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The Hollywood Insider Steven Spielberg

Over the years, there have been a lot of filmmakers who have been game-changers when it comes to filmmaking. Michael Bay has been receiving audiences by presenting them with movies such as ‘Transformers’ and the ‘Bad Boys’ series. Denis Villeneuve has been recently wowing his audiences with Sci-fi epics like ‘Blade Runner 2049’ and the 2021 adaptation of ‘Dune,”.  Steven Spielberg is well-known for being a movie maker who influenced filmmakers who rose to fame after him. Just like the director Ridley Scott, Spielberg is an adaptable screenwriter by experiments in almost any genre, and he continues to successfully do so.

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The 1970’s 

Before Spielberg directed films, his first big job was when he worked as a director for one of the segments of ‘Night Gallery,’ a show that is a made-for-tv anthology and supernatural horror film. It is written and hosted by Rod Serling. It took Spielberg a couple of years to make his first feature which eventually became ‘Duel,’ In 1974, he then made ‘The Sugarland Express,’ starring Goldie Hawn. 

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Steven Spielberg received mainstream recognition for the 1975 film, ‘Jaws’ – the first blockbuster that influenced other filmmakers to make and release summer flicks whose purpose was to entertain their audiences. It was the infamous shark movie that scared audiences and made some of them afraid to swim in the ocean. Three years later ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’. His first science fiction film focuses on a blue-collar worker in Indiana, whose life alters after he sees an unidentified flying object from outer space. He received his first Oscar nomination for best director. ‘1941’ is Spielberg’s first war epic – a film that focuses on Los Angeles being in panic after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941 as they prepare for a Japanese invasion.  

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The 1980’s

The director worked with George Lucas for the first time by creating the first of the ‘Indiana Jones’ entries, ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ An action-adventure movie with an archeologist (played by Harrison Ford) who makes his way to find an item called the Ark of the Covenant while facing a group of nazis who are after him. Indiana Jones proved to be a great film that entertained audiences and gave them another reason to return to the theater in the summer once again. 

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Steven Spielberg returned to the sci-fi genre by directing ‘E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.’ The film touched many audiences’ hearts as they experienced a tale of a boy who encounters a friendly alien who is hoping to go back to his home planet after landing in the San Fernando Valley. The film was praised due to its special effects and ‘John Williams’ memorable film score.  

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Spielberg also made his first sequel, ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.’ In the second part of Indiana’s story, he is set on a mission to find a stone and rescue the villagers’ children from a dangerous cult that practices child slavery and the dark arts which involves human sacrifice.  The film was a darker entry to the series since it did feature some strong graphic violence. There was a heart-ripping sequence that gave the Motion Picture Associates of America the reason to create the PG-13 rating. However, the MPAA believed that the second film wasn’t violent enough to receive an R Rating. The film received a PG rating nonetheless.  

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In 1985, he adapted Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple.’ Audiences were moved when they witnessed Whoopi Goldberg’s performance as Celie, a young African-American girl who experienced domestic violence, racism, incest, and other serious issues along with other African-American women during the early 20th century. The film received 11 Oscar nominations including best picture and was considered one of the best films of the year. 

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Steven Spielberg then made his first serious World War II epic, ‘Empire of the Sun.’ The film gave mainstream recognition of the British actor, Christian Bale as he played a boy who went from living with a wealthy British family in Shanghai to becoming a war prisoner in a Japanese camp during the Second World War. His performance was praised by many critics, even though the film did not do so well in America’s box office. Though it was successful internationally the film grossed 66.7 million. 

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The director ended the decade by making the lighthearted romantic drama fantasy, ‘Always.’ It tells the tale of a recently departed pilot’s spirit that counsels a new pilot while witnessing him falling in love with a lover that he left behind. The film also featured Audrey Hepburn’s last performance. In the same year, he returned to the third entry of ‘Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.’ Harrison Ford returns as Indiana Jones this time, The story deals with Indiana looking for his father (played by Sean Connery), who has been held captive by the Nazis during his quest to find the Holy Grail. The film was a box office success and was praised by critics. 

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The 1990’s

In 1991, he released ‘Hook’ with Dustin Hoffman playing Captain Hook and Robin Williams playing an older version of Peter Pan. The story was intended to be a sequel to the original Peter Pan from the novel Peter and Wendy, written by J.M Barrie. The film may have received mixed reviews, but it has become a cult classic for children who grew up loving the film for its creative take on an adult Peter Pan who had forgotten about his childhood and became a lawyer.    

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In 1993, Spielberg released his most personal film to date, ‘Schindler’s List.’ It is a biopic that concentrates on an industrialist named Oskar Schindler who saves and shelters 1,100 Jews from the horrors of the Holocaust. The film received several Oscar nominations including for best picture and best director, which Spielberg both won.  He never received any financial profit for the movie since it dealt with a dark period of world history. However, in that same year, he made one of the biggest blockbusters from the 1990s, ‘Jurassic Park.’ The movie was a favorite amongst crowds for having a story containing a dinosaur theme park that became unattainable for the visiting crowds. It was a successful adventure horror film that had state-of-the-art electronic dinosaurs made by Stan Winston. The movie was also praised for the proper use of CGI.

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In 1997, he released the sequel, ‘The Lost World: Jurassic Park.’ Steven Spielberg reunited once again with Jeff Goldblum as he reprised his role from the first movie. The plot featured another go-around with some scientists trying to study the dinosaurs while a team of hunters plan to capture them for an upcoming theme park.  The film received mixed reviews but was praised for the special effects and the new dinosaurs that were featured. Spielberg released ‘Amistad.’ The story is based on the happenings in 1839, in the Spanish slave ship, in which the Mende tribesmen were kidnapped to become slaves. However, the slaves had managed to gain power over their abductors’ ship. Eventually, the U.S. Supreme Court must make its decision on whether the Mende tribesmen will continue to be slaves or will have their freedom. The movie received four Oscar nominations. 

The following year, Spielberg returned to make another World War II film which was ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ The film featured Tom Hanks, who played a soldier who leads his group to retrieve another fellow soldier whose brothers have been killed during combat.  The movie was well-known for showing the depiction of its brutal and realistic scenes of unrelenting war violence. It is very famous for having a strong opening of soldiers being massacred on Omaha Beach. Spielberg won his third Oscar for best director. 

2000’s

Around 2001, he released a personal project called ‘A.I: Artificial Intelligence’ – a personal project that was intended for Stanley Kubrick to direct. The film might have been a different style for cinema’s beloved director since the story focuses on a robotic boy who wishes to become human so that he can receive the love of the human mother who adopted him. However, it was praised for Spielberg’s decision to fill in Stanley Kubrick’s shoes and to pay tribute to his directing techniques. 

The following year, he did ‘Catch Me If You Can’ a biographical crime-comedy drama that dealt with a young skilled con artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) who is being chased by an FBI agent (Tom Hanks). Spielberg wanted to do a film that sympathized with a con artist who was on the run due to his sad past. The film received two Oscar nominations for John Williams’ score and Christopher Walken’s performance as the con artist’s disgraced father. 

The following year, he made ‘Minority Report,’ the sci-fi-action film with Tom Cruise as a police officer who works with a special unit that is capable of arresting assassins before they have a chance to kill someone. However, he has been accused of a future murder. The movie received a television series in 2015. Nonetheless, it received one season.

Two years later, he worked with Tom Hanks yet again in ‘The Terminal.’ Hanks plays a man who gets stuck in New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport terminal when he is not allowed to enter the U.S. and is not able to return to his country due to a military coup. Along the way, he befriends the people who work in the airport and has a romantic encounter. 

In 2005, he released two films, the sci-fi action film and H.G Wells adaptation of  ‘War of the Worlds.’ Spielberg works with Tom Cruise for the second time. It was a critical success for both critics and the box office.  The director also returned to the biopic genre by making ‘Munich.’ It told the tale of five men who were picked to kill the people who were responsible for the massacre that happened to the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics. The film received five Oscar nominations including best picture and director.  Three years later, he returned to the fourth installment of ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.’ The film became a success and was one of the most profitable action films along with Iron Man and The Dark Knight.

2010s

In 2011, he released a 3D animated film,  ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, an adaptation of French artist Herge’s comic strip. Peter Jackson served as the producer. The story’s script was written by the auteur filmmaker Edgar Wright and co-writers Steven Moffat and Joe Cornish. In the same year, he released the war epic, ‘War Horse.’  The story wowed and moved the audiences by showing the tale of a young man who enlists himself in the First World War to go after his dearest horse after it was sold to some enlisted men. The horse ends up being used for the war battles but escapes. The film received 6 Academy Awards, including best picture that year. The following year, Spielberg returned to make another Oscar favorite, ‘Lincoln’.  It was his first collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis. The actor won his third Academy Award for Best Actor for portraying the 16th president who decided to abolish slavery for African Americans.

Three years later, he reunited with Tom Hanks for ‘Bridge of Spies.’ Hanks played Hames B. Donovan, an American lawyer who is enlisted to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court during the Cold War. He was also recruited by the CIA to discuss a prisoner exchange in East Berlin two years later. The film was written by the Coen Brothers along with Matt Charman.  Mark Rylance won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. In 2016, he reunited with Mark Rylance and gave him a lead role in ‘The BFG,’ an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s cherished children’s book. It tells the story of a giant who befriends a young orphan girl. So he takes her back to his Giant Country to stop other giants from eating human beings.

He worked with ‘Tom Hanks’ yet again for the historical political thriller ‘The Post in 2017.  The following year, he returned to do another blockbuster by making ‘Ready Player One.’ The story tells a futuristic tale of an orphaned boy who discovers clues to a contest and wins control of a virtual reality program that is consumed by humanity to escape the real world. It pays homage and features easter eggs of sci-fi classics and horror films.

2020s

The beloved director returned to the directing chair by making (his first remake since ‘War of the Worlds) ‘West Side Story,’ the adaptation of the 1957 musical The film received praise as well as attention for the Academy Awards yet again. Ariana DeBose won her first Oscar for her portrayal of Anita. She became the first Afro-Latina and queer woman of color to win the coveted award.  The film might have been a disappointment at the box office since it made $76 million against a production budget of $100 million. The film received recognition due to its direction, acting, and cinematography.

In Conclusion

Steven Spielberg is a multi-talented director who has made history for cinema and continues to do so for his love of other genres and having passion to deliver the best period pieces and biopics. Spielberg will never be forgotten as the filmmaker who entertains and enlightens his audiences with masterful storytelling. 

By Marco Castaneda

Click here to read The Hollywood Insider’s CEO Pritan Ambroase’s love letter to Cinema, TV and Media. An excerpt from the love letter: The Hollywood Insider’s CEO/editor-in-chief Pritan Ambroase affirms, We have the space and time for all your stories, no matter who/what/where you are. Media/Cinema/TV have a responsibility to better the world and The Hollywood Insider will continue to do so. Talent, diversity and authenticity matter in Cinema/TV, media and storytelling. In fact, I reckon that we should announce “talent-diversity-authenticity-storytelling-Cinema-Oscars-Academy-Awards” as synonyms of each other. We show respect to talent and stories regardless of their skin color, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, etc., thus allowing authenticity into this system just by something as simple as accepting and showing respect to the human species’ factual diversity. We become greater just by respecting and appreciating talent in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Award winners, which includes nominees, must be chosen on the greatness of their talent ALONE.

I am sure I am speaking for a multitude of Cinema lovers all over the world when I speak of the following sentiments that this medium of art has blessed me with. Cinema taught me about our world, at times in English and at times through the beautiful one-inch bar of subtitles. I learned from the stories in the global movies that we are all alike across all borders. Remember that one of the best symbols of many great civilizations and their prosperity has been the art they have left behind. This art can be in the form of paintings, sculptures, architecture, writings, inventions, etc. For our modern society, Cinema happens to be one of them. Cinema is more than just a form of entertainment, it is an integral part of society. I love the world uniting, be it for Cinema, TV, media, art, fashion, sport, etc. Please keep this going full speed.”

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