Steven Allan Spielberg was born December 18, 1946, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to parents Arnold, an electrical engineer, and Leah, a former concert pianist.
Spielberg was raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where his love for film and business savvy were always apparent. At age 12, he used the money he earned from his tree-planting business to fund his first amateur film, for which he also wrote the script.
stardom is no science fiction
Despite his early experience with filmmaking — he made Escape to Nowhere, a 40-minute war movie at 13, and a 140-minute film entitled Firelight at 16 (science-fiction, of course) — he was still rejected from USC’s prestigious filmmaking program twice.
Spielberg attended California State University instead, where he received his BA in English, and where he also studied cinema. The aspiring filmmaker finally got his rite of passage into television after his short film, Amblin’ (also the name of Spielberg’s independent company) received much praise at the Atlanta Film Festival.
A 20-year-old Spielberg landed a 7-year contract with Universal-MCA, making him one of the youngest TV directors there.
Spielberg worked on television shows such as Marcus Welby, M.D. and Colombo, and the pilot episode for the series Night Gallery, which starred Joan Crawford (he and Crawford had remained close friends until her death).
As for film, Spielberg worked on made-for-TV movies like Something Evil (1972) and Savage (1973), but it was 1972’s Duel which made everyone raise their eyebrows.
It became a cult classic and helped forge his way into cinema.
express to success
Spielberg’s entrance into film was marked by 1974’s The Sugarland Express, which marked him as a Hollywood up-and-comer. But it was the film Jaws that would not only instill a fear of the ocean for people; it also launched Spielberg to A-list status and solidified what we now know as the summer blockbuster.
When Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released in 1977, it was clear that Spielberg was a force to be reckoned with; the Academy also recognized his skills by honoring him with a Best Director Oscar nomination.
With hits come misses, and Spielberg had some of those too, namely, his first comedic attempt, 1941. The film flopped, but with the coming of a new decade, Spielberg had the force to strive ahead and become the most powerful director of his time.
Spielberg and his buddy, fellow movie powerhouse George Lucas, joined efforts to make a little film called Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, which Spielberg directed. The film, starring Harrison Ford, proved to be the perfect formula for what spawned a 3-part movie franchise.
Exploring alien life forces and science fiction once again, Spielberg made 1982’s E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial, which became the highest-grossing movie of its time and an instant film classic. The movie went on to win awards such as the National Society of Film Critics award for Best Director, as well as the Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards for Best Director and Best Film.
let’s get serious
In the midst of sequels to Indiana Jones, (Temple of Doom and Last Crusade), Spielberg directed The Color Purple (which launched Oprah Winfrey’s career), as a response to critics claiming that he can’t make a “serious” movie.
Well, this serious movie received a lot of serious critical acclaim, and brought the Directors Guild of America award to Spielberg for Theatrical Direction in 1985, as well as 11 Oscar nominations, but not one honoring the director. As a consolation prize, he did receive the prestigious Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1987.
1987 saw the release of Empire of the Sun, while Always was released in 1989, followed by Hook 2 years later.
These were each moderate successes, while the latter two were pretty forgettable, especially by the time 1993 came around.
Spielberg shocked movie-going audiences and critics alike with the summer release of the dinosaur flick, Jurassic Park and the black and white, cinematic gem and historic tribute to Oskar Schindler, Schindler’s List. While Jurassic Park made $100 million in 9 days, Schindler’s List earned Spielberg the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars.
In 1997, Spielberg brought those lovable dinosaurs back to life in The Lost World and released Amistad, for which he received a Best Director Golden Globe nomination.
1998’s Saving Private Ryan, a WWII drama starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, received critical-acclaim and helped Spielberg bring home yet another Best Director golden man in February.
producing movie history
As if the list of films directed by Spielberg isn’t long enough, he also produced films such as Poltergeist, Back to the Future, The Flintstones, Casper, Men in Black, Deep Impact, and The Mask of Zorro — suffice it to say that his bank account has always been expanding. This long list of accomplishments has made Spielberg one of, if not the most powerful man in Hollywood.
In addition to Amblin Entertainment, Spielberg founded DreamWorks SKG with fellow honchos Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, in 1994.
The multimedia entertainment studio is responsible for films such as American Beauty, Gladiator, Cast Away, and the animated feature Shrek, as well as TV programming, music and software.
Among the encyclopedic list of awards that Spielberg has enjoyed are Best Director of the 20th Century in an Entertainment Weekly online poll; the Distinguished Public Service Award by the US Navy for his work on Saving Private Ryan; and the second annual John Huston Award for Artists Rights.
He is not only recognized as one of the greatest filmmakers of all-time, but is also known for his charitable work for World War II organizations and the Righteous Persons Foundation (granting money to various Jewish projects, especially Holocaust memorial organizations). He also ironically sits on USC’s School of Cinema-Television Board of Councilors.
can i call you dad?
Surprisingly, the man behind film and television (animated features such as Steven Spielberg Presents Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs) actually has time for his family. He was formerly married to Amy Irving from 1985 to 1989, but is now married to actress Kate Capshaw, since 1991.
Spielberg has one son from his previous marriage, Max Spielberg; a stepdaughter, Jessica Capshaw; 1 daughter and 1 son, Mikaela George and Theo, adopted by Spielberg and Capshaw; as well as a son and 2 daughters with Capshaw: Sawyer, Sasha and Destry Allyn. He is also the godfather of Drew Barrymore, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Uncle Morty”, as she calls him.
His upcoming projects include the sci-fi film, A.I., starring Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment and Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise.
What else do you need to know?
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