was unable to finish during his lifetime. The futuristic story of a humanoid android longing for love, A.I. featured groundbreaking visual effects, but unfortunately was not the blockbuster film Spielberg had hoped for. The film drew mixed reviews.
In recent years, Spielberg has gained increased popularity through Minority Report (2002), starring Tom Cruise as a futuristic cop on the run from his own future; and Catch Me If You Can (also in 2002), a story about a con-man (with Leonardo di Caprio and Tom Hanks). Spielberg used Hanks again in 2004 for The Terminal, the story of an East European traveller living in an airport terminal.
As of 2004, he has won two Academy Awards for Best Director, one for Schindler's List and another for Saving Private Ryan.
In August 2004, Spielberg's newest project, a modernized adaptation of War of the Worlds was greenlit. Production started in October 2004 and is currently set for release on June 29, 2005. This movie will also feature Tom Cruise in a leading role. Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) will provide the special effects.
As of March 2005, Spielberg is slated to direct the Untitled 1972 Munich Olympics Project, formerly known as Vengeance. This film is written by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Tony Kushner
Films by Spielberg
See also: List of Spielberg films
Spielberg has produced (without directing) a considerable number of films, and can be credited with launching the career of Robert Zemeckis. He is also a lover of animated cartoons, and has produced several hit cartoons (and a few flops), including Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Freakazoid.
He was also, for a short time, the executive producer of the long-running medical drama ER which currently airs on NBC.
He is one of the co-founders of Dreamworks Pictures (Dreamworks SKG, with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen providing the other letters in the company name), which has released all of his movies since Amistad in 1997.
Following the critical and box office success of Schindler's List in 1993, Spielberg founded and continues to finance the Shoah Project, a non-profit organization with the goal of providing an archive for the filmed testimony of as many survivors of the Holocaust as possible, so that their stories will not be lost in the future.
Spielberg is currently married to Kate Capshaw, whom he cast in Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom. He has seven children—four biological: Max Spielberg (from his former marriage to actress Amy Irving), Sasha, Sawyer, and Destry Spielberg (from his current marriage to Capshaw); two adopted (Theo and Mikaela Spielberg); and one stepdaughter (Jessica Capshaw).
- While the films that Steven Spielberg directed have won numerous awards, no actor or actress has won an Academy Award for a performance for one of his films.
- Spielberg had a cameo role as the Cook County assessor in the last minutes of the 1980 film The Blues Brothers.
- In 1982, Ben Kingsley won Best Actor and Richard Attenborough won Best Director for the film Gandhi, which beat Steven Spielberg's film E.T. for Best Picture. Eleven years later, in 1993, Steven Spielberg cast Richard Attenborough as the grandfather in Jurassic Park (his first performance in 13 years) and Ben Kingsley in Schindler's List. Steven Spielberg won Best Director and Best Picture Oscars that year.
- The last merit badge Spielberg earned before attaining the rank of Eagle Scout was "Cinematography" —perhaps a sign of things to come.
- The asteroid 25930 Spielberg is named in his honour.
- Supports the Democratic Party of United States.
- He went to Saratoga High School and quipped that it was the "worst experience" of his life and "hell on Earth". 
Spielberg started a fanciful story of how he broke into Hollywood by sneakily squatting in an unoccupied office on the Universal Studios lot. In fact, he had an unpaid summer job on the lot.
Last updated: 10-11-2005 19:54:24