Steven Spielberg

Copyright Michael D. Robbins 2005 


Astro-Rayological Interpretation & Charts
Images and Physiognomic Interpretation

to Volume 3 Table of Contents


Stephen Spielberg—Film Director, Writer, Producer

December 18, 1946, Cincinnati, Ohio, 6:16 PM, EST. (Source: birth certificate)          

(Ascendant, Cancer; MC, Pisces; Sun and Mercury in Sagittarius with Sun conjunct Mars in Capricorn; Moon in Scorpio with Jupiter and Venus also in Scorpio, conjunct; Saturn conjunct Pluto in Leo; Uranus in Gemini; Neptune in Libra) 

Spielberg was a director at Columbia Pictures at 20 and has gone on to film some of the most commercially successful films of all time.  He made the outstanding film 'Schindler's List', released in December 1993, and won an Academy Award.


When I grow up, I still want to be a director.

I dream for a living.
(North Node in Gemini in 12th house trine Neptune. Pisces on MC.)

You know, I don't really do that much looking inside me when I'm working on a project. Whatever I am becomes what that film is. But I change; you change.

All of us every single year, we're a different person. I don't think we're the same person all our lives.

I've discovered I've got this preoccupation with ordinary people pursued by large forces.
(Moon & stellium in Scorpio. Cancer Ascendant.)

Every time I go to a movie, it's magic, no matter what the movie's about.
(Uranus conjunct North Node in 12th house)

I am an American Jew and aware of the sensitivities involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(On his knighthood-)
I feel like I've been engaged to the British Empire since 1980 and tonight you have given me the ring.

I interviewed survivors, I went to Poland, saw the cities and spent time with the people and spoke to the Jews who had come back to Poland after the war and talked about why they had come back.
(Saturn conjunct Pluto in Leo trine South Node & Mercury in Sagittarius)

I want to be the Cecil B. DeMille of science fiction.

I wanted to do another movie that could make us laugh and cry and feel good about the world. I wanted to do something else that could make us smile. This is a time when we need to smile more and Hollywood movies are supposed to do that for people in difficult times.

I'd rather direct than produce. Any day. And twice on Sunday.

I'm always in favor of Israel responding strongly when it's threatened. At the same time, a response to a response doesn't really solve anything. It just creates a perpetual-motion machine.

I'm not really interested in making money.
(Saturn & Pluto in 2nd house square Moon in Scorpio)

If Bush, as I believe, has reliable information on the fact that Saddam Hussein is making weapons of mass destruction, I cannot not support the policies of his government.

The public has an appetite for anything about imagination - anything that is as far away from reality as is creatively possible.

When war comes, two things happen - profits go way, way up and all perishables go way, way down. There becomes a market for them.

“I never felt comfortable with myself, because I was never part of the majority. I always felt awkward and shy and on the outside of the momentum of my friends' lives.” quote
(Uranus in 12th house)

“I've always been very hopeful which I guess isn't strange coming from me. I don't want to call myself an optimist. I want to say that I've always been full of hope. I've never lost that. I have a lot of hope for this country and for the entire world. . .”
(Moon conjunct Jupiter & Chiron in 5th house)

“A lot of the films I've made probably could have worked just as well 50 years ago, and that's just because I have a lot of old-fashion values.”
(Saturn in 2nd house)

“All I have to do is pose for a picture and I'm getting married to the person standing next to me.”

“There is a fine line between censorship and good taste and moral responsibility.”

“People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don't have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.”

“I like the smell of film. I just like knowing there's film going through the camera.”

“We were just doing a job and loving it. It had great success, and we were thrilled. Then it got bigger and bigger, and then, out of nowhere, one day you're reading that people are really annoyed. ... This [backlash] happens to everybody. Don't think you're so special.”

“I hate that people think it's wrong to say you're inspired by Jaws or by Raiders Of The Lost Ark. You're allowed to be.” quote

“There are three movies that I am exceptionally proud of in my life, and I rarely commit to a list of films that I like, that I've made, ... but these are the three films that I was passionately connected to. The first was 'ET,' the second 'Schindler's List,' and third is 'Saving Private Ryan.'” quote

“I felt, for the first time in my career, that I was directing a stage production more than a motion picture. Part of directing is psychotherapy. You're sitting there with a lot of very talented patients, and you're hoping your movie doesn't blow up in your face in anarchy.”

“These movies are asking sensitive questions about racial intolerance and Middle East politics. It's been an amazing year, very much like 1968, '69 and '70, when you suddenly see all of these political movies coming out at the same time, out of the watershed of politics. Some of it is due to our own insecurity about the voices representing us in government right now. We feel like our government has set us adrift, and we're trying to make our voices heard. We're telling them to be worried about these things.”
(Sun & Mercury in Sagittarius in 6th house)

“I don't think this collection of films represent everything. We're not delivering a shared point of view. These movies are all so different from each other. We all look at a movie through a prism of everything our parents and teachers taught us and what our children are telling us. You can't make a movie expecting everyone will have the same reaction. Ten people seeing 'Munich' will come out with 10 different points of view. It was always that way, sitting around the Passover table talking about the Middle East.”

“All through my career I've done what I can to discover new talent and give them a start.”

“Through the visual arts, the performing arts, the art of music, the art of dance, the art of celebration of life, all of us are dedicated to making this Olympic opening and closing ceremonies the most emotional everyone has ever seen.”

“I'd love to build a company that will continue to make movies well beyond me someday. And I'd like to help start something great, even investing in it myself.”
(Cancer rising)

“I don't think any movie or any book or any work of art can solve the stalemate in the Middle East today. But it's certainly worth a try.”

“We don't demonize our targets. They're individuals. They have families. Although what happened in Munich, I condemn.”

“There is something about killing people at close range that is excruciating. It's bound to try a man's soul.”

“I will never make a movie about any of the events of 9/11.”


Steven Spielberg

Birth name Steven Allan Spielberg
Born December 18, 1946 (age 60)
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Spouse(s) Amy Irving (27 November 1985 - 2 February 1989) (divorced) 1 child
Kate Capshaw (12 October 1991 - present) 6 children

Steven Allan Spielberg, (born December 18, 1946) is a two-time Academy Award winning American film director and producer. Spielberg is the most financially successful motion picture director of all time. He has directed and/or produced a number of major box office hits. As of 2006, he has been listed in Premiere magazine as the most "powerful" and "influential" figure in the motion picture industry, and at the end of the 20th century LIFE named him the most influential person of his generation.[1]

During the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, three of his films became the highest grossing films for their time: Jaws, E.T. and Jurassic Park. Spielberg is also one of the co-founders of DreamWorks Pictures. Over his years as director and producer, Spielberg has explored a large variety of subjects in his films. His early adventure films are often seen as the archetype of modern Hollywood blockbuster film-making. In recent years he has tackled emotionally powerful issues, such as the Holocaust, slavery, war, and terrorism.


Steven Allan Spielberg was born in Cincinnati, Ohio to Arnold and Leah Spielberg (Leah later remarried, and took on the name Leah Adler). He has three younger sisters. His last name comes from the name of the Austrian city where his Hungarian Jewish ancestors lived in 17th century: Spielberg. Spielberg spent much of his childhood in several places as his family often moved because of his father's job, as a computer engineer. Spielberg lived in Camden, New Jersey, Haddon Township, New Jersey, Phoenix, Arizona and Saratoga, California. The first film Spielberg ever saw was Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth.[2]

Spielberg grew up making movies from an early age. In a interview with the American Film Institute Spielberg recalls his earliest movie making memory - his enjoyment of crashing his toy trains into each other. To avoid making his father angry about repairing the trains he chose to film the crash at the points where the trains met. Throughout his early teens, he made other amateur 8 mm "adventure" movies with his friends. He charged admission to his home movies (which involved the wrecks he staged with his Lionel train set) while his sister sold the popcorn. At the age of 13, Spielberg won a prize for a 40.65-minute war movie he titled Escape to Nowhere.[2]

Whilst attending Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Arizona in 1963, at the young age of 16, Spielberg wrote and directed his first large scale independent movie. His 140-minute production was a science fiction adventure called Firelight (which would later inspire Close Encounters). The movie, with a budget of USD$400, was shown in his local movie theater and generated a profit of $100. Firelight was Spielberg's first real commercial success and the local Phoenix press wrote that he could expect great things to come.[3]

After his parents divorced he moved to California with his father. His three sisters and mother remained in Arizona. Subsequently he graduated from Saratoga High School in Saratoga, California in 1965. On attending Saratoga High School, he said that it was the "worst experience" of his life and "hell on Earth".[4] Spielberg was given the nickname "Spielbug" [2] During this time Spielberg became an Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award from the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), as he developed the requirements for the Boy Scout Cinematography merit badge.[5] In later life, he resigned from the national board of BSA after he had been admitted (because of his disapproval regarding the BSA's anti-homosexuality stance).[6]

After moving to California he applied to attend film school at UCLA and University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television three separate times but was unsuccessful (though USC awarded Spielberg an honorary degree in 1994 and in 1996 he became a trustee of the University). Reasons for his failure to gain entry were based on his "C" grade average. He then attended California State University, Long Beach at the behest of his parents who wanted him to gain a degree and personally to avoid the possibility of the draft for Vietnam.[2] Spielberg once joked that his movie career began the day that he decided to jump off a tour bus at Universal Studios in Hollywood and wandered around the disused film lots. There have been many alternate versions of that story. However his actual career began, when he returned to Universal studios as an unpaid, three-day-a-week intern and guest of the editing department.[7]

While attending college at Long Beach State in the 1960s, Spielberg also became member of Theta Chi Fraternity. In 2002, thirty-five years after starting college, Spielberg finished his degree via independent projects at CSULB, and was awarded a B.A. in Film Production and Electronic Arts with an option in Film/Video Production.[8] Fraternity brothers often tell stories of Spielberg running around with a movie camera making short films.

Once as an intern and guest of Universal Studios, Spielberg made his first short film for theatrical release, creating Amblin', in 1968, at the age of twenty-one. This movie, only 24 minutes long, led to his becoming the youngest director ever to be signed to a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio (Universal) after Sid Sheinberg, then the vice-president of production for Universals' TV arm saw the film. In later life Spielberg's own production company, Amblin Entertainment, was named after his short film. He then dropped out of Long Beach State in 1969 to take the television director contract at Universal Studios and began his career as a professional director.

Early career (1968-1975)
His first professional TV job came when he was hired to do one of the segments for the pilot episode of Night Gallery. The segment, Eyes, starred Joan Crawford, and she and Spielberg were reportedly close friends until her death. The episode is unusual in his body of work, in that the camerawork is more highly stylized than his later, more "mature" films. After this, and an episode of Marcus Welby M.D., Spielberg got his first feature-length assignment: an episode of Name of the Game called "L.A. 2017". This episode played to his interests in futuristic science fiction, and Universal first began to take note of his talents. He did another segment on Night Gallery (some people claim that he also directed a short five-minute segment called "A Matter of Semantics" when the credited director had to back out for unknown reasons, but this has never been confirmed), and did some work for shows such as Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law and The Psychiatrist before landing the first series episode of Columbo (previous "episodes" were actually TV-Movies).

Spielberg's films often deal with several recurring themes. Most of his films deal with ordinary characters searching for or coming in contact with extraordinary beings or finding themselves in extraordinary circumstances, which actually describes literally thousands of films. This is especially evident in Duel, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Empire of the Sun, Hook, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me if You Can, War of the Worlds and Munich. In an AFI interview in August 2000 Spielberg commented on his interest in the possibility of extra terrestrial life and how it has influenced some of his films. To that tradition of fascination with space, Spielberg has placed on several occasions, shooting stars in the background of his films such as in Jaws. Spielberg described himself as feeling like an alien during childhood,[2] and his interest came from his father, a science fiction fan, and his opinion that aliens would not travel light years for conquest, but instead curiosity and sharing of knowledge.[27]

A strong consistent theme in his family-friendly work is a childlike, even naïve, sense of wonder and faith, as attested by works such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hook and A.I.. According to Warren Buckland [28] these themes are portrayed through the use of low height camera tracking shots, which have become one of Spielberg's directing trademarks. In the cases when his films include children, (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Empire of the Sun, Jurassic Park, etc.) this type of shot is more apparent, but it is also used in films like Munich, Saving Private Ryan, The Terminal, Minority Report and Amistad. If one views each of his films, one will see this shot utilised by the director, notably the water scenes in Jaws are filmed from the low angle perspective of someone swimming. Another child orientated theme in Spielberg's films is that of loss of innocence and coming-of-age. In Empire of the Sun, Jim, a well-groomed and spoilt English youth, loses his innocence as he suffers through World War II Japan. Similarly in Catch Me if You Can Frank naively and foolishly believes that he can reclaim his shattered family if he accumulates enough money to support them.

The most persistent theme throughout his film is tension between parent-child relationships. Parents (often fathers) are reluctant, absent or ignorant. Peter Banning in Hook starts off in the beginning of the film as a reluctant married-to-his-work parent who through the course of his film regains the respect of his children. The notable absence of Elliott's father in E.T., is the most famous example of this theme. In Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it is revealed that Indy has always had a very strained relationship with his father, who is also an archaelogist, as his father always seemed more interested in his work, specifically in his studies of the Holy Grail, than in his own son, although his father does not seem to realize or understand the negative effect that his aloof nature had on Indy (he even believes he was a good father in the sense that he taught his son "self reliance", which is not how Indy saw it). Even Oskar Schindler, from Schindler's List, is reluctant to have a child with his wife. Munich depicts Avner as man away from his wife and newborn daughter. There are of course exceptions; Brody in Jaws is a committed family man, while John Anderton in Minority Report is a shattered man after the disappearance of his son. This theme is arguably the most autobiographical aspect of Spielberg's films, since Spielberg himself was affected by his parents' divorce as a child and by the absence of his father. Furthermore to this theme, protagonists in his films often come from families with divorced parents, most notably E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (protagonist Elliot's mother is divorced) and Catch Me if You Can (Frank Abagnale's mother and father split early on in the movie). Little known also is Tim in Jurassic Park (early in the movie the child mentions his parents' divorce). The family often shown divided is often resolved in the ending as well.

One aspect of Spielberg's films and possibly is that most of his films are generally optimistic in nature. Critics often accuse his films for being overtly sentimental, though Spielberg feels it's fine as long as it is disguised, and the influence comes from directors Frank Capra and John Ford.[14] There are exceptions, his debut feature The Sugarland Express has a downbeat ending where Ila Fae loses custody of her daughter and most recently A.I. where David never receives acceptance from his real mother. Recently however his 21st century output from A.I. to Munich are slightly different in tone with respect to his earlier films. In A.I., David is shunned and rejected by his family and indeed most of the world at large and ultimately never earns the love of his real mother. The crime-caper, Catch Me if You Can, with a certain irony when Frank, who continuously rebels against authority figures throughout the film, becomes part of the very system he fought against; while War of the Worlds was the first time Spielberg attempted to show aliens who were evil rather than friendly to humanity. Munich, his latest and most controversial film, is also his most ambiguous, as in the end it's uncertain whether the cycle of violence would ever truly end.

Personal life
From 1985 to 1989 Spielberg was married to actress Amy Irving. She received a US $100 million settlement from Spielberg in their 1989 divorce when a judge controversially vacated a prenuptial agreement which was written on a napkin. Both Spielberg and Irving share custody. After his divorce from Irving, Spielberg developed a relationship with actress Kate Capshaw, whom he met when he cast her in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. They married on October 12, 1991. Capshaw converted to Judaism so she could wed the Jewish-American director. They currently move between their four homes in Pacific Palisades, California; New York City; East Hampton, NY and Naples, Florida. He has eight children.

Max Samuel Spielberg (June 13, 1985) (with actress Amy Irving)
Sasha (June 1990), Sawyer (March 10, 1992), and Destry Allyn (born on December 1, 1996) (with Kate Capshaw)
Theo (1988 - African-American; adopted by Capshaw before her marriage to Spielberg; adopted by Spielberg.) and Mikaela George (born on Feb. 28, 1996 adopted with Capshaw.) (two adopted children)
Jessica Capshaw (1976) (daughter from Kate Capshaw's previous marriage)
On February 7, 2000, Spielberg's doctor discovered an irregularity on his kidney during a routine physical. It was later found to be Renal cell carcinoma, a form of kidney cancer. The kidney was later removed at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. At 53, Spielberg recovered quickly and required no follow up treatment.

Spielberg generally supports U.S. Democratic Party candidates. He was close friends of former President Bill Clinton and worked with the President for the USA Millennium celebrations. He directed an 18 minute film for the project, scored by John Williams and entitled The American Journey. It was shown at America's Millennium Gala on December 31, 1999 in the National Mall at the Reflecting Pool at the base of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.. [29] However, although Spielberg generally supports Democratic leaders such as Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry, he joined Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban in endorsing the re-election of Hollywood friend Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican Governor of California, on August 7, 2006.

On February 20, 2007, Spielberg, Katzenberg, and David Geffen invited Democrats to a fundraiser for Barack Obama, who has formed an exploratory committee for a 2008 presidential run.[30]

In the fickle world of cinema, there are very few names you can splash across a billboard to ensure a film's financial success. Harrison Ford, perhaps, or Julia Roberts. George Lucas, if it's a Star Wars movie. Tom Cruise seemed a cert till Eyes Wide Shut. These names will probably make you millions, but there's only one sure-fire guarantee - Steven Spielberg. As a director, he's the most successful of all time. His films have been so popular, so consistently entertaining, that people rush to see anything tagged as A Steven Spielberg Production, even movies he merely financed. No one else has muscle like that. No one else ever has.

As a film-maker, he started early. He was born Steven Allan Spielberg on the 18th of December, 1946, in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, Arnold, was an electrical engineer involved in the development of computers, while mother Leah, a concert pianist, looked after the four children - Steven was the oldest, the others being Annie, Sue and Nancy. The family soon moved to Scottsdale, Arizona - Steven would attend Arcadia High School in Phoenix - and it was here that his love for movies (and his financial acumen) began to blossom. Perhaps unnaturally quickly, if reports that Spielberg suffered from Asperger's Syndrome are to be believed. This is a mild form of autism that leads to obsessional interests - often with very positive results.

Leah being as indulgent as Arnold was emotionally remote (many fathers in Spielberg movies are either missing or distant), Steven's interest in film-making was encouraged. By 12, he'd made his first amateur film, an 8-minute Western called The Last Gun, which Steven financed with a tree-planting business. He'd charge admission to his home movies, getting Annie to sell popcorn, and his projects rapidly became more ambitious in scale and scope. By 14, he'd made a 40-minute war film, Escape To Nowhere, on 8mm, and another short, Battle Squad, which mixed WW2 footage with sequences he'd shot at Phoenix airport. Even that young, he'd learned how to make stationary aircraft seem as if they were travelling at supersonic speed. Within two years he was working on Firelight, a 140-minute sci-fi epic, based on a story his sister Nancy had written about a UFO attack. He would, as all the world knows, return often to the subjects of war and alien life-forms.

There would be an emotional side to his story-telling, too, and a vaguely autobiographical one. Many of Spielberg's films feature kids in distress and that aforementioned distant father. This mirrors Steven's own relationship with Arnold - not a good one. On one occasion, Arnold brought a tiny transistor home, showed it to Steven and told him is was the future. Steven took it, put it in his mouth and, washing it down with milk, swallowed it. So much for Arnold's future (though, of course, he was very right). Eventually, Arnold and Leah's marriage began to fall apart. Steven would shove towels under his door to keep out the noise of the arguments. Divorce followed, and Steven was estranged from Arnold for 15 years.

As an Eagle Scout (he'd later serve on the Advisory Board of the Boy Scouts of America, only to quit over a perceived discrimination against homosexuals) with such enthusiasm and practical experience, you'd have thought he'd walk into film school. Yet Spielberg was twice turned down for the prestigious film course at the University of Southern California, instead studying English at California State University at Long Beach, then moving into film.

It was a minor hitch since, by the age of 22, Spielberg was signed up by Universal. Legend has it that the canny Steven inveigled his way into the industry by sneaking away from a tour of Universal studios, finding an abandoned janitor's backroom, doing it up as an office and turning up for work every day until someone mistakenly gave him some work to do. In reality, it was a 26-minute movie called Amblin' that scored him his big chance. Concerning a boy and girl who meet while hitch-hiking and become friends and lovers on their way to a paradisiacal beach, the film was a prize-winner at the Atlanta Film Festival and won Steven his 7-year contract with Universal. In fond memory of this, he would name his first production company Amblin Entertainment.

There is a further story here. Amblin' was financed to the tune of $15,000 by one Denis C. Hoffman. In return for his money and support, Hoffman agreed that, instead of taking a cut of the boy's future earnings (which Hoffman apparently thought to be mean-spirited), Spielberg would direct a film of Hoffman's choosing within 10 years of the contract's signing - on 28th of September, 1968. However, in 1975, when Spielberg broke big with Jaws, the contract was said to be unenforceable. Being born on December 18th, 1947, it was claimed, Spielberg was still a minor when he signed. Come 1994, when it was revealed that Spielberg was actually born in 1946, Hoffman would sue for fraud and breach of contract.

Contracted to make TV shows, Spielberg directed episodes of Marcus Welby MD, The Name Of The Game, The Psychiatrist and Owen Marshall: Counsellor At Law. He also made a full-length Columbo movie, and helmed one of the more famous episodes of Rod Serling's Night Gallery. Here Joan Crawford played a rich blind woman who purchases the eyes of Tom Bosley, who's badly in debt, in order to gain eight hours of sight. She thinks the operation is a failure but, unbeknownst to her, New York is suffering a power-cut. Spooky stuff, despite the nagging suspicion that New York might have the odd emergency generator.

This episode was superb, with Spielberg drawing an excellent performance from the ageing Crawford. But it was his first TV movie proper that made him. Starring Dennis Weaver as a travelling salesman taunted, menaced and nearly killed by the faceless driver of a monster truck, Duel was a classic, so good it actually opened in European cinemas. Next came spook-flick Something Evil, with Sandy Dennis, and blackmail thriller Savage with Martin Landau, but Spielberg now had his own cinema project in mind. This was Sugarland Express, where Goldie Hawn (desperate to escape her dippy comic image) played a mother who, fearing her child is to be put up for adoption, persuades her hubbie to come on the run. The movie, while often hilarious (the couple are eventually tailed by hundreds of police cars), was also taut and upsetting, brilliantly handled. For his role as co-writer, Spielberg won for Best Screenplay at Cannes.

Now came the big one. Peter Benchley had scored a massive hit with his book Jaws, about a Great White Shark feasting on New England holidaymakers, and Spielberg was handed the job of taking the bestseller to the screen. It proved a nightmare big-budget debut. Not only were there all the extras to choreograph, but seabound shoots are notoriously difficult. And of course there was the shark. State of the art technology was employed to create a convincing 25-foot man-eater (affectionately known as Bruce), yet malfunctions were continual. The production was bad-tempered, the shoot over-ran by 100 days, Spielberg was almost replaced, and editing continued right up until the eve of release.

Everyone expected disaster. Yet, thanks to Spielberg's mastery of suspense and clever action techniques, the $8.5 million Jaws took off, making $260 million and, in the process, beginning the trend for summer blockbusters. Beyond this, it made the world afraid to go back in the water. Some of us haven't gone back in since. We don't much like to inspect the underside of boats either. Spielberg was now Hollywood's It Boy, and he immediately took the opportunity to make a "real" sci-fi movie. Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, like Jaws starring Richard Dreyfuss (Spielberg calls him his alter ego), was a monster. Combining sweeping action with intensely emotional close-ups, it saw Spielberg attempting to match his hero, David Lean, director of Lawrence Of Arabia and Bridge On The River Kwai (another of his influences, Francois Truffaut actually starred in Close Encounters). The SFX were mind-boggling, even out-shining those of the movie's sci-fi rival in 1977, Star Wars.

Spielberg could now do as he pleased, and he nearly blew it. 1941 was another epic, this time concerning events surrounding Pearl Harbour. However, starring John Belushi, it was also intended to be a comedy and, though stylish, it just wasn't funny. It was Spielberg's first and last real failure, having the effect of launching him on an unbelievable run of success. Next came the swashbuckling and enormously exciting Raiders Of The Lost Ark, produced by fellow-wunderkind George Lucas, which introduced renegade academic Indiana Jones and allowed Spielberg his first pop at the Nazis (his father had had relatives in the death camps). Next came ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, starring Spielberg's god-daughter Drew Barrymore and involving a cute baby alien abandoned on Earth. The first production by Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment, it was the biggest grosser in history, sending him on his way to a personal fortune that would eventually top $2 billion. More success followed with the movie version of The Twilight Zone and the Raiders sequel Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, if anything better than the original. In the meantime, there were big production successes with Poltergeist, Gremlins and The Goonies, the first and third based on stories written by Spielberg. He could do no wrong.

Well, not in the public's eyes. Critics, on the other hand, found his work spurious and emotionally flimsy, claiming his films were all flash and no content. Oscar-nominated as Best Director for Close Encounters, Raiders and ET, he was overlooked each time. Spielberg reacted by getting serious, taking on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple, another hit novel, this time concerning the journey of black women to self-discovery and inner liberation. Again the critics went at him, complaining that the film was too sugary (as if the book wasn't). The film was put up for eleven Oscars but Spielberg the director was pointedly ignored.

Still, he persisted. Empire Of The Sun was a superb film, outlining the boyhood of author JG Ballard in Japanese prison camps. There were brilliant performances by John Malkovich, Miranda Richardson and a host of Brit favourites. Once more the stunning action was combined with scenes of tremendously human interaction, making sense of Spielberg's assertion that "Before I go off and direct a movie, I always look at four films. They tend to be The Seven Samurai, Lawrence Of Arabia, It's A Wonderful Life and The Searchers". It was superb, but not a big hit, unlike the following third Indiana Jones instalment (Spielberg had been working on Rain Man for five months, but had to helm The Last Crusade because he'd shaken on it). And, aside from the moderately successful Always (a remake of his boyhood favourite A Guy Named Joe, and featuring the final performance of Audrey Hepburn, who donated her entire $1 million fee direct to UNICEF), and Hook, a retelling of Peter Pan that was a little too whimsical for its own good, he now ONLY made big hits.

First came Jurassic Park. Like Jaws with dinosaurs, this allowed Spielberg to once again exhibit his awesome ability in the use of shock tactics. The computer-generated monsters furthermore kept him on the cutting edge of popular cinema and, as Jurassic Park was the biggest grosser ever (beating Spielberg's own ET) and, combined with its sequel The Lost World, made $1.6 billion, he was furthermore very rich indeed. But Spielberg really wanted respect and set to work on a movie he'd been planning for a decade. Based on Thomas Keneally's Booker Prize-wining book, Schindler's List told the tale of a Nazi who risked his life and fortune to save Jews from the extermination camps. Spielberg had never dealt with ethnicity before but, with Empire Of The Sun, he did have experience of portraying large scale wartime misery. With the film shot in stark black and white, Liam Neeson excellent as the dissolute altruist and Ralph Fiennes even better as the cruel, tortured Kommandant, Schindler's List was magnificent. And, given Clint Eastwood's recent triumph with Unforgiven, the Academy were in the mood to accept that fact, bestowing upon Spielberg the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director.

Of course, the movie made a fortune but Spielberg, considering it to be "blood money", gave his share to various Jewish projects via the Righteous Persons Foundation. He also established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation which, in 57 countries and 32 languages, taped over 50,000 statements from victims and witnesses of the Holocaust.

It all just got bigger and better. Having made Amistad, the tale of a slave revolt aboard ship and the subsequent trial ("Give us us FREE!"), Spielberg upped the ante by forming the multi-media giant Dreamworks with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, dealing in live action and animated features, music, television programming and interactive software - the company insuring Steven's life for $1.2 billion. He was building a big family with actress Kate Capshaw (who'd starred in Temple Of Doom), siring Sasha, Sawyer, Jessica and Destry and adopting Theo and Mikaela (both black, if you ever doubted Spielberg's sincerity with The Color Purple or Amistad). And he paid out a very big divorce settlement to his ex, Amy Irving, who bore him son Max and, in 1989, took him for between 100 and 125 million dollars.

Having proved himself as a "serious" director, Spielberg took his newfound reputation and returned to his roots (remember Escape To Nowhere and Battle Squad?) with Saving Private Ryan, the first large-scale WW2 movie since Richard Attenborough's A Bridge Too Far. Almost foolishly ambitious, it attempted to accurately portray the full horror of the Normandy landings and, with the bullets hissing through the water, the sound and vision rising and falling, and the bodyparts flying, it was indeed as terrifying as it could be. Without Bruce suddenly gliding into sight, that is. The movie was extraordinary, spawning Band Of Brothers (a collaboration between Spielberg and Ryan star Tom Hanks and, at $120 million, the most expensive TV drama ever), and winning Spielberg another Oscar. So bruised was Spielberg by his previous Oscar experiences, he humbly asked in his acceptance speech "Am I allowed to say I really wanted this?"

Spielberg was now THE major player in Hollywood. Aside from his own monstrously successful projects, he'd been involved in the production of smashes like Deep Impact, Men In Black, Twister and the Back To The Future trilogy. On TV, there was ER and Sea Quest DSV. And there was the animation, a childhood love. Spielberg had his own Amblination studio, and helped make An American Tail, Land Before Time and Fievel Goes West, as well as the TV hits Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs and Pinky And The Brain.

Now came AI: Artificial Intelligence, Spielberg being one of the very few directors with the class and the cajones to take over the project after the death of Stanley Kubrick. Starring Haley Joel Osment as a 'borg seeking the meaning of humanity, it saw Spielberg once again viewing the world through a child's eyes, as he had done with ET, Empire Of The Sun and, in a roundabout way, with Duel and Raiders, the heroes of which were most child-like in being confronted and confounded by a cruel (read Adult) world. Arnold's distance had certainly left its mark. There would have been more, as Spielberg had been down to direct Big, with Harrison Ford in the Tom Hanks role, but he pulled out so as not to steal the thunder of sister Annie who co-wrote the script (and received an Oscar nomination for her pains).

In 2000, Spielberg was made a Knight of the British Empire for his services to the British film industry (though, not being a Commonwealth citizen, he cannot call himself Sir Steven), having earlier received a Bundesverdienstkreuz mit Stern, Germany's highest civil distinction. His face was now familiar to all, though he had made several high profile onscreen appearances. He'd turned up in Michael Jackson's video for Liberian Girl, and Cyndi Lauper's Goonies R Good Enough. He was Man In Electric Wheelchair in Gremlins, a tourist at the airport in Temple Of Doom, the Cook County clerk in The Blues Brothers, and a voice on the radio in Jaws.

It wasn't all good. In 1998, one Jonathan Norman was jailed for life for stalking Spielberg, and even threatening to rape him. But Spielberg deals in decency where he can. His deep love of film causes him to spend large sums on historical artifacts and donate them to the Academy for posterity - items including Clark Gable's Oscar for It Happened One Night ($607,500), Betty Davis's for Jezebel ($578,000) and an original Rosebud sledge from Citizen Kane. He ensured a US release for Dreams, by Kurosawa, another big influence. And he's strict but fair and kind with those around him. Hiring Tom Sizemore for Ryan, he was aware of the actor's addiction to heroin and cocaine and told him he'd have him tested every day of the shoot. If a trace of drugs was found, even on the last day, he'd re-cast and re-shoot, no matter what the expense. Sizemore stayed clean.

2001 saw Spielberg deliver the film version of another publishing phenomenon, Harry Potter And The Sorceror's Stone. At least, that's how the movie was presented even though Spielberg did not direct it. "For me," he said "that was shooting ducks in a barrel. It's just a slam-dunk. It's like withdrawing a billion dollars and putting it into your personal bank accounts". The movie was actually directed by Chris Columbus, but this is seldom mentioned. Though he helmed such mega-hits as Home Alone, Mrs Doubtfire and Stepmom, Columbus's achievements pale beside those of his producer. Spielberg is now a kind of cinematic brand-name.

After the mega-success of Harry Potter, one of the biggest hits in history, came the collaboration everyone was waiting for - Spielberg and Cruise, the biggest name and the biggest face. In Minority Report (like Blade Runner based on the work of Philip K. Dick) Cruise played John Anderton, head of a pre-crime unit who, thanks to the work of psychics, bust criminals before they actually commit their crimes. Then he himself is accused and disappears into a world of crazy intrigue, in the first real detective story Spielberg's directed since Columbo. It was yet another US Number One.

After this came another thriller, Catch Me If You Can, this time with old buddy Tom Hanks playing an FBI agent tracking down young con artist Leonardo DiCaprio as he flips between a crazy series of identities and professions. The movie would bring an Oscar nomination for Christopher Walken (another mark of the respect Spielberg's films were now receiving) and would make a beefy $164 million at the US box office. Spielberg would stay with Hanks for The Terminal, where Hanks would play a displaced Eastern European, unable to return home or to step onto American soil and therefore doomed to a bizarre existence at a US airport.

These last two movies were almost entirely action-free, as if Spielberg were finally ready to consistently deal in character-driven pieces. But there was no way he could resist re-teaming with Tom Cruise to remake one of the great sci-fi classics of his youth, War Of The Worlds. This saw destruction reach unprecedented heights as Spielberg indulged in a feast of SFX, capturing the public imagination yet again and this time raking in a massive $264 million.

2005 would clearly define the two sides of the middle-aged Spielberg. War Of The Worlds proved he had not lost his childhood love of thrills and spills (or his ongoing dislike for absent fathers). Munich, on the other hand, saw the new(ish) politicized Spielberg, keen to explore the world's present problems by considering traumatic events in the past. The movie would begin at the Olympics of 1972, where 11 Israeli athletes were murdered by terrorists, and would follow a crack squad assembled by Mossad as they criss-crossed the globe, hunting down the perpetrators and offing them in ever more ingenious ways. Naturally, the truth of his version of events was questioned and, just as naturally, so was the behaviour (both good and bad) of the state of Israel. Growing more thoughtful and therefore more provocative with age, Spielberg was suddenly controversial - about time, too, many would say - and Munich, nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, would also see him nominated as director for the first time since Saving Private Ryan.

More hits, more money to add to the billions already made. Spielberg had reached a peak undreamed of by most directors. George Lucas has had hits, too, but - remember - almost exclusively with Star Wars (incidentally, Spielberg would help direct some of the action sequences for Revenge Of The Sith). All the different things Spielberg touches turn to gold. And now comes a new challenge. Spielberg has always wanted the respect of his peers, and always loved the history of cinema and its pioneers. He would love to be counted amongst them. Schindler's List, Saving Private Ryan and Munich have have seen him taken seriously in most quarter but, even so, after the long-anticipated Indiana Jones 4, we can expect a deeper Spielberg, a Spielberg who consistently has something to say. Of course, he's sure to also deliver us a massive injection of entertainment. That's Spielberg - always the selling point, the ONLY guaranteed good time.

Dominic Wills


to all Astrological Interpretations by Michael D. Robbins
to other commentary and projects by Michael D. Robbins
to the University of the Seven Rays

to home