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The Fabelmans

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The Fabelmans
Fabelmansposter.jpeg
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySteven Spielberg
Written by
Produced by
Starring
CinematographyJanusz Kamiński[1]
Edited by
Music byJohn Williams
Production
companies
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release dates
  • September 10, 2022 (2022-09-10) (TIFF)
  • November 11, 2022 (2022-11-11) (United States)
Running time
151 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$40 million
Box office$25.1 million[3][4]

The Fabelmans is a 2022 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Steven Spielberg, who co-wrote and produced it with Tony Kushner. The film is a semi-autobiographical story loosely based on Spielberg's adolescence and first years as a filmmaker, told through an original story of the fictional Sammy Fabelman, a young aspiring filmmaker who explores how the power of films can help him see the truth about his dysfunctional family and those around him. It stars Gabriel LaBelle as Sammy, alongside Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, and Judd Hirsch in supporting roles. The film is dedicated to the memories of Spielberg's real-life parents, Leah Adler and Arnold Spielberg, who died in 2017 and 2020 respectively.[5]

Spielberg had conceived the project as early as 1999, with his sister Anne writing a screenplay titled I'll Be Home. He had reservations about exploring his family's story because of concerns that his parents would be hurt, and the project was withheld for 20 years. Spielberg revisited the project with screenwriter and frequent collaborator Kushner in 2019 while they were making West Side Story, and completed the screenplay by the end of 2020. Development on the film officially began soon after, with casting taking place between March and May 2021. Principal photography began that July in Los Angeles and wrapped in September.

The Fabelmans had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2022, where it won the People's Choice Award. It began a limited theatrical release in the United States on November 11, and expanded on November 23, by Universal Pictures. The film received widespread critical acclaim, with particular praise toward the performances of the cast, direction, screenplay, cinematography, and John Williams' score. It was named one of the top ten films of 2022 by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute. However, the film was a box office bomb, grossing $25 million on a $40 million budget.

The film received numerous awards and nominations, including seven at the 95th Academy Awards, among them Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Williams), and Best Supporting Actor (Hirsch), and five at the 80th Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director. It also received 11 nominations at the 28th Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Picture, winning Best Young Performer for LaBelle, and two nominations at the 29th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Best Ensemble Cast of a Motion Picture and Best Supporting Actor (Dano).[6]

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Arnold Spielberg

Arnold Spielberg

Arnold Meyer Spielberg was an American electrical engineer instrumental in contributions "to real-time data acquisition and recording that significantly contributed to the definition of modern feedback and control processes". For General Electric he designed, with his colleague Charles Propster, the GE-225 in 1959. He cited the first computer-controlled "point of sale" cash register as his greatest contribution. His children include filmmaker Steven Spielberg, and screenwriter Anne Spielberg.

Anne Spielberg

Anne Spielberg

Anne Spielberg is an American screenwriter and producer. She is the younger sister of film director Steven Spielberg.

2022 Toronto International Film Festival

2022 Toronto International Film Festival

The 47th annual Toronto International Film Festival was held from September 8 to 18, 2022.

American Film Institute

American Film Institute

The American Film Institute (AFI) is an American nonprofit film organization that educates filmmakers and honors the heritage of the motion picture arts in the United States. AFI is supported by private funding and public membership fees.

95th Academy Awards

95th Academy Awards

The 95th Academy Awards will be presented on March 12, 2023, in a ceremony held by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. The awards will honor films released in 2022.

Academy Award for Best Picture

Academy Award for Best Picture

The Academy Award for Best Picture is one of the Academy Awards presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) since the awards debuted in 1929. This award goes to the producers of the film and is the only category in which every member of the Oscars is eligible to submit a nomination and vote on the final ballot. The Best Picture category is often the final award of the night and is widely considered as the most prestigious honor of the ceremony.

Academy Award for Best Director

Academy Award for Best Director

The Academy Award for Best Director is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given in honor of a film director who has exhibited outstanding directing while working in the film industry. The award is traditionally presented by the previous year's Best Director winner.

Academy Award for Best Actress

Academy Award for Best Actress

The Academy Award for Best Actress is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given to an actress who has delivered an outstanding performance in a leading role in a film released that year. The award is traditionally presented by the previous year's Best Actor winner.

Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor

Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor

The Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor is an award presented annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS). It is given in honor of an actor who has delivered an outstanding performance in a supporting role while working within the film industry. The award is traditionally presented by the previous year's Best Supporting Actress winner.

80th Golden Globe Awards

80th Golden Globe Awards

The 80th Golden Globe Awards honored the best in film and American television of 2022, as chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA). The ceremony was held on January 10, 2023, from The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, with it being aired live in the United States on NBC and streamed on Peacock. Jerrod Carmichael hosted the ceremony.

28th Critics' Choice Awards

28th Critics' Choice Awards

The 28th Critics' Choice Awards were presented on January 15, 2023, at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California, honoring the finest achievements of filmmaking and television programming in 2022. The ceremony was broadcast on The CW and hosted by Chelsea Handler, taking over the reins from Taye Diggs who had hosted the show consecutively in the previous four years.

29th Screen Actors Guild Awards

29th Screen Actors Guild Awards

The 29th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, honoring the best achievements in film and television performances for the year 2022, will be presented on February 26, 2023 at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Century City, California. The ceremony will be streamed live on Netflix's YouTube channel at 8:00 p.m. EST / 5:00 p.m. PST. The nominees were announced on January 11, 2023 by Ashley Park and Haley Lu Richardson via Instagram Live.

Plot

On the night of January 10, 1952, in Haddon Township, New Jersey, Jewish couple Mitzi and Burt Fabelman take their young son Sammy to see his first film: Cecil B. DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth. Dazzled by a scene involving a train, Sammy asks for a model set for Hanukkah, which he crashes late one night. Mitzi, understanding Sammy's intentions, allows him to shoot another crash scene using Burt's 8mm camera. Sammy soon begins filming regularly, sometimes involving his younger sisters Reggie, Natalie, and Lisa in his shoots. Burt is offered a new job in Phoenix, Arizona, and he and the family move there in early 1957; at the insistence of Mitzi, Burt's best friend and business partner Bennie Loewy goes with them.

Years later, a now-teenage Sammy continues making films with his friends in a Boy Scout troop, during which he begins utilizing post-production effects and subsequently earns a badge in photography. Later, the Fabelmans, including Bennie, take a camping trip with Sammy capturing footage of their vacation. One night of the trip, Mitzi starts dancing in her nightgown in the dark. Burt tells Sammy to film her dancing, and when Sammy responds that there isn’t enough light, Bennie turns on car headlights, providing enough light but also backlighting Mitzi’s body through her nightgown.

Shortly afterwards, Mitzi's mother dies from old age, leaving her especially distraught. Providing him with enough film editing equipment, Burt recommends that Sammy should turn the camping trip footage into a film in an effort to cheer Mitzi up, emphasizing that he should include Mitzi's dance. Sammy objects over the scheduling of his next film, but Burt, who sees Sammy's passion for film as nothing more than a hobby, argues that the home movie is more important.

The next morning, the Fabelmans receive a surprise visit from Mitzi's uncle Boris, a former lion tamer and film worker. That night, he speaks with Sammy about compromising his family with art, telling him that both aspects will continue to be at odds with one another. After Boris leaves, Sammy begins editing the camping trip footage, during which he notices evidence of Mitzi and Bennie having an affair, leaving him angry.

After weeks of harsh treatment towards her and Bennie, Sammy and Mitzi get into a heated argument. In a fit of rage over her son's behaviour, Mitzi slaps him across the back, forcing a distraught Sammy to show her the compiled footage. He promises to keep it a secret between them. The following week, Burt receives a promotion from work, requiring his family to move with him to Saratoga, California. In order to keep their marriage intact, Bennie stays in Phoenix, but not before gifting Sammy a new film camera. Sammy continuously refuses the camera in light of falling out with Bennie until he lets him pay $35 for it. Despite purchasing the camera, Sammy announces he will never use it.

Soon after arriving in his new neighborhood and school, Sammy becomes targeted by students Logan and Chad, who levy anti-Semitic abuse toward him. Sammy also begins dating the devoutly Christian Monica. While having dinner with the Fabelmans, Monica suggests that Sammy film their Ditch Day at the beach, something Sammy considers and eventually accepts to do after Monica tells him her father owns a 16mm Arriflex camera that he would let him use. After finally moving from a rental to their newly purchased home, Mitzi and Burt announce their divorce due to the former's extreme depression and the latter's discovery of the affair, leaving the family, especially Sammy, heartbroken.

During prom, Sammy declares his love for Monica and asks her to come with him to Hollywood after high school. Unable to throw away her own life's plans to attend Texas A&M University, Monica breaks up with Sammy, leaving him despondent. The Ditch Day film is played in front of Sammy's peers, where it receives a rapturous response. The film appears to glorify Logan and vilify Chad. When Logan confronts Sammy, confused over his positive portrayal in the film, the two reach an understanding until Chad attacks Sammy only for Logan to fight him off. The next morning, Mitzi and Sammy talk about their future together; just like Mitzi cannot give up her love for Bennie, she tells Sammy not to give up his love for filmmaking.

The following year, Sammy is living with Burt in Hollywood. Unable to find work in the field, Sammy considers dropping out of college, but Burt, begrudgingly accepting his son's passion after seeing a photograph of Mitzi and Bennie together, tells him to keep on his path if it makes him happy. Sammy finally receives a letter from CBS, who offer him work on the sitcom Hogan's Heroes. Knowing that Sammy is more interested in filmmaking, a network executive invites Sammy to meet film director John Ford, one of his greatest filmmaking influences, who offers Sammy some brief pointers about framing. Newly invigorated, Sammy walks through the studio backlot as the camera frames the horizon to the center, contrary to Ford's advice, before ending by taking the advice and re-framing the horizon at the far bottom.

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Haddon Township, New Jersey

Haddon Township, New Jersey

Haddon Township is a township in Camden County, New Jersey. As of the 2020 United States census, the township's population was 15,407, an increase of 700 (+4.8%) from the 2010 census count of 14,707, in turn reflecting an increase of 56 (+0.4%) from the 14,651 counted in the 2000 census.

Cecil B. DeMille

Cecil B. DeMille

Cecil Blount DeMille was an American film director, producer and actor. Between 1914 and 1958, he made 70 features, both silent and sound films. He is acknowledged as a founding father of the American cinema and the most commercially successful producer-director in film history. His films were distinguished by their epic scale and by his cinematic showmanship. His silent films included social dramas, comedies, Westerns, farces, morality plays, and historical pageants. He was an active Freemason and member of Prince of Orange Lodge #16 in New York City.

The Greatest Show on Earth (film)

The Greatest Show on Earth (film)

The Greatest Show on Earth is a 1952 American drama film produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille, shot in Technicolor and released by Paramount Pictures. Set in the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the film stars Betty Hutton and Cornel Wilde as trapeze artists competing for the center ring and Charlton Heston as the circus manager. James Stewart also stars as a mysterious clown who never removes his makeup, and Dorothy Lamour and Gloria Grahame also play supporting roles.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival commemorating the recovery of Jerusalem and subsequent rededication of the Second Temple at the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire in the 2nd century BCE.

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix is the capital and most populous city of the U.S. state of Arizona, with 1,608,139 residents as of 2020. It is the fifth most populous city in the United States, the most populous state capital in the country, and the only U.S. state capital with a population of more than one million residents.

Saratoga, California

Saratoga, California

Saratoga is a city in Santa Clara County, California. Located in Silicon Valley, in the southern Bay Area, its population was 31,051 at the 2020 census. Saratoga is an affluent residential community, known for its wineries, restaurants, and attractions like Villa Montalvo, Mountain Winery, and Hakone Gardens.

Antisemitism

Antisemitism

Antisemitism is hostility to, prejudice towards, or discrimination against Jews. A person who holds such positions is called an antisemite. Antisemitism is considered to be a form of racism.

Hollywood, Los Angeles

Hollywood, Los Angeles

Hollywood is a neighborhood in the central region of Los Angeles, California. Its name has come to be a shorthand reference for the U.S. film industry and the people associated with it. Many notable film studios, such as Columbia Pictures, Walt Disney Studios, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and Universal Pictures, are located near or in Hollywood.

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University

Texas A&M University is a public, land-grant, research university in College Station, Texas. It was founded in 1876 and became the flagship institution of the Texas A&M University System in 1948. As of late 2021, Texas A&M has the largest student body in the United States, and is the only university in Texas to hold simultaneous designations as a land, sea, and space grant institution. In 2001, it was inducted into the Association of American Universities. The university's students, alumni, and sports teams are known as Aggies, and its athletes compete in eighteen varsity sports as a member of the Southeastern Conference.

CBS

CBS

CBS Broadcasting Inc., commonly shortened to CBS, the abbreviation of its former legal name Columbia Broadcasting System, is an American commercial broadcast television and radio network serving as the flagship property of the CBS Entertainment Group division of Paramount Global.

Hogan's Heroes

Hogan's Heroes

Hogan's Heroes is an American television sitcom set in a Nazi German prisoner-of-war (POW) camp during World War II. It ran for 168 episodes from September 17, 1965, to April 4, 1971, on the CBS network, the longest broadcast run for an American television series inspired by that war.

John Ford

John Ford

John Martin Feeney, known professionally as John Ford, was an American film director and naval officer. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers of his generation. Ford made frequent use of location shooting and wide shots, in which his characters were framed against a vast, harsh, and rugged natural terrain.

Cast

  • Gabriel LaBelle as Samuel "Sammy" Fabelman, the sixteen-year-old son of the family who aspires to become a filmmaker. He is based on Spielberg.
    • Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord as young Sammy
  • Michelle Williams as Mitzi Schildkraut-Fabelman, Sammy's encouraging mother and a skilled pianist. She is based on Spielberg's mother, Leah Adler.
  • Paul Dano as Burt Fabelman, Sammy's father and a computer engineer. He is based on Spielberg's father, Arnold Spielberg.
  • Seth Rogen as Bennie Loewy, Burt's co-worker and best friend who becomes a surrogate uncle to Sammy
  • Julia Butters as Regina "Reggie" Fabelman, the first younger sister of Sammy who has a bitter relationship with him. She is based on Spielberg's sister, Anne.
    • Birdie Borria as young Reggie
  • Judd Hirsch as Boris Podgorny, Sammy's granduncle and a former film worker and circus lion tamer
  • Jeannie Berlin as Hadassah Fabelman, Burt's mother
  • Robin Bartlett as Tina Schildkraut, Mitzi's mother
  • Keeley Karsten as Natalie Fabelman, Sammy's second younger sister. She is based on Spielberg's sister, Nancy.
    • Alina Brace as young Natalie
  • Sophia Kopera as Lisa Fabelman, Sammy's third younger sister. She is based on Spielberg's sister, Sue.
  • Sam Rechner as Logan Hall, a high school bully
  • Oakes Fegley as Chad Thomas, another high school bully
  • Chloe East as Monica Sherwood, a classmate and love interest of Sammy's
  • Isabelle Kusman as Claudia Denning, a classmate and love interest of Logan's
  • Chandler Lovelle as Renee, a girl whom Logan cheated on Claudia with
  • Gustavo Escobar as Sal, a member of Sammy's Boy Scout troop who helps him make films
  • Nicolas Cantu as Hark, another member of Sammy's Boy Scout troop who helps him make films
  • Cooper Dodson as Turkey, a childhood friend and another member of Sammy's Boy Scout troop who helps him make films
  • Gabriel Bateman as Roger, a childhood friend and another member of Sammy's Boy Scout troop who appear alongside his family in his first films
  • Stephen Smith as Angelo, another member of Sammy's Boy Scout troop who helps him make films
  • James Urbaniak as Grand View High School Principal
  • Connor Trinneer as Phil Newhart
  • Lane Factor as Dean, another member of Sammy's Boy Scout troop who helps him make films
  • David Lynch as John Ford, the famous film director whose work influences Sammy's filmmaking
  • Greg Grunberg as Bernie Fein, the co-creator of Hogan's Heroes, who offers Sammy a chance to work on the show at CBS
  • Jan Hoag as Nona, a secretary who works at CBS
  • Crystal as Bennie the Monkey, the Fabelmans' pet monkey

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Gabriel LaBelle

Gabriel LaBelle

Gabriel LaBelle is a Canadian-American actor. He is best known for his leading role as young aspiring filmmaker Sammy Fabelman in Steven Spielberg's semi-autobiographical film The Fabelmans (2022), for which he received acclaim and won the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer.

Arnold Spielberg

Arnold Spielberg

Arnold Meyer Spielberg was an American electrical engineer instrumental in contributions "to real-time data acquisition and recording that significantly contributed to the definition of modern feedback and control processes". For General Electric he designed, with his colleague Charles Propster, the GE-225 in 1959. He cited the first computer-controlled "point of sale" cash register as his greatest contribution. His children include filmmaker Steven Spielberg, and screenwriter Anne Spielberg.

Anne Spielberg

Anne Spielberg

Anne Spielberg is an American screenwriter and producer. She is the younger sister of film director Steven Spielberg.

Jeannie Berlin

Jeannie Berlin

Jeannie Berlin is an American film, television and stage actress and screenwriter, the daughter of Elaine May. She is best-known for her role in the 1972 comedy film The Heartbreak Kid, for which she received Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress. She later played the leading role in Sheila Levine Is Dead and Living in New York (1975), and in the 2010s returned to screen appearing in films such as Margaret (2011), Inherent Vice (2014), Café Society (2016), and The Fabelmans (2022). She also appeared in the HBO miniseries The Night Of (2016) and had recurring roles in the Amazon Prime series Hunters (2020), and the HBO series Succession (2019-2021).

Chloe East

Chloe East

Chloe East is an American actress and dancer. She starred as Willow Pierce in the first season of the Audience Network television series Ice, as Reece in the 2017–2018 ABC television series Kevin (Probably) Saves the World, and as Naomi in HBO Max's Generation. She appears as Monica Sherwood in Steven Spielberg's 2022 film, The Fabelmans.

Gabriel Bateman

Gabriel Bateman

Gabriel Michael Bateman is an American actor. He is best known for starring in numerous horror films, including as Robert in Annabelle (2014), Martin Wells in Lights Out (2016), Andy Barclay in Child's Play (2019), and Kyle Hunter in Unhinged (2020).

James Urbaniak

James Urbaniak

James Christian Urbaniak is an American character actor. He is best known for his roles as Simon Grim in three Hal Hartley films: Henry Fool (1997), Fay Grim (2006) and Ned Rifle (2014), Robert Crumb in American Splendor (2003), Dr. Thaddeus "Rusty" Venture on the animated series The Venture Bros. (2003–2018), Grant Grunderschmidt on Review (2014–2017), and Arthur Tack on Difficult People (2015–2017).

Connor Trinneer

Connor Trinneer

Connor Wyatt Trinneer is an American film, stage, and television actor. He is best known for his roles as Charles "Trip" Tucker III on Star Trek: Enterprise, Michael on the series Stargate Atlantis, and Professor Moynihan on the web series Guilty Party Japan.

David Lynch

David Lynch

David Keith Lynch is an American filmmaker, visual artist and actor. A recipient of an Academy Honorary Award in 2019, Lynch has received three Academy Award nominations for Best Director, as well as the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Golden Lion. In 2007, a panel of critics convened by The Guardian announced that "after all the discussion, no one could fault the conclusion that David Lynch is the most important film-maker of the current era", while AllMovie called him "the Renaissance man of modern American filmmaking". His work led to him being labeled "the first populist surrealist" by film critic Pauline Kael.

John Ford

John Ford

John Martin Feeney, known professionally as John Ford, was an American film director and naval officer. He is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential filmmakers of his generation. Ford made frequent use of location shooting and wide shots, in which his characters were framed against a vast, harsh, and rugged natural terrain.

Greg Grunberg

Greg Grunberg

Gregory Phillip Grunberg is an American film and television actor best known for starring as Eric Weiss in the ABC series Alias, Matt Parkman in the NBC series Heroes, Temmin "Snap" Wexley in Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Phil in A Star Is Born. He has often appeared in works produced and directed by his childhood friend J. J. Abrams, such as Felicity as Sean Blumberg. He was a recurring cast member in the first two seasons of the Showtime American television drama series Masters of Sex.

Bernard Fein

Bernard Fein

Bernard Fein was an American actor, television producer, screenwriter and film director. He is best known for co-creating and associate producing the 1960s American television sitcom, Hogan's Heroes; a show which he also occasionally wrote for, including the pilot episode. He directed only one film, the 1974 Swedish movie Pogled iz potkrovlija.

Production

Development

"Everyone sees me as a success story...But no one really knows us until we're courageous enough to tell everyone who we are."

– Steven Spielberg, 2023[7]

In 1999, Steven Spielberg said he had been thinking of directing a film about his childhood for some time. Titled I'll Be Home, the project was originally written by his sister Anne Spielberg. He explained, "My big fear is that my mom and dad won't like it and will think it's an insult and won't share my loving yet critical point of view about what it was like to grow up with them."[8] In 2002, Spielberg said he was nervous about making I'll Be Home: "It's so close to my life and so close to my family – I prefer to make films that are more analogous. But a literal story about my family will take a lot of courage. I still think I make personal movies even if they do look like big commercial popcorn films."[9] Spielberg later revealed in November 2022 that his parents had also been "nagging" him to make a film about their lives prior to their deaths.[10][11]

Writing

Steven Spielberg (left) directed and co-produced the film, and co-wrote the screenplay with Tony Kushner (right).
Steven Spielberg (left) directed and co-produced the film, and co-wrote the screenplay with Tony Kushner (right).
Steven Spielberg (left) directed and co-produced the film, and co-wrote the screenplay with Tony Kushner (right).

In 2004, while working on Munich, Spielberg told screenwriter Tony Kushner his life story, with Kushner telling him in response: "Someday you're going to have to make a film about this."[11] The 80–90 page plot outline for The Fabelmans was worked on in 2019 during filming of Spielberg's 2021 film version of West Side Story. Work on the screenplay for The Fabelmans began on October 2, 2020, during the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and lasted for two months, ending in December 2020. Kushner reflected on the experience, saying, "We wrote three days a week, four hours a day, and we finished the script in two months: by leagues the fastest I've finished anything. It was a blast. I loved it."[12] Spielberg, at that time, felt that the climate caused by the pandemic convinced him that the time was now right to make the film, saying, "I started seriously thinking, if I had to make one movie I haven't made yet, something that I really want to do on a very personally atomic level, what would that be? And there was only one story I really wanted to tell ... My life with my mom and dad taught me a lesson, which I hope this film in a small way imparts ... Which is, when does a young person in a family start to see his parents as human beings? In my case, because of what happened between the ages of 7 and 18, I started to appreciate my mom and dad not as parents but as real people."[10] He gave drafts of the script to his sisters, Sue and Nancy, to ensure that their memories be included in the story and that the details in the film were portrayed as accurately as possible.[11]

On the meaning behind the family name "Fabelman", Kushner (who came up with that name) said, "Spielberg means play-mountain; 'spieler' is an actor in Yiddish, and a 'spiel' can be speech or can be a play ... I wanted to have some of that meaning, and I've always liked the German word 'fabel,' which means fable. And because the movie is autobiographical for Steven but it isn't an autobiography, it's not a documentary, so there's a fictional element as well. So I thought that 'Fabelman' was a nod to that."[13]

Pre-production

In March 2021, Spielberg was announced to direct the film, with his involvement as co-screenwriter marking his first writing venture on a film since A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001);[14] it was also reported that Kristie Macosko Krieger would produce the film with Kushner and Spielberg.[15] In March 2022, cinematographer Janusz Kamiński said the film would chronicle Spielberg's life from age seven to eighteen and deal with "his family, with his parents, conundrums with his sisters, but primarily deals with his passion for movie-making," while adding that it will touch on the themes of "young love, parental divorce, and early formative relationships ... It's a very beautiful, beautiful personal movie. It's very revealing about Steven's life and who he is as a filmmaker."[16] In September 2022, Spielberg expressed how personal the film was to him, saying that "This film is, for me, a way of bringing my mom and dad back. And it also brought my sisters, Annie, Susie, and Nancy, closer to me than I ever thought possible. And that was worth making the film."[17]

Casting

Gabriel LaBelle stars as Sammy Fabelman and Michelle Williams stars as Mitzi Fabelman.
Gabriel LaBelle stars as Sammy Fabelman and Michelle Williams stars as Mitzi Fabelman.
Gabriel LaBelle stars as Sammy Fabelman and Michelle Williams stars as Mitzi Fabelman.

In casting the film, Spielberg explained that "Part of it had to be organic, and it had to be authentic to me. It wasn't really about anything beyond who can I have the most profound connection with and that reminds me the most of the people that brought me into the world and raised me and gave me good values."[18] In March 2021, Michelle Williams was in negotiations to star as Mitzi Fabelman, the role inspired by Spielberg's mother Leah Adler, but with "an original voice." Spielberg himself had her in mind for the role after watching her performances in Blue Valentine (2010) and Fosse/Verdon (2019).[14][19][20] That same month, it was reported that Seth Rogen joined the cast to play Bennie Loewy, the role inspired by Bernie Adler, "the favorite uncle of young Spielberg", while Williams was confirmed to have been cast.[15] On April 8, 2021, Paul Dano joined the cast as Burt Fabelman, the role inspired by Spielberg's father Arnold.[21] Dano admitted that he felt intimidated by playing the role because "the stakes felt really high ... You're embodying one of the most important, influential, complicated figures in [Spielberg's] life. It was incredible to see how much of this was in his work the whole time. He's sharing a piece of himself that I find very moving. There's a real gift in it, when somebody of that stature and at that level of artistry is willing to do that."[22]

In May 2021, after a three-month search and over 2,000 contenders, Gabriel LaBelle entered final negotiations to portray the lead role, Sammy Fabelman, a young aspiring filmmaker based on Spielberg himself.[23] He would be confirmed the next month in addition to the casting of Julia Butters as Reggie Fabelman, the role inspired by Spielberg's sister Anne.[24] Later that June, Sam Rechner was cast as well.[25] In July, Chloe East, Oakes Fegley, Isabelle Kusman, Jeannie Berlin, Judd Hirsch, Robin Bartlett and Jonathan Hadary were added to the cast, the latter of whom ultimately having his scenes cut from the final film.[26][27] In August, Gabriel Bateman, Nicolas Cantu, Gustavo Escobar, Lane Factor, Cooper Dodson and Stephen Matthew Smith were cast.[28] They were later followed by newcomers Keeley Karsten, Birdie Borria, Alina Brace, Sophia Kopera, and Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord.[29] In February 2022, it was announced David Lynch would also star in a then-undisclosed role, later revealed to be that of film director John Ford.[30] During the Q&A at an Academy Award-qualifying screening for the film on November 7, 2022, Spielberg revealed that it took three weeks to convince Lynch to be a part of the film, with Tony Kushner's husband Mark Harris taking credit for suggesting Lynch to Spielberg, and Laura Dern calling Lynch numerous times to get him to commit. In response, Lynch said he would take it as long as there were bags of Cheetos on set as refreshments.[31] He also requested that he be given his costume as Ford a week before filming his scene to break it in.

Paul Dano stars as Burt Fabelman and Seth Rogen stars as Bennie Loewy.
Paul Dano stars as Burt Fabelman and Seth Rogen stars as Bennie Loewy.
Paul Dano stars as Burt Fabelman and Seth Rogen stars as Bennie Loewy.

In September 2022, during the film's world premiere, LaBelle revealed that he initially did not win the part of Sammy following his first audition but did upon receiving a callback three months afterward. On finally reading the script and learning the details about his character being a fictionalized version of Spielberg himself as a teenager for mostly the entire film, he recalled "When I was auditioning, the character's name was Teenage Sammy – I thought as opposed to Adult Sammy ... I get the script and you're reading it for 30 pages and he's 6 and 8 years old. Page 35 or so Teenage Sammy comes along. OK, good! Now this is my part. It's going to be a three-act movie, it's going to be a Moonlight or something. I kept waiting for my exit but it never came." Spielberg himself revealed that the role of Sammy was the hardest to cast, saying "As a kid growing up, I always had a lot of reasons why I was always in the corner, why I was always not the center of conversation ... I needed someone who wasn't going to bring too much self-awareness to Sammy."[32] Upon casting LaBelle, casting director Cindy Tolan said "With Gabe, there was a poignancy. He could convey the pathos that was needed and also the humor," while Spielberg added, "I wasn't looking for what I see in the mirror, I was looking for a young actor who could carry a lot of story by being curious and honest and engaging and unpredictable."[33]

Filming

Principal photography began in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic in Los Angeles on July 17, 2021, lasting for 59 days until ending on September 27, 2021.[34][35][36]

During the shoot, the cast gained access to home movies, photographs and recollections from Spielberg's family's past to learn what they were like and how to portray the fictionalized versions of them (the Fabelman family) on screen, while making them feel fresh and original. Paul Dano reflected "It was overwhelming and it was sort of a heavy cloak to bear because we were with someone who was having a big experience everyday, revisiting and reworking through a part of their life ... For somebody like Steven to share that much of himself with us – with the audience too – it was really a profound experience." In addition, Dano ordered and built a crystal radio set to get the feeling of how Arnold Spielberg had around electronics.[12][11] Seth Rogen described the experience as "emotional" and recalled that Spielberg was "...crying a lot on set ... As we were shooting, I'd be like, 'Did this happen in real life?' and the answer was 'yes' a hundred percent of the time."[37] Gabriel LaBelle also rewatched some of Spielberg's films, such as Empire of the Sun (1987) and constantly had conversations with Spielberg to learn more about his life in order to prepare for playing Sammy.[33] The jewelry that Michelle Williams wore as part of the costumes for Mitzi Fabelman were in fact some of Leah Adler's, including a charm bracelet that had pictures of all four of her children.[11] According to an interview she did for the Hollywood Insider at the TIFF premiere, Julia Butters was gifted with Anne Spielberg's high school ring to wear while she played Reggie Fabelman.

For the scenes of Sammy filming his own 8mm films, Spielberg decided to have the character recreate the exact ones he made during his childhood, and worked with Kamiński to ensure that they were portrayed as accurately as possible, but with improvements in the camera angles. Spielberg remarked "It was joyful being able to recreate those films ... I shot a lot of films when I was a kid on 8mm. It was unique in those days. Not a lot of people were going out and shooting in 8mm. It was physical; it was a craft. You had to sit there with a…splicer, and then you had to scrape the emulsion off the film in order to get a seal so when you put glue on it, you literally glued the film together. And I must say, I miss it."[38] Gabriel LaBelle's first two days on set involved a scene where Sammy and his friends film a recreation of Spielberg's World War II short film Escape to Nowhere (1961). On the experience, LaBelle remarked "It was a cool way to see how Steven walked and moved around back then ... I asked so many questions about Saving Private Ryan, because we were doing a war film. For the first two days, it was me, Steven, Tony, and Janusz, just hanging out. Mitch Dubin, the A-camera operator, stormed the beaches of Normandy with a handheld camera for Saving Private Ryan – and now he's making this movie!"[39] The 8mm and 16mm camera props used in the film had real film inside them, with LaBelle being taught how to use the cameras so that what was shot with them on set can be developed for usage in the film, as well as how to cut and splice film stock using the editing machines and film projectors of the time period. LaBelle also got to keep the 8mm camera Sammy used to film the family camping trip and Escape to Nowhere short film as a souvenir after the completion of principal photography. To look the part of Sammy and make the character look almost similar to Spielberg's teenage appearance, LaBelle had his hair straightened and changed the way he stood and walked, as well as retrained his muscles to mimic Spielberg's smile.[40][11][41]

To look the part of Sammy Fabelman, Gabriel LaBelle straightened his hair and changed the way he stood, walked and smiled to make the character look almost similar to Steven Spielberg as a teenager.
To look the part of Sammy Fabelman, Gabriel LaBelle straightened his hair and changed the way he stood, walked and smiled to make the character look almost similar to Steven Spielberg as a teenager.

LaBelle was unaware of the casting of David Lynch as John Ford until the day the scene he had to do with him was filmed. He recalled that once Lynch came onto the set, it enabled him to embody Sammy and how he was feeling, recalling "[Lynch is] a great guy. But leading up to it, Sammy's nervous, so I'm getting nervous."[42] The scene itself was written to historically match how the actual real-life encounter between Spielberg and Ford went down, with the latter's dialogue written exactly word-for-word, most notably Ford's advice to Sammy about framing: "When the horizon's at the bottom, it's interesting. When the horizon's at the top, it's interesting. When the horizon's in the middle, it's boring as shit!"[43] The scene itself was received positively by critics and audiences and won the award for Best Scene at the 2022 St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards.[44] The last shot of the film, where the camera breaks the fourth wall and re-frames the horizon on the image of Sammy walking on the studio lot, was already in the script prior to filming. Drew Taylor of TheWrap named it the best final shot of the year, saying that it leaves the movie on "such a happy, hopeful note" and it metaphorically represents Spielberg's "admission that he might be the most revered filmmaker in the history of the medium, but he still screws up and he’s still got plenty to learn. The master is still a student. It’s easy to forget what John Ford yelled at you all those years ago."[45] Matthew Jacobs of The Hollywood Reporter also called the moment one of the best closing shots of Spielberg's career.[41]

Judd Hirsch's couple of days on set involved filming a major monologue that his character Uncle Boris, inspired by Spielberg's real great uncle of the same name, gives to Sammy to inspire him to continue pursuing his ambitions, while also warning him of the consequences that come with it. Hirsch compared his character to "a seer from Greek mythology, a soothsayer used by the gods to communicate with mortals." On acting alongside Gabriel LaBelle for the scene, he told Vanity Fair in November 2022 that on set "When I looked at it [the script] and I met Gabriel, I said, I'm gonna destroy this boy ... My part is to tell him that horrible things are gonna happen to him—even though it has to happen. So I walked out of there and I said, Who the hell am I...some oracle? You know, an oracle comes and stands in his room and takes him apart and tells him he has to be a director." Hirsch's performance and the monologue itself were met with acclaim from critics and viewers, which resulted in a huge round of applause from the audience during the TIFF world premiere.[46]

To recreate the three houses that Spielberg lived in during his childhood in Haddon Township, New Jersey, Phoenix, Arizona, and Saratoga, California, production designer Rick Carter worked off floor plans that the director sketched from memory and then took artistic license with the spaces to fit the emotional mindset of Sammy. More attention was paid to the set in Phoenix, "...because, as a filmmaker, he became more himself. So not only the equipment that was there is accurate, but all the storyboards that Sammy used to make his movies. And Steven drew all the storyboards, and he still draws his storyboards the way he did as a teenager."[47] Carter and set decorator Karen O'Hara also worked off photos and memories that Spielberg and his three sisters provided. All of the house interiors were built on soundstages.

Discover more about Production related topics

Anne Spielberg

Anne Spielberg

Anne Spielberg is an American screenwriter and producer. She is the younger sister of film director Steven Spielberg.

Munich (2005 film)

Munich (2005 film)

Munich is a 2005 spy drama film produced and directed by Steven Spielberg, co-written by Tony Kushner and Eric Roth. It is based on the 1984 book Vengeance by George Jonas, an account of Operation Wrath of God, the Israeli government's secret retaliation against the Palestine Liberation Organization after the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics.

COVID-19 lockdowns

COVID-19 lockdowns

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of non-pharmaceutical interventions colloquially known as lockdowns have been implemented in numerous countries and territories around the world. These restrictions were established with the intention to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. By April 2020, about half of the world's population was under some form of lockdown, with more than 3.9 billion people in more than 90 countries or territories having been asked or ordered to stay at home by their governments. Although similar disease control measures have been used for hundreds of years, the scale of those implemented in the 2020s is thought to be unprecedented.

COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The novel virus was first identified in an outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. Attempts to contain it there failed, allowing the virus to spread to other areas of Asia and later worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January 2020, and a pandemic on 11 March 2020. As of 1 February 2023, the pandemic had caused more than 670 million cases and 6.83 million confirmed deaths, making it one of the deadliest in history.

Fable

Fable

Fable is a literary genre: a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, legendary creatures, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature that are anthropomorphized, and that illustrates or leads to a particular moral lesson, which may at the end be added explicitly as a concise maxim or saying.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a 2001 American science fiction film directed by Steven Spielberg. The screenplay by Spielberg and screen story by Ian Watson were based on the 1969 short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss. Set in a futuristic post-climate change society, the film stars Haley Joel Osment as David, a childlike android uniquely programmed with the ability to love. Jude Law, Frances O'Connor, Brendan Gleeson, and William Hurt star in supporting roles.

Kristie Macosko Krieger

Kristie Macosko Krieger

Kristie Macosko Krieger is an American film producer, best known for her work alongside director Steven Spielberg. She worked as his assistant starting with the 1998 documentary film The Last Days, and then on his own films from 2001's A.I. Artificial Intelligence to 2011's The Adventures of Tintin. She also became producer on Spielberg's films starting with 2008's Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. For 2015's Bridge of Spies, 2017's The Post, and 2021's West Side Story, she received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture.

Janusz Kamiński

Janusz Kamiński

Janusz Zygmunt Kamiński is a Polish cinematographer and director of film and television. He has established a partnership with Steven Spielberg, working as a cinematographer on his films since 1993. He won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for his work on Spielberg's holocaust drama Schindler's List and World War II epic Saving Private Ryan (1998). He has also received Academy Award nominations for Amistad (1997), The Diving Bell & the Butterfly (2007) War Horse (2011), Lincoln (2012), and West Side Story (2021). He has also received nominations for five BAFTA Awards, and six American Society of Cinematographers Awards.

Gabriel LaBelle

Gabriel LaBelle

Gabriel LaBelle is a Canadian-American actor. He is best known for his leading role as young aspiring filmmaker Sammy Fabelman in Steven Spielberg's semi-autobiographical film The Fabelmans (2022), for which he received acclaim and won the Critics' Choice Movie Award for Best Young Performer.

Michelle Williams (actress)

Michelle Williams (actress)

Michelle Ingrid Williams is an American actress. Known primarily for starring in small-scale independent films with dark or tragic themes, she has received various accolades, including two Golden Globe Awards and a Primetime Emmy Award, in addition to nominations for five Academy Awards and a Tony Award.

Blue Valentine (film)

Blue Valentine (film)

Blue Valentine is a 2010 American romantic drama film written and directed by Derek Cianfrance. Cianfrance, Cami Delavigne, and Joey Curtis wrote the film, and the band Grizzly Bear scored it. Blue Valentine depicts a married couple, played by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling, shifting back and forth in time between their courtship and the dissolution of their marriage several years later.

Fosse/Verdon

Fosse/Verdon

Fosse/Verdon is an American biographical miniseries starring Sam Rockwell as director–choreographer Bob Fosse and Michelle Williams as actress and dancer Gwen Verdon. The series, which tells the story of the couple's troubled personal and professional relationship, is based on the biography Fosse by Sam Wasson. Norbert Leo Butz and Margaret Qualley also feature as Paddy Chayefsky and Ann Reinking, respectively. It premiered in eight parts on April 9, 2019, on FX.

Music

The film's main theme, composed by John Williams

The score was composed and conducted by John Williams, marking his 29th film collaboration with Spielberg and the 50th anniversary of their first film.[48] On June 23, 2022, Williams revealed that this and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny may be the last two films he will score before retirement.[49][50] Recording of the score began in March 2022, following Williams's concert performance with the Vienna Philharmonic at Vienna's Musikverein.[51] In July, stills from the recording sessions were revealed by one of the film's crew members, revealing that scoring of the film is underway.[52] Along with his usual orchestral style, Williams opted for a score mostly relying on piano, with Joanne Pearce Martin, principal pianist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, providing the piano solos. The film also features source classical music selected by Spielberg himself, some of which are performed on piano in the film by the character of Mitzi Fabelman, from composers such as Friedrich Kuhlau, Muzio Clementi, Johann Sebastian Bach and Joseph Haydn.[53] The film's soundtrack was released digitally by Sony Classical on November 11, 2022, and was released on physical CD on December 9, 2022.[54][55] The film also features pop songs of the film's time period which are not featured on the soundtrack album, such as "Walk On By" by Dionne Warwick and "Goodbye Cruel World" by James Darren, the latter of which being used to accompany the montage sequence of Sammy Fabelman documenting his high school's Ditch Day on film.[5]

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John Williams

John Williams

John Towner Williams KBE is an American composer, conductor and pianist. In a career that has spanned seven decades, he has composed some of the most popular, recognizable and critically acclaimed film scores in cinematic history. Williams has won 25 Grammy Awards, seven British Academy Film Awards, five Academy Awards and four Golden Globe Awards. With 53 Academy Award nominations, he is the second most-nominated individual, after Walt Disney. His compositions are considered the epitome of film music, and he is considered among the greatest composers in the history of cinema.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is an upcoming American action adventure film. It is the fifth installment of the Indiana Jones film series. The film is directed by James Mangold, who co-wrote the script with Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth. It is the first film in the series not directed by Steven Spielberg nor with a story written by George Lucas, with Spielberg and Lucas serving as executive producers instead. It is also the first film in the series not to have the involvement of Paramount Pictures, as The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm in 2012. The film stars Harrison Ford in his fifth portrayal of archaeologist Indiana Jones. John Rhys-Davies also reprises his role as Sallah from past films, with new cast members including Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Antonio Banderas, Shaunette Renée Wilson, Thomas Kretschmann, Toby Jones, Boyd Holbrook, Olivier Richters, Ethann Isidore and Mads Mikkelsen.

Musikverein

Musikverein

The Wiener Musikverein, commonly shortened to Musikverein, is a concert hall in Vienna, Austria, which is located in the Innere Stadt district. The building opened in 1870 and is the home of the Vienna Philharmonic orchestra.

Los Angeles Philharmonic

Los Angeles Philharmonic

The Los Angeles Philharmonic, commonly referred to as the LA Phil, is an American orchestra based in Los Angeles, California. It has a regular season of concerts from October through June at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and a summer season at the Hollywood Bowl from July through September. Gustavo Dudamel is the current Music Director, Esa-Pekka Salonen is Conductor Laureate, Zubin Mehta is Conductor Emeritus, and Susanna Mälkki is Principal Guest Conductor. John Adams is the orchestra's current Composer-in-Residence.

Classical music

Classical music

Classical music generally refers to the art music of the Western world, considered to be distinct from Western folk music or popular music traditions. It is sometimes distinguished as Western classical music, as the term "classical music" also applies to non-Western art music. Classical music is often characterized by formality and complexity in its musical form and harmonic organization, particularly with the use of polyphony. Since at least the ninth century it has been primarily a written tradition, spawning a sophisticated notational system, as well as accompanying literature in analytical, critical, historiographical, musicological and philosophical practices. A foundational component of Western Culture, classical music is frequently seen from the perspective of individual or groups of composers, whose compositions, personalities and beliefs have fundamentally shaped its history.

Friedrich Kuhlau

Friedrich Kuhlau

Friedrich Daniel Rudolf Kuhlau was a Danish pianist and composer during the late Classical and early Romantic periods. He was a central figure of the Danish Golden Age and is immortalized in Danish cultural history through his music for Elves' Hill, the first true work of Danish National Romanticism and a concealed tribute to the absolute monarchy. To this day it is his version of this melody which is the definitive arrangement.

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach

Johann Sebastian Bach was a German composer and musician of the late Baroque period. He is known for his orchestral music such as the Brandenburg Concertos; instrumental compositions such as the Cello Suites; keyboard works such as the Goldberg Variations and The Well-Tempered Clavier; organ works such as the Schubler Chorales and the Toccata and Fugue in D minor; and vocal music such as the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor. Since the 19th-century Bach revival he has been generally regarded as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music.

Joseph Haydn

Joseph Haydn

Franz Joseph Haydn was an Austrian composer of the Classical period. He was instrumental in the development of chamber music such as the string quartet and piano trio. His contributions to musical form have led him to be called "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet".

Dionne Warwick

Dionne Warwick

Marie Dionne Warwick is an American singer, actress, and television host.

Goodbye Cruel World (James Darren song)

Goodbye Cruel World (James Darren song)

"Goodbye Cruel World" is a song written by Gloria Shayne, which was most famously recorded by James Darren in 1961.

James Darren

James Darren

James William Ercolani known by his stage name James Darren, is an American television and film actor, television director, and singer. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he had notable starring and supporting roles in films including Gidget (1959) and its sequels, The Gene Krupa Story (1959), All the Young Men (1960), The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Diamond Head (1962). As a teen pop singer, he achieved hit singles including "Goodbye Cruel World" in 1961. He later became more active in television, starring as Dr. Anthony Newman in the science fiction series The Time Tunnel (1966–1967). He appeared in the regular role of Officer III James Corrigan in the police drama T. J. Hooker (1983–1986) and in the recurring role of Vic Fontaine in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1998–1999).

Montage (filmmaking)

Montage (filmmaking)

Montage is a film editing technique in which a series of short shots are sequenced to condense space, time, and information.

Release

The Fabelmans was sneak previewed on July 26, 2022, in Nanuet, New York.[56] It had its world premiere at the Princess of Wales Theatre during the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2022, where it received two standing ovations from the audience, one before the film when Spielberg took the stage to introduce it, and a longer one preceding the post-film Q&A. The crowd was also reported to have been loudly chanting Spielberg's name while outside waiting to get into the theater during the red carpet arrivals.[2][57][58] On the announcement of the premiere, TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey remarked: "It's different from a typical Spielberg blockbuster, but it is just as easily impactful in terms of the emotional effect it's going to have on people. If you love movies, this is going to be a very powerful film for you to watch. I'm excited that it's launching in an environment that celebrates cinema."[59] Upon winning the festival's People's Choice Award, Spielberg remarked "I'm glad I brought this film to Toronto! This is the most personal film I've ever made, and the warm reception from everyone in Toronto made my first visit to TIFF so intimate and personal for me and my entire Fabelman family ... a very special thank you to all the movie fans in Toronto who have made this past weekend one I'll never forget."[60] For his performance, Gabriel LaBelle was also named a 2022 TIFF Rising Star.[61]

It held its European premiere at the Rome Film Festival on October 19, 2022, which was followed by its United States premiere at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles on November 6, 2022, as the closing night film of the 2022 AFI Fest. It also closed the Miami International Film Festival on November 10, 2022, with Paul Dano virtually receiving the festival's Precious Gem Award.[62][63][64] The French premiere took place at the Lumière Film Festival on October 18, 2022.[65] It also screened as the opening night film of the 20th Morelia International Film Festival on October 23, 2022, the 63rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival on November 3, 2022,[66] and the 44th Cairo International Film Festival on November 13, 2022.[67][68] It also opened the 15th edition of "The Contenders" film series at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City on November 10, 2022, followed by a conversation with the cast.[69]

It is set to hold its German premiere at the 73rd Berlin International Film Festival on February 21 2023 as part of the Homage section (where Spielberg's other films Bridge of Spies (2015), Duel (1971), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Jaws (1975), Munich (2005), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) and Schindler's List (1993) will also be screened) and at the awards ceremony, where Spielberg will receive an honorary Golden Bear for lifetime achievement. On the announcement, festival directors Mariette Rissenbeek and Carlo Chatrian remarked: "With an incredible career, Steven Spielberg has not only enchanted generations of viewers all over the world, but has also given a new meaning to the 'cinema' as the factory of dreams ... Be it in the everlasting magic world of teenagers or in the reality that history has carved forever, his movies take us to a different level, where the big screen becomes the adequate surface for our emotions to be fulfilled. If Berlinale 2023 represents a new beginning we couldn't find a better start than the one offered by Spielberg's great work."[70][71]

Theatrical

The Fabelmans was released by Universal Pictures in select theaters in Los Angeles and New York City on November 11, 2022, with a nationwide release on November 23 in the United States.[72] It became Spielberg's first film to be distributed by Universal since Munich (2005).[14][35] Universal Pictures is also distributing the film internationally, with some exceptions: Entertainment One is distributing the film in the United Kingdom, StudioCanal Australia is distributing the film in Australia, Leone Film Group and 01 Distribution are co-distributing the film in Italy,[64] Reliance Entertainment is distributing the film in India[73] and Nordisk Film is distributing the film in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.[74]

Home media

The Fabelmans was released on VOD on December 13, 2022, and on digital January 17, 2023. It will be released on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD on February 14, 2023, by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.[75][76]

Marketing

The poster to promote the film's world premiere at TIFF was released on September 7, 2022, with the official theatrical release version of it being released on September 29, 2022.[77] The trailer premiered online on September 11, 2022. The music for the trailer was composed by Felix Erskine of Cavalry Music.[78][79] Universal spent approximately $8.5 million on the film's advertising campaign.[80] Another trailer, set to Ben Folds' cover of The Beatles song "Golden Slumbers," was released on December 13, 2022.[81]

Discover more about Release related topics

2022 Toronto International Film Festival

2022 Toronto International Film Festival

The 47th annual Toronto International Film Festival was held from September 8 to 18, 2022.

Cameron Bailey

Cameron Bailey

Cameron Bailey is a Canadian film critic and festival programmer, who is the CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Grauman's Chinese Theatre

Grauman's Chinese Theatre is a movie palace on the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6925 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, United States.

Los Angeles

Los Angeles

Los Angeles, often referred to by its initials L.A., is the commercial, financial, and cultural center of Southern California. Los Angeles is the largest city in the state of California, the second most populous city in the United States after New York City, and one of the world's most populous megacities. With a population of roughly 3.9 million residents within the city limits as of 2020, Los Angeles is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic and cultural diversity, being the home of the Hollywood film industry, and its sprawling metropolitan area. The city lies in a basin in Southern California adjacent to the Pacific Ocean in the west and extending through the Santa Monica Mountains and north into the San Fernando Valley, with the city bordering the San Gabriel Valley to its east. It covers about 469 square miles (1,210 km2), and is the county seat of Los Angeles County, which is the most populous county in the United States with an estimated 9.86 million residents as of 2022.

Miami International Film Festival

Miami International Film Festival

The Miami Film Festival is an annual film festival in Miami, Florida, that showcases independent American and international films with a special focus on Ibero-American films. The competitive film festival draws international and local attention, with films being showcased in several venues across the city center and includes features, documentaries, short films, and retrospectives. The programming is selected so as to include: premiers for both established film-makers and up-and-commers, socially relevant films, multidisciplinary and experimental films, and films showcasing international musicians. The stated mission of the Miami Film Festival is to bridge cultural understanding and encourage artistic development.

Lumière Film Festival

Lumière Film Festival

The Lumière Film Festival is an annual film festival held each October in Lyon Metropolis, France, since 2009. The festival is named in honor of the Lumière Brothers, who invented the Cinematography in Lyon in 1895, and is organized by the Institut Lumière.

Morelia International Film Festival

Morelia International Film Festival

The Morelia International Film Festival was founded in 2003 in the city of Morelia, Michoacán, México. It is an annual event that takes place during the second week of October.

Cairo International Film Festival

Cairo International Film Festival

The Cairo International Film Festival is an annual internationally accredited film festival held in Cairo Opera House. It was established in 1976 and has taken place every year since its inception, except for 2011 and 2013, when it was cancelled due to budget limitations and political instability. It is the only international competitive feature film festival recognized by the FIAPF in the Arab world and Africa, as well as the oldest in this category.

Berlin International Film Festival

Berlin International Film Festival

The Berlin International Film Festival, usually called the Berlinale, is a major international film festival held annually in Berlin, Germany. Founded in 1951 and originally run in June, the festival has been held every February since 1978 and is one of the "Big Three" alongside the Venice Film Festival in Italy and the Cannes Film Festival in France. Tens of thousands of visitors attend each year.

Bridge of Spies (film)

Bridge of Spies (film)

Bridge of Spies is a 2015 historical drama film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg, written by Matt Charman and the Coen brothers, and starring Tom Hanks in the lead role, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda. Set during the Cold War, the film tells the story of lawyer James B. Donovan, who is entrusted with negotiating the release of Francis Gary Powers—a U.S. Air Force convicted pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960—in exchange for Rudolf Abel, a convicted Soviet KGB spy held by the United States, whom Donovan represented at trial. The name of the film refers to the Glienicke Bridge, which connects Potsdam with Berlin, where the prisoner exchange took place. The film was an international co-production of the United States and Germany.

Duel (1971 film)

Duel (1971 film)

Duel is a 1971 American action-thriller television film directed by Steven Spielberg. It centers on a business commuter, played by Dennis Weaver, driving his car through California to meet a client. However, he finds himself chased and terrorized by the mostly-unseen driver of a semi-truck. The screenplay by Richard Matheson adapts his own short story of the same name.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial is a 1982 American science fiction film produced and directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Melissa Mathison. It tells the story of Elliott, a boy who befriends an extraterrestrial, dubbed E.T., who is left behind on Earth. Along with his friends and family, Elliott must find a way to help E.T. find his way home. The film stars Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Robert MacNaughton and Drew Barrymore.

Reception

Box office

As of January 30, 2023, The Fabelmans has grossed $16.1 million in the United States and Canada, and $9 million in other territories, for a worldwide gross of $25.1 million.[3][4]

In the United States, the film made $161,579 from four theaters in its opening weekend for an average of $40,395 per-screen, the third highest average for a Fall 2022 platform release, behind Till and The Banshees of Inisherin.[82] The film expanded alongside Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, Strange World, Devotion, and the wide expansion of Bones and All, and was projected to gross around $3–5 million from 638 theaters over the five-day weekend.[83] Variety called the projections "a disappointing result for a $40 million movie, especially one that hails from the most successful director of his time" and compared the situation to the poor $38 million domestic box office returns of Spielberg's West Side Story the year before.[80][84]

It made $400,000 on its first day of wide release, with an additional $480,000 on Thanksgiving Day and $880,000 on Black Friday, resulting in a 5-day weekend total of $3.4 million.[85][86] After four weeks in theaters, Spielberg's film grossed $6 million domestic, making it the worst financial performance ever for a Spielberg film, with the general public's trending lack of interest in prestige films, a muted reception from older audience demographics and the large decline in popularity of and indifferent arguments to Spielberg and his filmography cited as the reasons.[87][88] The film crossed the $10 million mark worldwide during Christmas weekend.[89] It then saw a 25% increase domestically on New Year's weekend.[90] It would then rise 73% domestically and cross $25 million worldwide following the Oscar nomination announcements.[91]

Critical response

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 92% of 334 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 8.2/10. The website's consensus reads, "Part memoir, part ode to the power of the movies, The Fabelmans finds Steven Spielberg digging at the family roots that helped make him a beloved filmmaker -- and proves he hasn't lost his magic touch."[92] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 84 out of 100, based on 65 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[93] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[94]

Critics singled out the image of Sammy Fabelman using "his hands as a makeshift screen, aiming the projector at his open palms" as the film's iconic shot.
Critics singled out the image of Sammy Fabelman using "his hands as a makeshift screen, aiming the projector at his open palms" as the film's iconic shot.

Chris Evangelista of /Film called it "...one of Spielberg's warmest, funniest films" and highlighted Kamiński's cinematography.[95] Steve Pond of TheWrap wrote "The film shows a light touch that doesn't detract from the very real depths that are being explored. That The Fabelmans is one of Steven Spielberg's most personal movies was never in doubt; that it's also one of his most original and most satisfying in years is a welcome bonus."[96] Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood praised the performances of Williams, Dano, LaBelle and Butters, calling the former "gut-wrenchingly great," while saying that Dano was "terrific as the genuinely nice and loving father torn between following his own career and caring for his wife and family under increasingly difficult circumstances." He described LaBelle's performance as "sensational throughout, a young man with a love for movies, but tortured by growing pains and a family drifting apart." He also referred to David Lynch's cameo as being "worth the price of admission alone."[5]

Ross Bonaime of Collider wrote "For decades, Spielberg has shown us ourselves through the magic of his movies, and with The Fabelmans, he finally shows us who he is, the good and the bad, and pain and the joys, the magic and the mayhem."[97] Peter Debruge of Variety named it the frontrunner for the Academy Award for Best Picture, while writing "...this endearing, broadly appealing account of how Spielberg was smitten by the medium – and why the prodigy nearly abandoned picture-making before his career even started – holds the keys to so much of the master's filmography. More similar to Woody Allen's autobiographical Radio Days than it is to European art films such as The 400 Blows and Amarcord (the more highbrow models other directors typically point to when re-creating their childhoods), The Fabelmans invites audiences into the home and headspace of the world's most beloved living director, an oddly sanitized zone where even the trauma – which includes anti-Semitism, financial disadvantage and divorce – seems to go better with fresh-buttered popcorn."[98]

David Ehrlich of IndieWire was mixed about the film and gave it a B+, writing that Spielberg "...may not have been able to fix his parents' marriage, but for more than half a century his films have been reconciling the family that Arthur and Leah Spielberg made possible. 'The Fabelmans' doesn't do that as well as the director's best work, but it dramatizes his process of making peace with his dreams so beautifully that it almost doesn't matter. To me, this is a far cry from a magnum opus. For Spielberg, it feels like the greatest show on Earth."[99] Brian Tallerico of RogerEbert.com praised the screenplay, calling it "...a graceful gem, moving through different chapters of the life of this relatively average family that would just happen to produce an unaverage filmmaker."[100] Benjamin Lee of The Guardian was mixed, saying that "There remains a remove though still, Spielberg giving us a slightly too stage-managed version of himself and his family, some gristle missing from the darkest moments."[101] Tomris Laffly of The Playlist wrote "It's Spielberg's most personal film, one that gorgeously revives the memories of his childhood and youth with a lavish sense of wistfulness and an aptly Hollywood-ized, fable-like touch."[102]

Michelle Williams garnered critical acclaim for her performance as Mitzi Fabelman, Sammy's mother & received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
Michelle Williams garnered critical acclaim for her performance as Mitzi Fabelman, Sammy's mother & received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter called it "...a vivid capturing of the auteur's earliest flashes of filmmaking insight and a portrait, full of love yet unclouded by nostalgia, of the family that made him."[103] Justin Chang of Los Angeles Times called it "A uniquely confessional work, in which a great artist freely and happily acknowledges the manipulation inherent in the art form he was born to master."[104] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly wrote that "If it all feels a little sanitized and idealized, it's also consistently lovely – and after 75 years and 34 films, who more than Spielberg has earned the right to revisit his stardust memories?"[105] Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair wrote that "Not all memoir is generous. It can be intriguingly solipsistic, or maddeningly vain. But because there's always been a curious blankness to Spielberg's public persona – cheerful and engaged but never quite known – The Fabelmans does feel like something of a gift."[106]

David Fear of Rolling Stone wrote that "If the movie does adhere to [Steven Spielberg's] signature beats, and feature so many recognizable Spielbergisms, occasionally to its detriment, it's still one of the most impressive, enlightening, vital things he's ever done."[107] Peter Travers of ABC News was positively overwhelmed by the film, saying "Bring out the Oscars for 'The Fabelmans,' a personal best from Steven Spielberg in no small part because it's a family picture about Spielberg's own family. Sentimental? Sure. Sappy? Never. No movie this year cuts a clearer path to the heart and the power of imagination."[108] Anthony Lane of The New Yorker praised the film, saying "'The Fabelmans' may look nice 'n' easy as it swings along, with a pile of laughs to cushion the ride, and a nifty visual gag in the closing seconds, but take care. Here is a film that is touched with the madness of love."[109]

Anna Swanson of Film School Rejects praised the film, saying "By laying bare indiscretions and frustrations, Spielberg is ostensibly airing out the dirty laundry and then treating it with the empathy that can only come from an adult perspective on childhood memories. As they're depicted in the film, Burt and Mitzi are far more nuanced and complicated than any kid believes their parents to be when they're young. It's a touching, mature gesture that ultimately flatters all involved."[110] Kyle Buchanan of The New York Times praised Michelle Williams' performance, writing that she "...really goes for it, attacking this part like someone who knows she's been handed her signature role."[20] In a later review for the paper, Manohla Dargis named it a New York Times Critic's Pick, calling the film "...somewhat of a fable and wonderful in both large and small ways, even if Spielberg can't help but soften the rougher, potentially lacerating edges."[111]

Alison Willmore of Vulture wrote that "Spielberg, an incredibly precise filmmaker, never seems certain as to what a movie about his life, or about that of a slightly outsize proxy, should look like, and that uncertainty is actually the warmest and most vulnerable quality The Fabelmans has."[112] Johnny Oleksinski of New York Post praised the film, calling it "...gripping, visually mesmeric, boasts an exceptional, grounded script by Tony Kushner and is acted to the hilt. A no-holds-barred Michelle Williams skyrockets to the front of the Oscar race with an unforgettable performance."[113] Todd Gilchrist of The A.V. Club praised the film, calling it "A measured and incredibly intimate look at Spielberg's upbringing as he developed his aptitude for storytelling through a medium that mesmerized him... as an extraordinary device that not only unveils powerful truths, but often shapes them as well."[114] David Sims of The Atlantic singled out LaBelle, Williams and Dano's performances and praised Spielberg's use of storytelling, saying that "Viewers expecting a stirring childhood memoir about the power of cinema may be surprised at how bittersweet and raw the story actually is. But that vulnerability is what makes the film a triumph."[115] Joyce Carol Oates, the author of the Marilyn Monroe biography Blonde, which was adapted into a film in 2022, slammed the film as "remarkably mediocre" and that it "discourages young filmmakers," criticizing every element of the plot, performances and screenplay, saying "By making a blonde-Aryan-antisemite the pseudo hero of his high school movie the young Fabelman disarms enemies & wins a pseudo friend. Is this an acknowledgment of the superficial triteness of the director’s career as an entertainer?" She did however praise the scene with David Lynch. Her comments received online backlash for showing disrespect to Spielberg's work and to viewers who felt connected to the film.[116]

Stephanie Zacharek of Time ranked the film as the best movie of 2022.[117] Zacharek would furthermore praise Williams and Dano's performances as part of Time's Top 10 movie performances of 2022, describing Williams as "a portrait of a woman so full of life she doesn't know where to put it all…Williams captures Mitzi's all-encompassing incandescence and her isolation," and Dano "In him we see the sum of all the things that so many men of that generation just didn't know how to be; we also see a deep well of love, no less real for being left unexpressed."[118]

Adam Nayman of The Ringer named the frame of younger Sammy Fabelman (Mateo Zoryan Francis-DeFord) "projecting his own painstakingly captured Super 8 footage onto his outstretched palms" in the dark as one of the best shots of 2022, calling it "...a holy trinity that, as visualized by Steven Spielberg at his late-career image-making peak, signifies something deeply metaphysical about filmgoing and filmmaking — that the artist must imagine himself amidst the audience."[119]

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Accolades

The Fabelmans received seven nominations at the 95th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, five nominations at the 80th Golden Globe Awards, winning Best Motion Picture – Drama and Best Director for Spielberg, and received 11 nominations at the 28th Critics' Choice Awards, including Best Picture, winning Best Young Performer for LaBelle, and two nominations at the 29th Screen Actors Guild Awards including Best Ensemble Cast of a Motion Picture and Best Supporting Actor (for Dano).[120] It also received 2 awards from the National Board of Review, including Best Director for Spielberg and Breakthrough Performance for LaBelle (shared with Danielle Deadwyler for Till), making this the second Spielberg film to win both of these awards together since 1987's Empire of the Sun.[121] With his 53rd nomination for Best Original Score with this film, John Williams broke his own record as the most Oscar-nominated person alive at the age of 90.[122] With his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, Judd Hirsch became the first actor to receive two nominations over four decades apart, with this being his second nomination and first since the 53rd Academy Awards in 1981, where he was nominated for Ordinary People (1980).

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Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Drama

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Golden Globe Award for Best Director

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Danielle Deadwyler

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Danielle Deadwyler is an American actress. She began her career appearing on Atlanta stage, notably the 2009 production of For Colored Girls, before making her screen debut in the 2012 drama film A Cross to Bear. She appeared in the Oprah Winfrey Network primetime soap opera The Haves and the Have Nots (2015–2017), the Starz drama series P-Valley (2020), the HBO Max miniseries Station Eleven (2021–2022), and the Netflix miniseries From Scratch (2022).

Academy Award for Best Original Score

Academy Award for Best Original Score

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53rd Academy Awards

53rd Academy Awards

The 53rd Academy Awards ceremony, organized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honored films released in 1980 and took place on March 31, 1981, at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles beginning at 7:00 p.m. PST / 10:00 p.m. EST. The ceremony was scheduled to take place originally on the previous day but was postponed due to the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. During the ceremony, AMPAS presented Academy Awards in 20 categories. The ceremony, televised in the United States by ABC, was produced by Norman Jewison and directed by Marty Pasetta. Comedian and talk show host Johnny Carson hosted the show for the third consecutive time. Two weeks earlier, in a ceremony held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California, on March 15, the Academy Scientific and Technical Awards were presented by hosts Ed Asner and Fay Kanin.

Source: "The Fabelmans", Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, (2023, February 1st), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fabelmans.

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