Before most of you were born, his name had to be attached to the project.
"I dream for a living."
Every so often someone emerges in a field and manages to not only revolutionize it, but do so several times. Steven Allan Spielberg
(December 18, 1946-) is one of those people, with a career that has gone uninterrupted since the mid-70's and is one of the most influential powers in Hollywood.
Playing with his video camera as a kid, he enrolled in a community college with a small film program and used those connections to get work directing TV episodes (including Columbo
) until he got his big break, a low-budget, cult hit TV film Duel
was an expertly made, taut thriller that was such a hit on tv that he was allowed to shoot more scenes to give it a cinema release in Europe. It got him a lot of attention, enough to be brought on as the director for the film that would launch him into the stratosphere, Jaws
, the first
summer blockbuster (setting the record for highest grossing movie just before Star Wars
came out, pushing the record up even further. It remains one of the most critically acclaimed films of all time to this day).
With basically a blank check, he followed this with benign Alien Invasion Close Encounters of the Third Kind
, the 30's serial throwback Raiders of the Lost Ark
(the first of the Indiana Jones
films; he directed all the sequels as well) and the family favourite ET The Extra Terrestrial
, which became the highest grossing film of all time in its day (his second
time achieving that milestone).
In 1985, he branched into directing drama, with his ultra-serious The Color Purple
, which was nominated for several Oscars; it would not be his last excursion into this genre.
He is also known for being a collaborator with other very popular films including Poltergeist
and The Goonies
(a team effort with Richard Donner
and Chris Columbus
). Even today he is found working in a lot of the megablockbusters like Transformers
Steven is a long time friend of George Lucas
, ever since they met at a film festival when both were in college (Spielberg said he was insanely jealous of Lucas' student film that eventually became THX 1138
). While their only official collaborations are Indiana Jones
, they frequently spend time together and discuss each others projects. Spielberg was also a frequent collaborator with Stan Winston
, the puppeteer and makeup virtuoso who brought the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park
time making the most successful movie of all time) and the robots of A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
marvelously to life.
In 1994, he was a co-founder of the studio DreamWorks
SKG. Dreamworks and Speilberg (as producer) would later go on to make the first Medal of Honor
video game, widely regarded as the PS1's GoldenEye
. He still runs Amblin Entertainment
. Now works on a live-action Ghost in the Shell
adaption, a work he has said he is fond of.
Spielberg went on to make Hook
in 1991, and Jurassic Park
in 1993 became another one of the most popular films in history, revolutionizing the use of CG animation in film. Schindlers List
in the same year won the Best Picture Oscar and is treasured all over the world to this day, Saving Private Ryan
won a handful more and the controversial A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
saw him taking over the directoral reins from his good friend Stanley Kubrick
, who died in mid-production. Catch Me If You Can
saw him reteaming with Tom Hanks
from Saving Private Ryan
, and became another acclaimed hit.
Spielberg has also done television work, as well. He directed part of the pilot of Rod Serling's Night Gallery
as well as a few TV movies in addition to Duel
, and has produced television shows such as Amazing Stories
, seaQuest DSV
, and United States Of Tara
He's also delved into animation. He collaborated with Don Bluth
in the 1980's to produce box office successes like An American Tail
and The Land Before Time
, also starting his own animation studio, Amblimation
, which would go on to produce the somewhat less successful Were Back A Dinosaurs Story
, An American Tail: Fievel Goes West
, and Balto
. He is also known as the executive producer for (and mistakenly believed to have created, thanks to In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It
) Warner Bros.
Silver Age cartoons Tiny Toon Adventures
, Pinky and the Brain
, and some lesser known works, such as Histeria!!note
(one of his first animated projects when he created DreamWorks
Studios), and the much-reviled Pinky and the Brain
spinoff Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain
Has said that his Oscar awards pale in comparison to the honor of being selected as a bearer of the Olympic Flag in the Salt Lake City games of 2002.
Tropes associated with Spielberg's filmography
- Author Appeal: In most of Spielberg's films, fathers or father-figures are either absent or aloof. Several essays have analyzed this as a manifestation of Steven's childhood getting projected into his art.
- Emotional Torque: His main motivation in filmmaking.
- First Contact: Spielberg made four films with this theme: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, ET The Extra Terrestrial and War of the Worlds, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull of which only the third one shows the aliens as clear villains.
- Girls Have Cooties: While females are sometimes present in Spielberg's films most of the time they are either absent (Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Saving Private Ryan), in minor supporting roles (Schindlers List, Lincoln), a Damsel in Distress and/or depicted as nuisances who prevent the boys from having a great adventure (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, ET The Extra Terrestrial, Hook). Even in Jurassic Park Alex the girl is more frightened than her younger brother, describing dinosaurs as monsters and only in the very end she finally does something heroic to save the day.
- Growing Up Sucks: Many of Spielberg's films thrive on innocent, na´ve and escapist adventure stories, often shown from a child's point of view. Half of the time they are boyish fantasies. This has lead many movie critics to compare him to a cinematic Peter Pan character, whose films never touch upon real adult issues. Conincidentally Spielberg even made a Peter Pan film, Hook! The criticism has died out a little from the moment Spielberg started making more adult films such as The Color Purple, Schindlers List, Saving Private Ryan, Munich and Lincoln, but even in these serious films you'll find lighthearted and comedic moments. Terry Gilliam once (quite unfairly) criticized Spielberg for always wanted to leave his audience with happy endings and answers to everything.
- Happy Ending: All his movies have a happy ending, or if the hero dies it will be a dignified Heroic Sacrifice or a martyr death.
- Heroic Sacrifice: When good people die in Spielberg's films, they often sacrifice themselves to a greater cause. See Eddie Carr in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Miller in Saving Private Ryan
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With George Lucas.
- Karmic Death: Villains always get what they deserve, unless they repent before the story is concluded.
- Kid Hero: Children are often cast as heroes in Spielberg's films or they are at least deemed very important to the progression of the story.
- Military Super Hero: In Spielberg's work soldiers are always cast as brave ordinary people one should look up to, especially if they are American. They won't be perfect people, but they always live up to their duty and do what is right. There's also a strong theme in his more recent work of joining the army for the greater good. In War of the Worlds and Lincoln a youngster wants to join the army, in both occasions because he wants to do his patriotic duty and help his country out. Needless to say that in both cases the boys survive.
- Odd Friendship: Stanley Kubrick and Spielberg were polar opposites as far as film styles go, however, they had a very close friendship. The two would often have extended talks on the art of filmmaking and other subjects. Because of the England-Los Angeles time difference the former would often call the latter up in the middle of the night, and the two would have conversations over the phone for hours. Eventually Kubrick handpicked Spielberg to direct his final film.
- The Oner: Unlike many other directors, Spielberg's oners are on the short end of the scale (averaging about 1-1:30), but unlike many other directors, he rarely calls attention to them. Many of them are more "invisible coverage" of a scene, essentially moving around actors, the camera and action to create "separate shots" but without breaking up the action. Some great examples includes Marcus and Indy's dialogue at Indy's home in Raiders of the Lost Ark (1:36) or the dialogue above the ferry in Jaws (1:43).
- One of Us: Spielberg himself has stated that he plays video games, such as Halo. He's also helped produce some games, too, and had a hand in the creation of the GameWorks arcade venues.
- Parental Issues: In Spielberg's work a lot of troubled father-son relations can be found or adults who don't like children. These two tropes keep reappearing in almost every film he makes.
- Patriotic Fervor: Spielberg is quite proud of his home country and likes to show it in his work, especially when American soldiers fight Nazis.
- Summer Blockbuster: He invented and popularized the genre after Jaws became the best-selling film of all time in 1975. He broke his own record twice with the release of ET The Extra Terrestrial (1982) and Jurassic Park (1993).
- Dramatic Irony / Suspense: Spielberg is often named a Spiritual Successor to Alfred Hitchcock for his talents in creating suspense.
- Special Effects: Spielberg's films are known for their technical achievements in the fields of special effects, most notably in E.T. and Jurassic Park. However, they always complimented the stories and the characters instead of the other way around.
- Tear Jerker: Despite being a special effects innovator Spielberg is known for his emotional depth in his stories and has a great sense of Character Development, though sometimes he is accused of taking it to over-the-top levels.
- Technician Versus Performer: The Performer to George Lucas' (and Stanley Kubrick's) Technicians, although the comparison is a little unfair, given that Spielberg is a superb technician himself.
- Tom Hanks Syndrome: Since Schindlers List most of the films he has directed have been serious (often historical) dramas, rather than action-adventure blockbusters.
- World War II: The 1930s and 1940s are Spielberg's favorite time period, it seems. 1941, The Indiana Jones films, Empire of the Sun, Schindlers List and Saving Private Ryan all take place during this era.