147 min, Q/A with Susan Lacy
DIRECTOR: Susan Lacy
DIRECTOR: Susan Lacy
PRODUCERS: Susan Lacy, Jessica Levin, Emma Pildes
EDITOR: Deborah Peretz
CINEMATOGRAPHERS: Eddie Marritz, Sam Painter
It can be challenging for film lovers to pick their favorite Steven Spielberg movie since there are so many to choose from. This master of the big screen has directed 33 films in the last 50 years, three of them Academy Award winners. He was nominated for seven Best Director Academy Awards, winning two of them (Schindler’s LIst and Saving Private Ryan) and ten of the films he has directed were up for the Best Picture Oscar (Schindler’s List won). In 1987 he was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his work as a creative producer.
So it comes as no surprise that another honored filmmaker, Susan Lacy, wanted to take a deep dive into the artistic development of this film giant. What is more surprising is he said yes to her request for interviews, ultimately sitting for 30 hours of conversation. Spielberg told The New York Times, “I could not imagine being the subject of another filmmaker until I met Susan Lacy.”
Of course, Lacy is no slouch when it comes to awards either. During her tenure at American Masters she produced for national broadcast over 215 documentary films about America’s cultural giants. Under her watch, the PBS series garnered an unprecedented number of awards: 71 Emmy nominations and 28 wins, in addition to 12 Peabodys, three Grammys and an Oscar. Now her own company, Pentimento Productions, has three major documentaries with HBO Documentary: Spielberg, Jane Fonda and Ralph Lauren.
With Spielberg Lacy wanted to be sure she captured the personal filmmaking of the director, his optimistic view of the world, his stories of separation and reunification. She told The New York Times, “I think there’s part of Steven in every film that he’s ever made, and that’s the story I wanted to tell.”
Spielberg admits that he was lonely as a child. The absence of his father haunted him his whole life. He felt good about himself primarily when he was making a film—his first 8mm attempt was at the age of 13. “The camera was my pen,” he said. He made his early mark at Universal Studios and quickly rose to the attention of President Sidney Sheinberg who became his mentor. His early films generally featured an underdog, pursued by indomitable forces, but who triumphed in the end.
Lacy had her own challenges putting the film together. In addition to the 14 interviews she did with Spielberg, she also had close to 100 additional interviews with his sisters, parents and a star-studded group of directors, actors and celebrities, like Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Martin Scorsese, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett and Oprah Winfrey to edit into her final cut.
Many of the stars that worked in his films were effusive in their esteem for the man. Said Ralph Fiennes who was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in the 1993 film Schindler’s List, “He seems to breathe cinema.” Tom Hanks, who was nominated for an Oscar for his acting in the 1998 war epic Saving Private Ryan, said the film looks so much like a documentary because Steven’s “eye is so connected to his brain” that he can come up with new ways to shoot a scene if technical problems arise. But impressively, praise has not led Spielberg to feel self-important. Said Dustin Hoffman with admiration, “Steven’s like a guy who works for Steven Spielberg.”