Wednesday Dec 18, 1946 to Present
USASteven Allan Spielberg is an American filmmaker. He is considered one of the founding pioneers of the New Hollywood era and one of the most popular directors and producers in film history. Spielberg started in Hollywood directing television and several minor theatrical releases. He became a household name as the director of Jaws (1975), which was critically and commercially successful and is considered the first summer blockbuster. His subsequent releases focused typically on science fiction and adventure films, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Jurassic Park (1993) are seen as archetypes of modern Hollywood escapist filmmaking.
While still a student, he was offered a small unpaid intern job at Universal Studios with the editing department. He was later given the opportunity to make a short film for theatrical release, the 26-minute, 35 mm, Amblin', which he wrote and directed. Studio vice president Sidney Sheinberg was impressed by the film, which had won a number of awards, and offered Spielberg a seven-year directing contract. It made him the youngest director ever to be signed for a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio. He subsequently dropped out of college to begin professionally directing TV productions with Universal.
Studio producers Richard D. Zanuck and David Brown offered Spielberg the director's chair for Jaws, a thriller-horror film based on the Peter Benchley novel about an enormous killer shark. Spielberg has often referred to the gruelling shoot as his professional crucible. Despite the film's ultimate, enormous success, it was nearly shut down due to delays and budget over-runs. But Spielberg persevered and finished the film. It was an enormous hit, winning three Academy Awards (for editing, original score and sound) and grossing more than $470 million worldwide at the box office. Jaws made Spielberg a household name and one of America's youngest multi-millionaires.
Spielberg and actor Richard Dreyfuss re-convened to work on a film about UFOs, which became Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). One of the rare films both written and directed by Spielberg, Close Encounters was a critical and box office hit, giving Spielberg his first Best Director nomination from the Academy as well as earning six other Academy Awards nominations. It won Oscars in two categories (Cinematography, Vilmos Zsigmond, and a Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing, Frank E. Warner). This second blockbuster helped to secure Spielberg's rise.
Spielberg first met actress Amy Irving in 1976 at the suggestion of director Brian De Palma, who knew he was looking for an actress to play in Close Encounters. After meeting her, Spielberg told his co-producer, Julia Phillips, "I met a real heartbreaker last night." Although she was too young for the role, she and Spielberg began dating and she eventually moved into what she described as his "bachelor funky" house. They lived together for four years, but the stresses of their professional careers took a toll on their relationship. Irving wanted to be certain that whatever success she attained as an actress would be her own: "I don't want to be known as Steven's girlfriend," she said and chose not to be in any of his films during those years. As a result, they broke up in 1979 but remained close friends. Then in 1984, they renewed their romance, and on November 1985, they married, already having had a son, Max Samuel.
After three and a half years of marriage, however, many of the same competing stresses of their careers caused them to divorce in 1989. They agreed to maintain homes near each other as to facilitate the shared custody and parenting of their son. Their divorce was recorded as the third most costly celebrity divorce in history.
Spielberg was awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service by Secretary of Defense William Cohen at the Pentagon on August 11, 1999, Cohen presented the award in recognition of Spielberg's film Saving Private Ryan.