Spielberg, Steven, 1946–, American film director, b. Cincinnati, Ohio. Spielberg began his career as a television director, admired for his understanding portrayal of human character. His film Jaws (1975) was the first to earn more than $100 million, another multimillion dollar earner was Close Enounters of the Third Kind (1977); he surpassed their records first with E.T. (1983) and then with Jurassic Park (1993), which grossed more than $900 million. Spielberg's love of older movies was demonstrated with his serial-inspired trilogy of movies featuring Indiana Jones. Other films, many based on literary works, include The Color Purple (1985), Empire of the Sun (1987), and the widely acclaimed Holocaust drama Schindler's List (1993), for which he won an Academy Award.
In 1994, Spielberg, former Disney executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, and recording industry mogul David Geffen formed DreamWorks SKG, a movie studio and entertainment company. Its animation division became a public company from 2004 to 2016, when it was sold, and the live-action division was sold. The DreamWorks name was subsequently licensed by Spielberg for live-action films; since 2015 it has been a brand of Amblin Partners, in which he is a partner.
The director later explored a slave revolt and trial in Amistad (1997) and won his second Academy Award for the realistic World War II drama Saving Private Ryan (1998). He subsequently examined a ghastly future world of neurotic humans and sentient robots (the result of a collaboration with Stanley Kubrick) in A.I. (2001), for which he also wrote the screenplay, and portrayed another dark future in which crime is detected and stopped before it is committed in the allegory-thriller Minority Report (2002).
Spielberg turned to a more comic vision in his tales of a young imposter and his pursuer in Catch Me If You Can (2002) and of a foreigner stranded in New York's Kennedy airport in The Terminal (2004). Munich (2005) is a tale of Israelis and Palestinians, terrorism and vengeance. The animated Adventures of Tintin (2011) is an interpretation of the Hergé series, and War Horse (2011) adapted a novel about a boy's beloved horse caught up in the horrors of World War I. Lincoln (2012), acclaimed as one of his finest films, is the story of the adoption of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery, as well as a study of the president and American politics. Bridge of Spies (2015) is a moody cold war thriller; The Post (2017) chronicles the Pentagon Papers's publication; and Ready Player One (2018) is set in a dystopian future where a corporation seeks to control a virtual reality game and its players. By the early 21st cent., Spielberg had become Hollywood's most famous, influential, and successful mainstream director.
In 1994, Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education at the Univ. of Southern California, which recorded testimonies by survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and subsequently has recorded survivors of other genocides. The foundation seeks to understand the causes of genocide and prevent it from happening.
See biography by J. McBride (1997); study by M. Haskell (2017); S. Lacy, dir., Spielberg (documentary, 2017).
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