He has directed 26 films that have amassed over $3.7 billion in box office receipts; he has successfully tackled science fiction, adventure, comedy, drama, and war genres; he has three Academy Awards; Forbes places his personal net worth at around $3 billion; he has been called “the most powerful figure in the motion picture industry”, “one of the 100 most important people of the century”, and “the most influential person of his generation.” In terms of accomplishment and influence, there are very few that can match Steven Spielberg.
Given the relationship warzone that is Hollywood, you would expect someone as successful as Spielberg to have a past littered with the corpses of failed marriages and foolish romances. Around 50% of all marriages in America end in divorce, but you have to believe that number is a bit higher for celebrity marriages that feature personal net worths of $3 billion.
Not so for Steven Spielberg. Although his marriage to actress Kate Capshaw was his second, he tied that knot 26 years ago and hasn’t looked back since. “It’s not a pretty sight,” Spielberg said in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly of his least favorite Indiana Jones film, The Temple of Doom. “The prettiest thing that came out of that film was my future wife. I met Kate, my leading lady. My leading lady is still my leading lady.”
Family has always played a central role in Spielberg’s life and career. Even the absence of family has influenced his directing decisions. In Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the main character, played by Richard Dreyfus, becomes so obsessed with UFOs that he abandons his wife and three children. “I’ve always said I wouldn’t do it if I was making the movie from scratch today, because I have seven children. I had no hesitation writing that and directing that then, but I had no dependents in my life at that time.“
His latest film, War Horse, also has deep roots in his family life. “He was nervous,” says longtime collaborator and War Horse producer Kathleen Kennedy of Spielberg’s approach to the project. “Knowing that Kate and Destry, his wife and daughter, and the fact that they love horses so much, I think Steven felt a responsibility to get this right.”
“Love” might be an understatement. The Spielbergs own 12 horses and the stables to house them, and have had horses in their lives for 15 years. “My daughter who’s just turned 15 is a competitive jumper and she travels the country in competition jumping her horses,” says the director. “So when I saw War Horse I was maybe even more ready to tell this story.”
War Horse comes in the middle of a whirlwind period of work for Spielberg. “I’ve had no free time for the last 2 ½ years,” the director told Beliefnet. In addition to War Horse he’s been prepping the animated epic The Adventures of Tintin (another film aimed at families) and he’s currently shooting the much-anticipated biopic Lincoln. One might think that the temptation to let family slip to the wayside would be great, especially given the magnitude of the projects he’s working on at the moment. Kathleen Kennedy, his producing sidekick yet again on Lincoln, had this to say about working with Spielberg and balancing family. “We’re shooting Lincoln and we’ve done three movies back to back, and before going in I said, ‘Steven, I just have to be home for Megan’s 13th birthday. I have to be a part of planning that…I’m very very lucky that a lot of the movies I do with Steven, he’s extremely understanding. Family’s very important to him.”
The problem is compounded for Kennedy because her husband, Frank Marshall, is also a powerful and in-demand producer. While they usually leapfrog their films so that one of them is always at home, their current hectic schedule has prevented that. “We laid out a calendar and figured out when each of us could be home and who was doing what…I want to know what my children are doing all the time, within reason. They probably hate that but I want to be involved in their lives… We’re very open with one another and we communicate really well, and I hope my kids feel connected to what the two of us do, and that keeps a strong marriage and a strong family.”
And Spielberg himself? How does he handle the scheduling pressures of mega-blockbusters and the personal responsibilities of family? “I’ll tell you, what do I like to do? I always like to play with my kids. And I always have the time to do that. That’s my priority and always has been. So just interacting with my kids and being with them is great, and that’s how I relax these days.”