• Golden Globe Awards

Nominee Profile 2022: Steven Spielberg, “West Side Story”

In 2018, Steven Spielberg, now 75, gave a speech to young students at the Academy of Achievement. In it, he said that dreams always come from behind you, never from right in front of your eyes. Dreams whisper, they never shout. Asked about his own dreams, this is what he told the HFPA: “The first time I heard the whisper I was around 15 years old, and by that time I was a big movie fan, getting an idea for a story, for a script and I remember it the softest little murmur of an idea and it never happened before. Everything starts with an idea, and I started writing the story. I was up all night. It was the first time in my entire life I was actually awake the whole night and I wrote the whole idea down, probably generated 30 or 40 pages overnight and I went off and spent the next year on weekends making this movie based on a script I was in the process of writing. That was the first time I heard the whisper.”
Young Steven destroyed his mother Leah’s kitchen in the making of this, his very first creative endeavor. In one scene he had a pressure cooker with cherry jam from cans explode onto the walls and ceiling, thinking that he would clean it all up before his parents got home. But the walls stayed red, and, as he says, “I had hell to pay for that.”
Parental punishment be damned, he was hooked, and from then on knew exactly what he wanted to do with his life. After moving from Arizona, where he was raised, to California, he visited the Universal Studios Tour, made friends with the security guard at the gate, and returned every day for a week, during which time he found an empty office and access to the studio president Sid Sheinberg, showing him a short film he made at Long Beach City College in his second year there.
Sheinberg was so impressed, he signed the 21-year-old to a contract that had him direct the legendary Joan Crawford in a TV movie, Night Gallery, and led to dozens of other TV projects, including an episode of Columbo. His first feature film, Duel, made people take notice. He followed it up with Sugarland Express and then single-handedly changed the way movies were marketed with Jaws, which had a wide release and started the now-famous first box-office weekend. It also marked his big breakthrough in his career.
Called one the greatest directors of all time by numerous critics and publications, he has made films in almost every genre, among them Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, The Color Purple, Schindler’s List, AmistadSaving Private RyanLincoln and The Post, and earned six Golden Globe nominations and three wins as Best Director. Above all, he has also found time to give back. Among his numerous philanthropic works, he is most proud of his Shoah Foundation, which archives filmed testimony of Holocaust survivors.
When asked, during the first-ever podcast the HFPA did exactly three years ago, about the last time he heard “the whisper,” this is what he answered: “The whisper that always creeps up on me – and I have to do a movie like this someday, so I can get this whisper out of my ear – is, I want to make a musical. Talk about the genre of something I’ve never done. I’ve had little musical numbers from time to time in different films, but I want to make a full-fledged musical someday.”
His someday came only a year later and for his current film West Side Story, his direction and two of his actors are nominated for Golden Globes. The only hope remaining is that the whispers never stop coming for Steven Spielberg.