Spielberg channels inner child at Berlin film festival

BERLIN (AFP): Three-time Academy Award winner Steven Spielberg on Tuesday said childhood trauma had shaped almost all of his work as he prepared to accept a lifetime achievement award at the Berlinale film festival.

Spielberg, 76, said he was “obviously… very traumatised” by the experience of conflict in his family home and his parents divorce. That was why “I’d be attracted to subjects like ‘Empire of the Sun’,” in which a young boy has torn away from his family in China and sent to a Japanese war camp, he said.

“I’m sure had my parents not gotten a divorce, I would not have chosen ‘Empire of the Sun’ as a film to direct,” he said. The Hollywood A-lister also spoke of still feeling the same inspiration he did “as a little kid” when he makes films today.

“All those decades later, I feel… the same level of excitement when I find a book or a script or come up with an original idea that I think could make a good movie,” he said.

French director Francois Truffaut had ultimately persuaded him to make “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” by telling him he had “the heart of a child”, Spielberg said.

“Truffaut was the one that said, you gotta make a picture with kids,” he said. Spielberg is to collect an honorary Golden Bear for his life’s work on Tuesday evening at the Berlinale, Europe’s first major cinema showcase of the year.

The festival is also screening a retrospective of his work, including classics such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, “Jaws” and “Schindler’s List”, as well as his latest project, the semi-autobiographical film “The Fabelmans”.

“The Fabelmans” tells the mostly true story of Spielberg’s own childhood and introduction to film-making in post-war America. The film, starring Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, has already received wide critical acclaim, picking up top nods at both the 2023 Golden Globes and Critics Choice Awards.

It has also been nominated for five Oscars. Talking about the film, Spielberg said it was the “most emotional” project he had ever worked on. “I was telling a story with a lot of funny parts but with a lot of parts that were very traumatising,” he said.

The star director also revealed that he is pressing ahead with a television mini-series about Napoleon, based on a screenplay by Stanley Kubrick. The project, first floated in 2013, is being planned as “a seven-part limited series”, he said.