Steven Spielberg has been a filmmaker virtually since birth. His first on-screen special effect involved cherries and a pressure cooker and ruined the kitchen cabinets. "Didn't faze me," says the director's mom of her son's early mishap. "I thought, 'Isn't that neat?'." When Steven began to playfully torment his sisters and their dolls, the Spielbergs encouraged him to express himself in other ways. He picked up a video camera and the world has never been the same.
Steven was born on December 18, 1946, to Arnold Spielberg and his wife Leah. The couple would divorce amicably in 1965, but not before welcoming three sisters to the family and relocating from New Jersey to Arizona. Inspired by his father's military past Arnold had served as a radio man on B-52 bombers Steven shot his first WWII film before the age of 16. After an inspiring trip to Los Angeles, he returned home and finished his first feature-length film, Firelight. His dad rented out the local cinema for one night to screen the film, with Steven's sisters selling refreshments.
After suffering two rejections from the University of Southern California's film department, Steven enrolled at California State University, Long Beach, but left before finishing his degree to pursue a filmmaking career. Aged 21, he became the youngest director to sign a long-term deal with a major Hollywood studio, though few predicted the impact he would have on the film industry.
The legendary director's first theatrical release, Sugarland Express, dazzled critics. Jaws the original summer blockbuster was next, becoming the first film ever to gross more than $100 million. An endless stream of hits followed, including Close Encounters Of A Third Kind, for which he received his first Oscar nomination, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, E.T., The Color Purple, and Jurassic Park.
In 1993, following the monstrous success of Jurassic Park, Steven threw out his storyboards, picked up a black and white camera and set about filming his labour of love. Schindler's List emerged and was instantly hailed as a masterpiece. The film grossed $230 million worldwide, and with the profits he created the Shoah Foundation which preserves the history of the Holocaust through interviews and films. Steven took home both the Academy Award for Best Director and Best Film that year, and firmly established himself as much more than a popcorn-flick director.
Yet Steven, who was named an honorary knight of the British Empire in early 2001, remains decidedly humble. "I'm the fraidy-cat who makes a picture and immediately assumes that nobody is going to show up the first day, and it will be reviled around the world," admits the director. "That's the way I've been on every single project. Every one. When it doesn't turn out that way, I'm relieved... I don't celebrate. I don't have victory parties. I simply feel relief."
The four-time Oscar winner married actress Amy Irving in 1985, and welcomed their first child Max the same year. However, the romance soon soured and the couple divorced in 1989. In 1991 he married actress Kate Capshaw, whom he had met nearly ten years earlier at an audition for Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom. The E.T. director now counts seven children in his brood.
In 1995, Steven, former Disney chief Jeffrey Katzenberg and record mogul Bob Geffen sat down and discussed starting a new studio, Dreamworks SKG. But before Steven agreed to the deal, his wife Kate offered a few stipulations. Katzenberg remembers her thoughts this way: "She turned to me and she said, 'So here are my ground rules. Assuming that everything else can get worked out in this, you can have him after he takes the kids to school, and you deliver him back here to have dinner with them at night'."