A Biography, Second Edition
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: University Press of Mississippi
PROLOGUE: "CECIL B. DESPIELBERG"
A searchlight swept the night sky of downtown Phoenix as a limousine pulled up under the theater marquee. The director and his stars stepped out, bedazzled by the glare of strobes and exploding flashbulbs. Inside, a packed house awaited the world premiere of a science-fiction epic from American Artist Productions. For the next two hours and fifteen minutes, the audience watched enrapt at the spectacle of mysterious colored lights emerging from the heavens to abduct humans for an extraterrestrial zoo.
1 "HOW WONDROUS ARE THY WORKS"
The child's eyes were wide with awe as he was borne from the surrounding darkness toward the red light burning before the Ark of the Torah. Framed in a colonnaded marble arch inlaid with gold and blue, the Ark's wooden doors were hidden by a curtain that glistened in the candlelight with an alluring, unfathomable aura of mystery. Under the domed skylight with a bronze chandelier hanging from a Star of David, the child in his stroller was pushed down the blue-carpeted aisle.
Just why Spielberg has felt it expedient to appear a year younger than his true age throughout most of his Hollywood career became a matter of controversy in 1995, when the issue provoked an exchange of lawsuits between Spielberg and one of his former producers, Denis C. Hoffman. But the truth about his age was not entirely unknown over the years. In 1981, when Patricia Goldstone, a freelance feature writer for the Los Angeles Times, discovered college records indicating that Spielberg actually was born in 1946, the director "would not comment," she reported.
"My father told me he was taking me to see a circus movie," he remembered. "Well, I didn't hear the word movie, I only heard the word circus. So we stood in line for an hour and a half and I thought I was going to see a circus. I'd already been once before to a circus and I knew what to expect: the elephants, the lion tamer, the fire, the clowns. And to go into this big cavernous hall and there's nothing but chairs and they're all facing up, they're not bleachers, they're chairs—I was thinking, Something is up, something is fishy.
4 "A WIMP IN A WORLD OF JOCKS"
Arizona was also the place where Steven's family ties grew increasingly strained, almost to the breaking point, turning him more and more inward for emotional sustenance. And, most important, Arizona was the place where he set his sights on becoming a filmmaker. One of his boyhood friends in Phoenix, Jim Sollenberger, recalls Spielberg saying "he could envision himself going to the Academy Awards and accepting an Oscar and thanking the Academy. He was twelve or thirteen at the time."
5 "BIG SPIEL"
Because of its space-age design, students in Spielberg's day called Arcadia High School "Disneyland." Campus life centered around "The Flying Saucer," a circular library building raised up on stilts—today the building is often referred to as "E.T.'s spaceship." Affluent and bustling, the two-year-old Phoenix high school already had a strong reputation in both academics and athletics when Steve entered as a freshman in September 1961.
6 "HELL ON EARTH"
Speilberg began his unofficial Hollywood apprenticeship at Universal in the summer of 1964, following his junior year in high school in northern California. His mentor, Chuck Silvers, recalls that the ambitious teenager gradually "worked out his own curriculum" on the lot, visiting sets and kibitzing with editors and sound mixers. Silvers offered Steven a place to hang out in the television editorial building, ...
7 "A HELL OF A BIG BREAK"
Although he often has been described as part of "The Film School Generation," Spielberg never attended film school. Unlike such contemporaries as George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Brian De Palma, who learned their craft at prestigious film schools in the 1960s, Spielberg remained essentially an autodidact. He took the few rudimentary film and television ...
8 "THIS TREMENDOUS MEATGRINDER"
They just signed me and told me to imagine up something, which to me is proof that the old Hollywood way of doing things is breaking up a bit," Spielberg said in a December 1968 interview with the Los Angeles Times. His studio contract felt "like a dream come true," he later recalled. "At last I had the means to show what I could do. But it was not something I wanted to do for the benefit of others.
9 'THE STEVEN SPIELBERG BUSINESS"
On November 22, 1963, the fantasy and science-fiction writer Richard Matheson was playing golf in Simi Valley, California, when he heard the news that President Kennedy had been assassinated. Matheson and his golfing partner, writer Jerry Sohl, stopped playing and headed back toward Los Angeles. Matheson recalls that as Sohl drove through a narrow canyon, a truck began ...
10 "A PRIMAL SCREAM MOVIE"
In November 1973, with The Sugarland Express completed and awaiting release, Spielberg told an American Film Institute seminar that "when you make your first feature in this town, you're incredibly hot, and if you have a good agent, hell make your next three deals—before your film comes out. Then, if your film comes out and it crashes . . . you've got three films in which to redeem yourself.
11 WATCH THE SKIES
Unlike most of the science-fiction movies Spielberg grew up watching, Close Encounters of the Third Kind takes a benign view of human contact with extraterrestrials. The aliens in Spielberg's film don't carry ray guns or threaten to blow up the Planet Earth. They aren't fire-breathing creatures with horns and tentacles, but childlike figures with spindly limbs, large craniums, and shy, beatific smiles.
The twenty-two-year-old actress, whose curly-brown-haired, sloe-eyed, high-cheekboned beauty masked an intense and fiercely ambitious nature, had recently returned to California from dramatic studies in London when she met Spielberg in 1976. The daughter of TV producer-director Jules Irving, former artistic director of New York's Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center, ...
13 "ECSTACY AND GRIEF"
Surrounded by thousands of snakes on a British soundstage, Steven Spielberg was becoming depressed about the movie he was making. Raiders of the Lost Ark was a mechanical job of work offering few opportunities to express his personal feelings. "Action is wonderful," he said later, "but while I was doing Raiders I felt I was losing touch with the reason I became a moviemaker—to make stories about people and relationships."
14 "ADULT TRUTHS"
Describing the kind of woman he liked to cast in his movies, Spielberg once said, "Maybe I've been searching for the ultimate shiksa. "* He found her when Kate Capshaw walked into his office to read for Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He was captivated with Kate's finely sculpted model's features, lissome figure, and midwestern emotional bluntness.
15 "AN AWFULLY BIG ADVENTURE"
A week before Max was born in 1985, Spielberg vowed that "the child is going to change my life. . . . I want to be like most parents. I want to drive home in bumper-to-bumper commuter traffic, which means I've got to leave the office by five-thirty to hit the peak traffic hours. And that's going to change everything I do." Fatherhood did bring profound changes to his life.
When he went to Poland in 1993 to make Schindler's List, Spielberg was "hit in the face with my personal life. My upbringing. My Jewishness. The stories my grandparents told me about the Shoah. And Jewish life came pouring back into my heart. I cried all the time." The anguish he felt while making Schindler's List was translated directly to the screen.
17 MOGUL AND DIRECTOR
Turning their new multimedia company, DreamWorks SKG, from a dream into a reality proved far more difficult than Steven Spielberg and his partners imagined. The grand vision Spielberg laid out in 1994 of "a place driven by ideas and the people who have them," an innovative twenty-first-century studio encompassing all forms of moving imagery on a high-tech, cutting-edge "campus," ...
18 MAINSTREAM INDEPENDENT
Spielberg's most influential public activity in the late 1990s and the early years of the new century was not his acceptance of the knighthood and the other honors he received for his work but his political support of Democratic candidates, especially Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Spielberg became friendly with Clinton and often had him as a house guest in the Pacific Palisades. Spielberg was also Clinton's guest at the White House, and DreamWorks ...
19 LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
I barely recognize this country anymore," a character laments in one of the films Spielberg made in the aftermath of 9/11. And that is from one of his lighter films, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Even in his "entertainments," Spielberg addressed the national trauma and the repressive political climate of the George W. Bush—Dick Cheney era with a pointed and probing intensity. The attacks on the United States and the ensuing assaults on American civil liberties ...
20 "400-POUND GORILLA"
Being able to make a film such as Munich, which confronts the audience with difficult, if not intractable, moral questions, is one of the major reasons Spielberg values his commercial success and jealously guards his independence. He fully anticipated the firestorm of animosity the film provoked. Before committing to direct it, he repeatedly turned down the project, which had been developed by producer Barry Mendel and brought to him by Kathleen Kennedy.
I first became aware of Steven Spielberg's prodigious filmmaking gifts in 1972, when I saw his TV movie Something Evil. In the twenty years that followed, I watched with bemusement as his enormous popularity left him largely without honor from his Hollywood colleagues and the critical community. As early as 1982, when E.T. appeared, I began thinking, Here is a good story for a biographer.
NOTES ON SOURCES
FlLMOGRAPHY AND VlDEOGRAPHY
Page Count: 640
Publication Year: 2010
OCLC Number: 719387782
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Steven Spielberg