- "People go to these movies because they want to see Steven do his brilliant turn as a director. If anyone else did the story it wouldn't be as good. He can do anything — Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan... But this is the kind of movie he can do in his sleep. Not that he does it in his sleep — he actually gets a kick out of it!"
- ―George Lucas, Total Film magazine, May 2008 issue, p. 137
Steven Allan Spielberg, KBE (born December 18, 1946 in Cincinnati) is an American film director. He has won three Academy Awards (as well as an Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award), and is among the most successful filmmakers in history, in terms of both critical acclaim and popular success. His films have however also been derided as the archetype of modern Hollywood blockbuster film-making (commercialism over artistic purposes).
First coming to attention directing adventure films, Spielberg is noted in recent years for his willingness to tackle emotionally powerful issues, such as the horrors of the Holocaust in Schindler's List, slavery in Amistad, hardships of war in Saving Private Ryan, and terrorism in Munich. One 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., and the challenging role of a father-figure, apparent in War of the Worlds.
Spielberg is the most financially successful motion picture director of all time. He has directed and/or produced an astounding number of major box office hits, giving him great 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.
In 2005, Empire magazine created a list of the 50 greatest film directors of all time. Spielberg was number one on the list.
He has been nominated for six Academy Awards for 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). 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 (such as Jurassic Park), or a three-hour-long black and white drama about the Holocaust.
In 2001, he was given the honor of Knight Commander of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II.
Indiana Jones films
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
What some would consider 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 had previously cast in his Star Wars films) as the dashing hero Indiana Jones. The biggest film at the box office in 1981, and 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 hailed as a landmark in action cinema.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
His friend George Lucas immediately pulled Spielberg back in as part of their friendly agreement to make more Indiana Jones movies. Plagued with uncertainty for the material, the saving grace for Spielberg during the making of this film would be the meeting of his future wife Kate Capshaw, who was cast as Indiana's new love interest.
The film was a hit though the reviews were less positive than they were for its predecessor. It was criticized for lacking the energy of the original, as well as for its grossly inaccurate and ignorant depiction of Indian culture. The extreme violence and gore would also inspire the Motion Picture Association of America to create the PG-13 rating the following year at Spielberg's request. Lucas, the story writer, has said that it was due to his bad mood. When he wrote the story, he had just divorced. Therefore, he was in a bad mood. This caused the violence that the film was criticized for.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
After two forays into dramatic films, Spielberg returned to familiar territory by re-uniting "one last time" for another Indiana Jones film. With the inclusion of star Sean Connery, Spielberg vicariously fulfilled a lifelong dream to make a James Bond movie. Lucas himself heralded his Indiana Jones creation as an alternative to Bond back when they first discussed films to work on together. The father-son issues in the picture are congruent with much of Spielberg's work, making this Indy film the most personal of the three. Receipient of glowing reviews and big box office receipts, Spielberg, Lucas and Ford left the franchise on a high mark.
The development of the fourth Indiana Jones film was delayed for nineteen years. It was released on May 22, 2008.
Indiana Jones 5 (2023)
Spielberg will return in a producer capacity for the fifth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise in 2023.
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 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. Artificial Intelligence. 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 a 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 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. Critics frequently accuse his films of being overly sentimental, though Spielberg feels it is fine as long as it is disguised. The influence comes from directors Frank Capra and John Ford.
A video essay titled "The Spielberg Face" focuses on Spielberg’s use of close-ups throughout his career. This essay makes the case that Spielberg has deployed the venerable cinematic technique as skillfully, and as thoughtfully, as anyone before or since, using it to depict everything from "sudden shock or creeping dread" to "the trauma of remembering the past, or of confronting the future, discovering humanity in another person, or discovering humanity in oneself." Spielberg has used the close-up as a stand-in for the audience’s reaction to the movies, and that, through his close-ups, Spielberg has interrogated that reaction, and its meaning, in film after film, starting with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The essay calls this work the "breakthrough" for the director, a movie that is less about aliens than it is "about Spielberg discovering the full power of the face" and exploring "the perpetual wonder of seeing things new." The essay moves forward through Spielberg's work, stopping at A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, which it calls Spielberg’s "most profound" reflection on the face and what it reveals.
Spielberg has been married to actress Kate Capshaw, whom he met when he cast her in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom since October 12, 1991. He has seven children, including daughter Sasha who played the Slugger in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
There are a number of references to Steven Spielberg within the Indiana Jones universe itself:
Steven Allan Spielberg is a filmmaker.
Behind the scenes
In his appearance in LEGO Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Brick, Spielberg wears a cap saying E.T. II as a reference to E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears, the planned sequel for his classic film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which was ultimately cancelled.
Spielberg is alluded to at Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar as Disneyland as "S." This comes in the form of a written message to Jock Lindsey which reads, "Thanks for getting me off the island -S." and accompanies the tooth of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It's alleged that the item was actually donated to the bar by Spielberg himself which serves as an easter egg in reference both to the director's 1993 film Jurassic Park - which featured a theme park of genetically engineered dinosaurs with the T-Rex as its best known attraction - and Jock's actor, pilot Fred Sorenson, having rescued Spielberg and other crew members stranded by Hurricane Iniki while filming on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i.
- Jock Lindsey's Hangar Bar (Mentioned only) (As "S.") (Easter egg)
- LEGO Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Brick (Non-canonical appearance)
- Irving Thalberg - Hollywood's Boy Wonder (Non-fiction source)