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Steven Spielberg says “it’s exciting for the whole family” that daughter Destry Allyn Spielberg is following in his footsteps by closing a deal to make her feature directorial debut.
The subject came up when the Fabelmans filmmaker dropped by the Smartless podcast to chat with Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes. On the new episode, which debuted Monday, Spielberg opens up in a wide-ranging chat about subjects including family, his new film, creative influences, staging, shot direction and even the time he clashed with a young actor early in his career while directing TV.
But it was Bateman who brought up the news that Deadline broke last month about Destry, who closed a deal with Basil Iwanyk and Erica Lee’s Thunder Road Pictures to make her feature directorial debut on Four Assassins (And a Funeral). The project, based on Ryan Hooper’s Black List script, is described as a mashup of The Kingsman, Knives Out and Succession.
“I’m so excited about that,” said Spielberg, who then detailed how she got the gig by crediting her short film, Let Me Go (The Right Way), that premiered at Tribeca last year. It stars Hopper Penn and Brian D’Arcy James from a script by Owen King. “She was hired based on a short film. She made a wonderful short film, which I adored, and the producers behind the John Wick series saw it and gave her a movie — with a respectable budget, too. So, it’s exciting for the whole family.”
It’s a timely conversation to be having, too. Spielberg’s Fabelmans is a coming-of-age story inspired by his youth, and much of the film focuses on his early passion for filmmaking and how he was supported and encouraged on that creative journey by his parents. His comments on Smartless show a public display of encouragement for his own daughter.
Bateman, an accomplished and Emmy Award-winning director, then asked if Destry grew up as a bit of “a set rat” on her father’s films. “Has she been shadowing you for a long time?” he asked, which Spielberg confirmed. However, horses were Destry’s first passion. “For most of her life she was in love with the equestrian arts. She was a fantastic hunter/jumper, and she had horses ever since she was 3 years old, and we all thought that she was going, you know, for the Junior Olympics, that she was going to follow Jessica Springsteen, Bruce’s daughter, and really gonna make this a career.”
Eventually, Destry stopped riding and turned her attention toward moviemaking, Spielberg continued. He noted that she had a gig on his recent musical West Side Story in the property department. “She was on set every day, and this was just something that she was always interested in doing,” he said. “The other thing that Destry did so well is she’s a great stills photographer, and her compositions and her use of black and white.”
Because of her talents behind the camera, Spielberg said he figured she might be the only one of his seven children to directly follow in his footsteps, but “all of my kids are, in one fashion or another, in the arts.”
Though his comments come on the heels of New York Magazine’s viral cover story about Hollywood’s “nepo babies,” that was pretty much old news to Destry, who confronted the subject in the fall of 2021 when news broke about her short film. After it caused a bit of a stir on Twitter, Destry went live on Instagram and addressed the swirl when a question came in from one of her followers about her burgeoning career behind the camera.
“I have literally been trying to get in the film industry for over seven years now,” she said at the time. “No matter who you are, it is fucking hard. It is hard. My parents … don’t give us work.” Destry added that she first tried to break into acting but after not landing any gigs, she took matters into her own hands. “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.”
That’s what she did, making her debut with a short film called Rosie in 2019. Destry said she never told her parents that she was making a movie until after she was done editing it. She 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 OK because that happens. It got into some festivals, didn’t get into all. The name can really only do so much.”
The full episode of Smartless can be found here.
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