As a kid in Phoenix, Steven Spielberg charged admission to his home movies while his sister sold popcorn. Although Spielberg excelled at making movies he was not a good student. He hated school and was one of the most unathletic students there. His movie making career began at the age of twelve when his father bought a movie camera that Spielberg used all the time. Instead of doing his school work he was using the camera. While he was working with his mom and sister on his projects, his father helped him make miniature sets out of paper mache.
He turned out his first production, with script and actors, when he as thirteen, and a year later he won a prize for a forty minute war movie titled Escape to Nowhere. At the age of sixteen, his 140-minute production, Firelight, was shown in a local movie theater. In college, his short film, Amblin was shown at the Atlanta Film Festival and led to the boy genius’s Universal Studios directing contract at the age of twenty. Spielberg learned his craft doing television work, which included an episode of the Rod Serling series Night Gallery and the classic cult movie Duel.
His first feature, The Sugarland Express, was released in 1974, and he was soon ffered the chance to direct a thriller about a great white shark terrorizing a small New England beach town. Jaws cost $8. 5 million and grossed $260 million. Spielberg followed it up two years later with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, earning a Best Director Oscar nomination and proved to the world that he was one of the best directors of the time. However, he followed Close Encounters with the disastrous Movie, 1941, which was his first attempt at comedy and his first true failure. He didn’t take long to regain his form, both commercially and artistically.
Teaming up with his al George Lucas (whose Star Wars came out the same year as Close Encounters, and made even more money), Spielberg created an action-adventure picture based on the old continuing stories, better known as serials, that they both loved as kids. Called Raiders of the Lost Ark and detailing the adventures of an archaeologist named Indiana Jones, it earned him another Best Director nomination and made a ton of money at the box office. A year later, Spielberg surpassed not only himself but Lucas’s Star Wars–his E. T. The Extra-Terrestrial was one of the biggest domestic moneymakers of all time.
Further profiting as a producer of other directors’ hits (including Poltergeist and Back to the Future), Spielberg became one of the richest men in Hollywood. In 1984, he created his own independent company, Amblin Entertainment, and the following year, reacting to criticism that he couldn’t make an adult picture, he attempted The Color Purple. Criticized for sentimentalizing the material, he was publicly embarrassed when the film pulled down eleven Oscar nominations, but not one for its direction. In a goodwill gesture, though, the Academy came through for Spielberg with the honorary Irving G. Thalberg Award in 1987.
Over the next few years, with Always, Empire of the Sun, and Hook, Spielberg’s golden touch seemed to be failing him. His personal life was also in turmoil: he and actress Amy Irving divorced, and he married his Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom leading lady Kate Capshaw. Professionally, he came back with two huge movies in 1993, Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List. Jurassic Park grossed $100 million in nine days and went on its way to breaking E. T. ‘s box- office record. Spielberg’s Schindler’s List looked at the good-hearted Nazi Party member Oskar Schindler and the terrible times Jews went through during the Holocaust.
Even though Spielberg never expected it to be a box office smash he chose to make this movie because he felt that given his gifts, he could make a movie to help people understand the holocaust. This finally earned Spielberg his long-awaited Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture. Lifted even further by this unprecedented success, he joined forces in 1994 with record mogul David Geffen and movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg to form Dreamworks, a multimedia entertainment studio. Spielberg is currently in production with the sequel to Jurassic Park, Jurassic Park 2. Clearly we have not heard the last of Steven Spielberg.