THR's Oscar Icons Portfolio: Steven Spielberg, Eva Marie Saint, Michael Moore
This story first appeared in the March 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Spielberg, 66, has been making movies since before 30-year-old Zeitlin was born. In fact, the legendary director received his first best director Oscar nomination for 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind nearly five years before Zeitlin entered this world.
Now, the two men -- the latter of whom told THR that he was “raised” on the former’s films E.T. The Extra- Terrestrial (1982), Jaws (1975) and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) -- are both nominated for the same best director award, something that Zeitlin calls “surreal” and “an honor.” Spielberg is nominated, of course, for Lincoln (he also earned a nom in the best picture category for the film), an epic look at the America that existed 150 years ago, and Zeitlin is up for Beasts of the Southern Wild (he also is nominated for best adapted screenplay), a tiny indie about a remote corner of today’s America.
Many have called Beasts “Spielbergian,” likening it to a film like E.T., in the sense that it paints a portrait of an innocent child forced to encounter the harsh realities of adulthood. Stacey Snider, who runs Spielberg’s studio DreamWorks, arranged a screening of Zeitlin’s film for Spielberg shortly after it premiered in January 2012 at the Sundance Film Festival, telling him he would love it. He did, watching it twice in three days.
During this THR photo shoot, Spielberg, who now has accumulated seven best director nominations (winning for 1993’s Schindler’s List and 1998’s Saving Private Ryan) and 15 nominations in all, gave Zeitlin some advice on the new director’s first nomination. “When you look back over the hundred years of Hollywood, and the 80-plus years of the Academy, you realize that just being there is such an accomplishment,” explains Spielberg, who was honored with the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1987. Zeitlin long has appreciated the power of Oscar: “As a kid, I went straight to the Academy shelf at the video store.”