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Destry Spielberg likes going live on Instagram from time to time to check in with friends and her 31,800 followers. Last Friday afternoon’s session was much like the rest, lighthearted and casual with no agenda and no special guests. She was even fresh from the shower, wearing a bathrobe and waiting on a room service delivery of tikka masala.
The 24-year-old began by responding to questions like “How’s your French?” and “What’s your Zodiac sign?” to “How’s your finger,” which was presumably healing from a recent injury. Then someone asked, “How was it to be a director?”
“Well…” responded Spielberg, who had just wrapped filming of her latest short film. “I feel like people don’t understand that this wasn’t my first directing thing. I’ve directed before, this was just the first thing that had publicity.”
It was a loaded question considering what had transpired in the days leading up to the IG Live and the publicity swirl around her short film. On Tuesday, Deadline exclusively reported details of Spielberg’s new project, The Rightway, starring Hopper Penn and Brian D’Arcy James from a script by Owen King. A follow-up tweet from Discussing Film included parentheticals about their respective famous fathers: Hopper Penn (Sean Penn’s son), Destry Spielberg (Steven Spielberg’s daughter) and Owen King (Stephen King’s son).
The tweet caught the eye of The Blacklist founder Franklin Leonard, who replied, “Hollywood’s a meritocracy, right?” The question drew dozens of responses including several from Ben Stiller who initially challenged the assertion by posting, “People, working, creating. Everyone has their path. Wish them all the best.” Leonard replied, “I do, without fail but I also think it’s important that we acknowledge those paths.” Many acknowledged the exchange and it blew up, leading to a renewed debate on Hollywood nepotism that inspired dozens of headlines and a segment on The View.
Hollywood's a meritocracy, right? https://t.co/jELCVujYyB
— Franklin Leonard (@franklinleonard) July 28, 2021
Spielberg weighed in on the conversation, only briefly, in a now-deleted tweet: “I acknowledge that I was born with privilege! I own that through and through! … No one should be left out because of the connections they don’t have.” Though she didn’t mention the tweets directly during her IG Live, Spielberg nodded to the controversy and recapped her Hollywood journey, a path she said has included few open doors.
“I have literally been trying to get into the film industry for over seven years now,” she noted, after being asked for tips on how to break into the business. “No matter who you are, it is fucking hard. It is hard. My parents…don’t give us work.”
She said that she only has done PA work on her father’s films, a gig she said is “very important” and a great way to break in and network with like-minded creatives. But about the difficulties, Spielberg said that for years she tried to find work as an actress and model, even dropping her last name in the process as a way to make it on her own merits.
“By the way, that doesn’t matter, people still knew,” she said, adding that any press she received always opened with a reference to “Steven Spielberg’s daughter.” “It was always the first thing, so it was like, I literally can’t run away from that.”
Even with a famous father, she said she never booked any work. “I was trying, I was auditioning and I went to school and studied and everything, it just wasn’t happening,” she said, leading her to eventually, “make my own movie and act in it because I don’t know what else to do. I’m not just going to wait around for someone to give me my shot. If I can find people who want to make a movie, I’ll make a movie.”
Her debut was the 2019 short film Rosie in which she starred opposite Echo Anderson, Steven Cox and Braian Rivera Jimenez. She said she never told her parents that she was making a movie until after she was done editing it. Spielberg submitted it to festivals and while it did screen at a few — Soho International Film Festival and Indie Shorts Fest, to name a few — having her last name on it didn’t move the needle. “It didn’t get a lot of press and that’s okay because that happens. It got into some festivals, didn’t get into all. The name can really only do so much.”
Spielberg, who briefly attended USC, transitioned to a film career following a “bad accident” she suffered during her equestrian career, her first true passion. “Before all of this, that’s what I wanted to do forever and ever,” she said of riding. “I wanted to go to the Olympics and that was my life. … Then I had a bad accident and [that was that]. Now, I’m here.”
In making the transition, she also dealt with the same type of inner turmoil that many aspiring actors face after being told no so many times. “I just didn’t feel good enough, didn’t feel thin enough, didn’t feel this or feel that but you can’t give up.” And she won’t throw in the towel now: “I knew it would come with people’s opinions but at the end of the day, I just love what I do and I’m going to do it.”
Speaking of, Spielberg didn’t reveal anything about the plot of The Rightway, but instead she only spoke to her giddiness about heading to the editing bay this week after wrapping filming on a limited budget with a tight schedule on location in Staten Island. “We all really worked as hard as we possibly could. We did it in three days, and I’m super proud of it and I’m super proud of everyone,” she said. “I don’t feel pressure because I don’t see it as though I’m doing it just because of who I am. I absolutely love film and cinema and the art of it.”
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