In box-office terms, Spielberg, who turned 70 on December 18, 2016, is the most successful movie director in the world. Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Indiana Jones … his movies are cinema classics. But alongside these popcorn-sagas he has also turned his hand to sterner stuff. Moviegoers all over the world found his black-and-white Holocaust drama Schindler’s List deeply moving. 2016 saw the release of The BFG (short for Big Friendly Giant), a movie version of the children’s book by Roald Dahl in which a benevolent giant ‘kidnaps’ a little orphan girl.
Reader’s Digest: The little heroine of your latest movie is scared of giants. What were you afraid of when you were a child?
Spielberg: I was my own monster. My imagination was incredible, so I was afraid of everything. A chair could very quickly change into a spider. I remember staring up at the sky when I was five. One of the clouds up there looked like a beautiful swan, then suddenly it was a dinosaur. I ran home screaming.
Reader’s Digest: What did your parents feel about that?
Spielberg: For my parents my imagination was a real problem, so much so that they seriously considered having me examined by a doctor. After all I was constantly seeing things that didn’t exist except in my head. My mother and father thought I had some major mental problems. I probably did – but they were the gateway to a great career!
Reader’s Digest: How important is it for you to preserve the child within?
Spielberg: The fascinating thing about children is that they’re just there. When they’re small, they don’t know right from wrong – it’s not important to them. Those are years of complete freedom, which come to an end when at some point the brain takes over and tells you how to behave. I remember that time very clearly.
Reader’s Digest: You turned 70 this past December. What do you consider your greatest career achievement so far?
Spielberg: The right to decide my own projects. That was always my only goal, telling my stories without anyone else interfering. It was also why I established my own studios. Artistic freedom means everything to me.
Reader’s Digest: Which movie did you enjoy making most?
Spielberg: That was E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, because it was the first time I realised I wanted to be a father. Three years later I finally made the grade with the birth of my first son.
Reader’s Digest: Do you make home movies?
Spielberg: Yes, I always have a video camera with me. At Christmas it’s traditional for there to be a joint movie about the family that lasts one hour. I edit the footage I’ve collected in the course of the year and combine it with our children’s videos. And of course there’s a soundtrack and special effects. We all watch the film together and everyone gets a DVD of it.
Born on December 18, 1946, in Cincinnati, Ohio, Steven Spielberg started making movies as a teenager. His first full-length film was The Sugarland Express (1974). For Schindler’s List (1993) he won Oscars in the categories ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Motion Picture’. For Saving Private Ryan (1998) he won an Oscar for ‘Best Director’. In 1994 he established the Shoah Foundation, dedicated to recording the testimonies of Holocaust survivors. The same year, he helped found DreamWorks Studios. Married to actress Kate Capshaw, his second wife, Spielberg’s family includes seven children and several grandchildren.