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Friday, 29 December, 2000, 13:25 GMT
Steven Spielberg: Movie man
Steven Spielberg
Spielberg was dreaming of movies from a tender age
If ever there was an argument for great movie makers being born, not made, Steven Spielberg would prove the point.

By the age of 12, Spielberg had already written and made his first self-funded film unaided.

Now aged 53, the Oscar-winner has more than 100 movies, including Jaws and Jurassic Park, to his name.

He is widely considered the godfather of the box office blockbuster and is Hollywood's most commercially successful film-maker.

Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark
Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark spawned four sequels

Increasingly over the years - with films such as Saving Private Ryan - he has championed British talent, by choosing UK resources and locations over those in the US.

Steven Spielberg was born on 18 December 1947 and grew up in Phoenix, Arizona.

His father was an electrical engineer and his mother a concert pianist.

Resourceful

The young, shy but enterprising Spielberg was clearly determined to make it in the movies.

He funded his first productions through his tree-planting business. He also charged admission to home movies.

At 13, he won his first prize for a 40-minute war movie called Escape to Nowhere.

At 16, his work had its first public airing when his science-fiction movie Firelight was a screened at a local cinema.

Largely self-taught, Spielberg honed his skills at California State University. On graduation - and despite his hunger for Hollywood - Spielberg went into TV.

Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan: Just one of Spielberg's projects using British skills

He directed screen icon Joan Crawford in the pilot episode of the series Night Gallery. He also worked on episodes of Columbo and Marcus Welby MD.

But it was not long before his talent for "thrills and spills" productions shone through, beginning with the TV film Duel in 1971.

From then on there was no turning back. Spielberg moved permanently into feature films in 1974 when he wrote and directed The Sugarland Express, starring Goldie Hawn.

Its success gave Spielberg the chance to direct holiday horror hit Jaws. The film about an oversized, man-eating shark terrorising beach-goers set several precedents.

Standard-bearer

It was the most successful film of 1975 and confirmed Spielberg as one to watch in Hollywood.

The film, now considered a classic of its mass appeal genre, is also seen as the first summer blockbuster.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Close Encounters of the Third Kind set standards

From sharks, Spielberg moved to alien life, with his next big international hit, Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977.

Again, Spielberg set a standard for others to follow by marvelling audiences with state-of the-art special effects.

A lean period followed, with the unsuccessful slapstick war comedy 1941.

Its failure jolted Spielberg back into the high-action/high-drama genre he does best, resulting in the first Indiana Jones fantasy, Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Produced with Spielberg's friend George Lucas - the Star Wars director - the movie launched one of the most successful sets of films of the decade.

It also catapulted its star Harrison Ford into the Hollywood big league.

But it was Spielberg's spell-binding 1982 film ET that established him as the decade's most influential movie-maker.

The film saw Spielberg return to the theme of outer space to tell the universally appealing story of a small boy who befriends a baby alien, stranded on earth.

et
E.T gave Spielberg a hold on the 80s

Towards the end of the 80s, Spielberg began to change tack, directing movies such as Alice Walker's The Color Purple.

It was followed by Empire of the Sun, from the wartime novel by JG Ballard. This was also one of a growing number of films for which Spielberg used UK locations.

However, it was not a hit and seemed to mark a downturn in Spielberg's fortunes. It was followed by further weak performances from Hook and Always.

In his personal life, Spielberg saw his marriage to Amy Irving end in divorce. He later married Indiana Jones actress Kate Capshaw.

But Spielberg returned to form in the 90s with the double whammy of Jurassic Park and Schindler's List.

DreamWorks

Dinosaur caper Jurassic Park saw Spielberg excel on his previous use of special effects and the film outstripped ET's box office record.

Holocaust drama Schindler's List was a bold a step for Spielberg - the master of escapist entertainment.

American Beauty
Annette Bening in DreamWorks' Oscar-winning American Beauty

It paid off, winning him Oscars for best director and best picture.

Another turning point in his career was when he joined forces with David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg to form DreamWorks in 1994.

As well as writing and directing his own movies, Spielberg had over the years helped produce others' films, including Poltergeist and Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

The formation of DreamWorks - a multimedia entertainment studio - both consolidated Spielberg's broad talents and gave him the foothold on the future of the entertainment industry.

To date, the most talked about - and recent hits - from DreamWorks include Roman Empire blockbuster Gladiator, multiple Oscar-winner American Beauty and animated adventure Chicken Run.

Chicken Run
Chicken Run was made in collaboration with British animators

All of these movies - particularly Aardman's Chicken Run - were made in collaboration with British talent.

Spielberg, who claims to have made just as many films in the UK as in the US, has signed a five-movie deal with Aardman's Nick Park and Peter Lord.

Spielberg's Oscar-winning 1998 Saving Private Ryan was filmed in largely in Ireland and the UK. And, following in its footsteps, is Spielberg's latest venture Band of Brothers.

The 11-hour World War II mini-series is being filmed mainly at the Hatfield Aerodrome in Hertfordshire - although the action takes place at 12 separate locations in war-ravaged Europe.

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See also:

24 May 00 | Entertainment
Spielberg calls for UK film 'leader'
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Spielberg's top military honour
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08 May 00 | Tom Brook
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Park and Lord's fowl play
29 Dec 00 | UK
Spielberg gets Royal honour
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