On this day in 1946, Steven Spielberg, who will become one of the most successful directors in modern movie history with such blockbusters as Jaws, E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, is born in Cincinnati, Ohio.
After studying film at California State University, Spielberg directed his first full-length feature, the 1971 thriller Duel, which starred Dennis Weaver and originally aired on television, to strong reviews. Spielberg’s first directorial effort to be released in theaters was 1974’s The Sugarland Express, starring Goldie Hawn. The young director grabbed Hollywood’s attention with his next film, Jaws (1975), about a killer shark that terrorizes a beach community. Jaws, which co-starred Richard Dreyfuss and Roy Scheider, became the first movie in history to gross over $100 million.
Spielberg’s next film, the UFO-themed Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), also starred Dreyfuss and achieved similar box-office success. It was followed by yet another massive hit, 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark, which starred Harrison Ford as the adventurous archeologist Indiana Jones. The movie, co-written by George Lucas (Star Wars), was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. It became a successful movie franchise, with Spielberg helming the sequels: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) and Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008).
Spielberg’s Midas touch continued with the 1982 sci-fi drama E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, about a boy (played by Henry Thomas) who befriends an alien. The movie was an enormous commercial and critical success, earning nine Oscar nominations. Spielberg turned away from action thrillers and special effects with 1985’s The Color Purple, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 novel of the same name by Alice Walker about a young black woman growing up in the South in the early 20th century. The film, which featured Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and Oprah Winfrey, received 11 Oscar nominations.
Spielberg’s 1991 film Hook was based on J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan and starred Dustin Hoffman, Robin Williams and Julia Roberts. Although Hook did well at the box office, it received mixed reviews. Spielberg’s next film, 1993’s Jurassic Park, based on Michael Crichton’s sci-fi novel about cloned dinosaurs, featured cutting-edge, computer-generated special effects and became one of the top-grossing movies in history. Also that year, Spielberg helmed the Holocaust drama Schindler’s List, which starred Liam Neeson in the title role and earned Spielberg his first Best Director Academy Award. He earned his second Best Director Oscar for 1998’s World War II drama Saving Private Ryan, which featured an ensemble cast that included Tom Hanks and Matt Damon.
Spielberg went on to direct such films as A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001), Minority Report (2002), with Tom Cruise; Catch Me if You Can (2002), with Leonardo DiCaprio; and Munich (2005), which earned Spielberg another Best Director Oscar nomination.
In addition to writing and directing, Spielberg has served as a producer on a variety of television and film projects, including the 2001 HBO series Band of Brothers and Clint Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers (2006) and Letters from Iwo Jima (2006). Spielberg was married to the actress Amy Irving (Crossing Delancey) from 1985 to 1989 and has been married to the actress Kate Capshaw (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) since 1991.