Steven Spielberg is a name synonymous with Hollywood and the film industry as a whole. His films invented the concept of a summer blockbuster, changed the way many filmmakers use CGI, and gave audiences moments of cinema magic that they’ll never forget.
Few filmmakers have ever inspired such a loyal fanbase as Spielberg, who is arguably the most famous movie director of all time.
But what exactly do we know about him? Who really is the person behind classics like Jurassic Park, Jaws, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial? What are some of the coolest things you can know about the man and his cinematic creations?
Here are some of the most fun and interesting facts you probably didn’t know about Steven Spielberg and his movies.
10. Steven Spielberg Owns Charles Foster Kane’s Sled (From Citizen Kane)
The final scene in Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane showcases many people burning Charles Foster Kane’s possessions upon his death while the people responsible manage what remains of his estate.
One of the items is the sled bearing his famous last word: “Rosebud.” As it turns out, the production of Citizen Kane made three of those sleds, and Spielberg—a big Orson Welles fan—has one of them.
Spielberg considers the sled to be one of his most prized possessions, and he outbid several people, including George Lucas, to own it.
9. Steven Spielberg Submitted Schindler’s List as His Film School Final Project
Believe it or not, Steven Spielberg couldn’t go to the University of Southern California because he didn’t have good enough grades. He did attend California State University, but never finished because he got a job as a director.
In 2002, he decided to go back and finish his degree at California State, submitting Schindler’s List as part of his coursework. The University made several allowances so Spielberg was allowed to do this. In the end, he did receive his degree because of it.
One would hate to have followed Spielberg’s submission as it was being academically rated by the college, though it may not have worked that way because, you know, it is Schindler’s List—a film that won seven Academy Awards and lives on.
8. Robin Williams Cheered Up Steven Spielberg During Schindler’s List
The production of Schindler’s List wasn’t an enjoyable experience for Spielberg, who wanted to quit directing after he had finished the movie. The subject matter was so sad and painful that Spielberg struggled with depression while producing the masterpiece.
When he heard this, Robin Williams—being the man he was—started calling Spielberg from the United States to make him laugh.
Around once every week or two, Williams would get on the phone with Spielberg (who was moonlighting as an editor on Jurassic Park at the time) to do some stand-up and help Steven feel better about having to make such a tragic picture.
7. Steven Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick’s Fax Machine Antics
Steven Spielberg, like the rest of the world, considered Stanley Kubrick to be one of the best filmmakers of all time. And through his work in the film industry, the pair became close friends.
When Kubrick began developing A.I. Artificial Intelligence, he wanted to share development with Spielberg. But because Kubrick didn’t like leaving England, he insisted on sending Spielberg all documents by fax. (Side note: Kubrick didn’t trust delivery companies!)
Kubrick demanded that Spielberg set up a fax machine in his bedroom—and nowhere else in the house. This was to ensure that ideas for the film remained private.
After weeks of Kubrick disturbing Spielberg and his wife with his sending of documents over at all hours of the night, Spielberg unplugged the fax machine and took it into his office—and he never told Kubrick he’d done so.
6. Daniel Day-Lewis Was the First Actor to Be Awarded an Oscar for a Spielberg Film
It seems unlikely that Steven Spielberg’s movies never won an Oscar for Best Actor until 2013, but it’s true! Daniel Day-Lewis’ portrayal of Abraham Lincoln was the performance that first garnered the first Oscar for an actor directed by Steven Spielberg.
Many actors had seen nominations under Spielberg’s direction, including Tom Hanks, Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Sally Field, Christopher Walken, and Melinda Dillon. None had won.
After Day-Lewis’ win in 2013, Mark Rylance would bring home Best Supporting Actor for his work on Bridge of Spies just two years later. So, now, only British actors who have worked with Spielberg have ever won Academy Awards.
5. Steven Spielberg’s Lasting Partnership With Composer John Williams
Steven Spielberg has made 33 movies as of this writing, which is a lot for any film director. Yet while many aspects of Spielberg’s crew has changed over the years, one thing has broadly remained the same…
Out of those 33 films, John Williams has scored 28 of them. Williams is the second most-nominated person in the history of the Academy Awards—behind only Walt Disney—and many of his nominations have come as a result of his work with Spielberg.
Steven Spielberg has also worked with the same editor, Michael Kahn, on every film since Close Encounters of the Third Kind and he’s made 19 of his movies with cinematographer Janusz Kaminski.
4. Steven Spielberg Is a Fan of Peaky Blinders
The British gangster TV series Peaky Blinders has taken Hollywood by storm, with many in the industry professing to be fans of Steven Knight’s drama.
Self-described fans include Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Julia Roberts, and Snoop Dogg. Academy Award-winner Adrien Brody even went so far as to star in the fourth season of the series.
Well, Steven Spielberg is a fan, too. He commented that he liked the show during an interview with the BBC for Ready Player One.
3. Steven Spielberg Criticized Streaming… Then Signed Deals With Apple and Netflix
When director Alfonso Cuaron swooped the Oscars in 2019 and won three Academy Awards, there was much debate about the legitimacy of a “Netflix film” and whether it should be recognized by The Academy because it was distributed via streaming service.
At the time, Steven Spielberg announced his intention to block any further nominations for streaming movies when he met with The Board of Governors later that year. His efforts were unsuccessful.
Streaming movies can still be nominated for Academy Awards as long as they play in New York and LA for a short time in theaters.
And Spielberg didn’t hold to his convictions very long. When Apple rocked the boat with Apple TV+, Spielberg signed a deal to produce content for them—which, to be fair, mainly consists of TV shows.
But in June 2021 he signed a deal with Netflix to produce feature content for them with his production company. So, perhaps Spielberg doesn’t think that streaming is bad after all?
2. Steven Spielberg Was Annoyed at Not Being Nominated for Best Director (Jaws)
Jaws became the first modern summer blockbuster movie when it came out in 1975. It was met with critical acclaim from the industry, and it propeled then-unknown filmmaker Steven Spielberg into the limelight as he arrived in the Hollywood lexicon.
Jaws garnered three Academy Award wins and found itself nominated for Best Picture, too. However, Spielberg was annoyed that he hadn’t been recognized personally in the Best Director category.
The film’s production was famously a nightmare for all involved, who had to contend with Robert Shaw’s drunken behavior, a mechanical shark that didn’t work well in water, and a shooting schedule that went far over time and way over budget.
No wonder he was annoyed that he wasn’t recognized after all that.
1. Steven Spielberg Doesn’t Have as Many Oscars as You Might Think
Despite a long career that has seen him make some of the best movies ever made, Steven Spielberg isn’t as Oscar-ed up as one may think. He has 17 nominations but only three wins. By comparison, director Bong Joon-ho won three Oscars in a single night for his film Parasite.
It’s not a bad thing to have won “only” three Academy Awards, and it doesn’t mean he’s a bad director. But with Steven Spielberg’s immense legacy, you’d think he’d have won more!