Steven Spielberg biography

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Steven Spielberg biography

Director, producer, writer. Born December 18, 1946, in Cincinnati, Ohio. Spielberg began experimenting with 8mm short films when he was only in grade school; he won a prize at the age of 13 for the 40-minute war film Escape to Nowhere. He attended California State College (now California State University), where he received a B.A. in English in 1970. His 24-minute short, Amblin, was screened at the Atlanta Film Festival when Spielberg was still in college; its success earned the 20-year-old a seven-year contract with Universal-MCA as a television director. Spielberg was not accepted to the film program at the University of Southern California, and instead returned to Cal State, where he made five more student films. After he had directed episodes of TV series such as Columbo and Marcus Welby, M.D., Spielberg’s first feature-length TV movie, Duel (1971), earned the budding filmmaker critical praise and a chance to jump to the big screen. He made his feature film-directing debut in 1974 with The Sugarland Express, a crime drama starring Goldie Hawn, for which he also wrote the story. In 1975, Spielberg helmed the terrifying film Jaws, about a great white shark who wreaks bloody havoc in the seas around a New England beach town. Though the filming of Jaws ran over an unprecedented 100 days, the $8.5 million movie ultimately grossed $260 million, making it one of the first summer blockbusters and its director one of the most sought-after in Hollywood.

Spielberg followed up on the success of Jaws with Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), a science-fiction drama that garnered him his first Academy Award nomination for Best Director. (He also wrote the screenplay.) Close Encounters, nominated for eight Oscars in all, confirmed the widespread view that Spielberg was on his way to revolutionizing the film industry, both with his unique artistic vision and technique and with his equally unique understanding of what modern movie audiences wanted to see.

Though his next film, 1941 (1979), was a critical and commercial disappointment, Spielberg roared back with the 1981 action hit Raiders of the Lost Ark, which marked his first collaboration with actor Harrison Ford (as the rugged hero Indiana Jones) and producer George Lucas (whose seminal film Star Wars, also featuring Ford, was released the same year).

Raiders earned Spielberg another Oscar nod for Best Director and spawned two hit sequels, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), both directed by Spielberg. Spielberg made another slam-dunk the following year, writing and directing E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), the heartwrenching story of a little boy who befriends an alien stranded on Earth. With its air of magic and unapologetic sentiment, E.T. met with a measure of box-office success that dwarfed even Jaws with a total haul of almost $400 million. The movie remained the hallmark of Spielberg’s illustrious career in the years to come, and also launched the career of the filmmaker’s young goddaughter, Drew Barrymore.

Also in 1982, Spielberg got his first producer credit, for the hit thriller Poltergeist. He formed his own production company, Amblin Entertainment, in 1984, and would go on to produce a number of critically and commercially successful films, notably Gremlins (1984), Back to the Future (1985), and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), in addition to his own directorial features.

Facing criticism that he couldn’t direct a “serious” movie aimed at adults, Spielberg decided to produce and direct a film adaptation of Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Color Purple. Though the film, released in 1986 and starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey, earned 11 Academy Award nominations, Spielberg was overlooked in the directing category, which was perceived as a definite slight. The following year, the Academy made amends by giving Spielberg the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award, given to "creative producers whose bodies of work reflect a consistently high quality of motion picture production."

In the late 1980s, a string of relative disappointments, including Empire of the Sun (1987), Always (1989), and Hook (1991), coincided with a period of personal upheaval for Spielberg. In 1989, he divorced his wife of four years, the actress Amy Irving, with whom he had a son, Max. The following year, he had a daughter, Sasha, with Kate Capshaw, the costar of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. The couple married in October 1991 and have a total of five children together. (Capshaw also has a daughter, Jessica, from a previous marriage.) Spielberg made a major career resurgence in 1993 with the special effect-heavy dinosaur extravaganza Jurassic Park.

With a record-setting opening weekend gross of $70 million and a staggering total gross of $357 million, the film launched another big-money franchise, including two sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997), which Spielberg directed, and Jurassic Park III (2001), which he produced.

Also in 1993, Spielberg released his sobering black-and-white adaptation of Thomas Keneally’s prize-winning novel Schindler’s List. The story of a complicated real-life hero, Nazi Party member Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson), Schindler’s List finally netted Spielberg the much-coveted Oscar statuettes for Best Director and Best Picture. Nominated in 12 categories in all, including acting nods for Neeson and costar Ralph Fiennes, the film won a total of seven statues. In addition to its critical acclaim, Schindler’s List earned over $100 million at the box office, and Spielberg gave all of his earnings from the film to the Righteous Persons Foundation, an organization that supports a number of projects that impact modern Jewish life. In 1994, Spielberg joined forces with Jeffrey Katzenberg, the former head of production at Disney, and the recording mogul David Geffen to form DreamWorks, a multimedia entertainment company with interests in film, TV, music, computer software, and the budding Internet technology. Though its first several films were only modestly successful, DreamWorks began to hit its stride in the late 1990s, turning out critically acclaimed hits such as Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998), American Beauty (1999), Gladiator (2000), and the animated feature Shrek (2001). Spielberg had another banner filmmaking year in 1997, releasing not only the mammoth sequel The Lost World: Jurassic Park but also the drama Amistad. The latter film, a fact-based drama about a revolt by African slaves aboard a Spanish slave ship in 1839 that resulted in a memorable legal battle in the United States, earned critical praise and a Golden Globe nomination for Spielberg. The following summer, Spielberg had an even greater success with Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks. The grisly but awe-inspiring World War II epic, nominated for 11 Oscars, earned Spielberg his second statue for Best Director. Saving Private Ryan won a total of five Oscars, but was surprisingly upset in the Best Picture category by Miramax’s Shakespeare in Love. In 2001, after three years without a directorial feature, Spielberg helmed the high-profile science fiction drama A.I. Artificial Intelligence, a film that was originally the pet project of his good friend, the famously eccentric director Stanley Kubrick. After Kubrick’s death in 1998, Spielberg took over the reins, adding his trademark air of fantasy and sentiment to Kubrick’s darker vision.

A.I., costarring Jude Law and the precocious child actor Haley Joel Osment (The Sixth Sense), made far less impact at the box office than was expected, however, and received mixed reviews. Spielberg’s next project is the action-thriller Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise and slated for release in 2002. He will then produce and direct a long-planned adaptation of the bestselling novel Memoirs of a Geisha. .

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