Any filmmaker will tell you that every film they make is personal.
Steven Spielberg is not just any filmmaker. The director of Jaws, HEY, The Raiders of the Lost Ark, jurassic park, Schindler’s list, Saving Private Ryan and West Side Story is in a class of its own when it comes to the deep and earth-shattering impact on pop culture its films have had for decades. But even the 75-year-old maestro subscribes to the idea that each work is an intimate experience for him.
“There’s nothing more personal than committing to something,” Spielberg told us ahead of the release of his latest, The Fabelmans.
But it is indisputable that the filmmaker’s 35th feature is his more personal work to date. The more-than-semi-autobiographical coming-of-age follows a young Spielberg — er, Sammy Fabelman (played as a teenager by Gabriel LaBelle) — as he falls in love with childhood movies, begins to realize an amazing house and well-crafted films as a preteen and eventually, through his camerawork, discovers that there might be something seeping between his mother (Michelle Williams) and his father’s best friend (Seth Rogen) (Paul Dano).
“I never found myself, for such a long time, in real history,” Spielberg tells us. “And that in itself was Kafkaesque. … I never got used to it. It was not comfortable for me. But when [the actors’] the mojos were at this critical point where the actors worked together so well, I got a little lost in their performances.
“But I always knew it was about my sisters, my mum and dad who are no longer there, and myself. And so there was never a moment where I didn’t didn’t realize it was an opportunity I took and was so grateful for that at my age I finally had the temerity, or the courage, to decide to tell this story now. wouldn’t have had the distance or the perspective if I had decided to tell this story 30 years ago. It wouldn’t have been the same film.
LaBelle, a 19-year-old Vancouverite, grew up on Spielberg DVDs and jurassic park and IndianaJones Lego moves into his home. “It’s breathtaking. It’s incredibly exciting,” the young actor says of the opportunity to play a lightly fictionalized version of the iconic director. “And it’s a huge privilege, honestly. It’s an honor.”
Spending two months with the filmmaker as he delved into his past gave the entire cast the opportunity to learn more about Spielberg in a more intimate way than previous sets.
“I think I was surprised to find out how open he was to being an open ship with us, our crew and everyone on this movie,” Dano said. “I think that’s what really paved the way. If Steven can be this vulnerable and open and naked, we must be too. So to be with someone who is an artist who shaped the culture while having this intimacy with him, that was pretty cool.
“That’s really who he is,” adds Williams. “He comes as open and as frank and as searching as a person can be. He gives it so generously, so it immediately disarms you. And you realize he’s looking like all of us.
“Honestly, I was surprised at how leaps and bounds he seemed to do to do something so seemingly personal,” Rogen says. “And it was nice that he was willing to do that because it felt like he was taking a real personal risk in some ways, which you don’t need to do when you’re him. He would become the one of the greatest filmmakers in the history of cinema having never done something like this that clearly made him feel like he was presenting himself in a way that he had never done before. really inspiring to see someone like him take it on and decide to push themselves in new directions even after doing so much.
And then there’s what Spielberg learned about himself through such a journey of self-reflection.
“I think it was, more than anything else, the fact that I had a very complicated family. And I had a very unique family,” says the director, who credits longtime co-writer Tony Kushner. encouraging him to finally tell his own story. “I mean, the dynamics of my mother’s relationship with my father’s best friend, and how I discovered things that I would not have discovered without my obsession for home movies and making 8MM movies of all our camping trips and weekend outings. I was my family’s videographer even at 12, 13, 14, 15. But what is unique about this is that i discovered something that suddenly made me look at my mother not as a parent but as a person.
“And that shouldn’t happen when you’re 16. It should be much later, when you have your own children. You suddenly realize that your parents are your peers, not your parents anymore. But I found out too soon that my mother was human and couldn’t hide behind the face of a primary caregiver. And it changed the dynamic of every choice I made after that.
The Fabelmans opens in select theaters on Friday before opening nationwide on November 23.
Watch the trailer:
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