- SPIELBERG, Steven
- (1947-)US film-maker. Born in Cincinnati, raised in Arizona and an amateur film-maker in his early teens, SS completed his first sf feature - the 140min Firelight (1963) - at the age of 16; he studied English rather than film at college in California. His first professional film was Amblin' (1969), a slick short about hitch-hiking which was distributed asa support feature with the very successful Love Story (1970); it secured SS a contract with Universal Pictures' tv division. His tv debut was asegment of the 1969 pilot for ROD SERLING'S NIGHT GALLERY, starring Joan Crawford; in 1971 he made LA 2019, an sf-themed episode of The Name of theGame (1968-71), and went on to tv features: Columbo: Murder by the Book (1971), Something Evil (1972), a ghost story, and Savage (1972), a high-tech thriller. He first attracted widespread attention with Duel (1971), a suspenseful tv adaptation of Richard MATHESON's horror storyabout a motorist pursued by a vindictive petrol tanker.Duel was successfully released overseas as a movie, with 15 extra minutes of characterization to bring it up to feature length, and it led to SS's first theatrical feature, The Sugarland Express (1974), and to the enormously successful assignment of the MONSTER MOVIE Jaws (1975), a box-office rollercoaster about the hunting of a giant shark. After Jaws, in which SS had little script involvement, he opted for a more personal and visionary film, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (1977), which managed on the strength of its extraordinary climactic vision of an alien epiphany to become another major box-office success, despite a lopsided story and an unevenness of tone SS himself tried in vain to rectify in his revision of the material, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND - THE SPECIAL EDITION (1980). The novelization Close Encounters of the Third Kind *(1977; rev vt Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition 1980) was published as by SS.After the critically vilified 1941 (1979), SS made a solid return to popular acceptance with the George LUCAS-produced Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), a tribute to the Saturday matinee serialsof the 1940s, and then scored a phenomenal hit with E.T.: THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL (1982), which currently stands as the most commerciallysuccessful film of all time. Sciencefictional in its subject matter but a fairy-tale in feeling, it tells of a child's miraculous friend who happens to be an ALIEN. Since that career high SS has made two Raiders sequels - Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and Indiana Jones and the LastCrusade (1989)-in between more ambitious, less obviously box-office pictures, adaptations of novels by Alice WALKER and J.G. BALLARD, respectively The Color Purple (1985) and Empire of the Sun (1987), and the wistful fantasy Always (1990). His long-awaited but disappointing homage to Disney's Peter Pan (1953) was Hook (1991), a lumbering and sentimental rendition of a fantasy that should have had a certain delicacy in its otherworldliness. However, he had a splendid return to form in 1993, when he directed both the hugely popular sf extravaganza JURASSIC PARK (1993) and the critically acclaimed drama about efforts to shelter Jews in wartime Germany, Schindler's List (1993), which won seven Oscars including - it was a long wait - Best Director.In addition to his work as adirector, SS has shown a commitment to genre material in his work as a producer, coproducing and directing episodes of Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983) and the tv series AMAZING STORIES (1985-7). He has done much tofurther the careers of fellow film-makers Joe DANTE, Robert Zemeckis and Frank Marshall, and has coproduced, usually as Executive Producer throughhis Amblin Entertainment group, a wide variety of sf, fantasy and horror productions, including Poltergeist (1982), Gremlins (1984), The Goonies (1985), BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985), Young Sherlock Holmes (1985; vt YoungSherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear), An American Tail (1986), HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS (1987; vt Bigfoot and the Hendersons), INNERSPACE (1987), ,*BATTERIES NOTINCLUDED (1987), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), The Land Before Time (1988), BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II (1989), BACK TO THE FUTURE PART III (1989), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Joe vs the Volcano (1990), ARACHNOPHOBIA (1990), An American Tail II (1991) and Cape Fear (1991). Spielberg's Amblin also produced the prehistoric nostalgia movie The Flintstones (1994), but SS received no production credit. In tv Amblin produced the sf series SEAQUEST DSV (1993-), a sort of VOYAGE TOTHE BOTTOM OF SEA for a new generation, but like Amazing Stories it has disappointed in the ratings. Tv seems to be an area where the Spielberg magic - or at least the Amblin magic - does not fully operate, as shown by another series, The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992), an unexpectedly earnest show that slumped badly.Unashamedly populist and sentimental - although not without a gleefully nasty side, as seen in Jaws, Poltergeist and Gremlins - SS has proved himself unquestionably the most commercially successful film-maker of all time, dominating the box office for 16 years with a succession of hits that make up for the occasional 1941. A skilled and in many ways sophisticated director, he is, despite his incredible success, still young enough and powerful enough to be labelled "promising". On the other hand, he has become one of the most powerfulfigures in Hollywood. A big Hollywood story of late 1994 was the annouced partnership between Spielberg, David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, to form a major new film studio into which Amblin Entertainment would be merged, while retaining its own identity. This - if it is not merely a political-industrial power ploy - could have interesting repercussions on the whole industry.KN/PN
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.