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Steven Spielberg is recalling the first time he saw Michelle Williams and Paul Dano dressed up together as his parents while on set for The Fabelmans.
During a sit-down with Colbert in a rare television interview on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, which aired Thursday, the Oscar-winning filmmaker explained how a “routine” first day of filming his personal and now-Oscar-nominated movie turned into an emotional one.
“Mark Bridges (costume designer) came over to me and said, ‘I’ve got Paul and Michelle here in their hair and makeup and costumes,'” he recalled, adding that he had seen them in their costumes separately but not together. “I turned around and there was my father and mother, and I just burst into tears. Just like that, I didn’t even think about it, it just happened.”
The interview was Spielberg’s first-ever on a late-night show, and first on an evening show since The Dick Cavett Show in 1981.
His award-winning film The Fabelmans is based on Spielberg’s childhood, growing up as an aspiring filmmaker. The movie follows Sammy Fabelman’s (Gabriel LaBelle) journey, but along the way, he discovers a shattering family secret and uses his passion for film to help see the truth. The Fabelmans is nominated for seven Oscars, including best picture.
The Saving Private Ryan director and producer said Williams and Dano were quick to offer him love and support at that moment: “Michelle ran to me, hugged me. Paul came around the back of me — he’s really tall — hugged me around the shoulders and just held me.”
“I had given them [Williams and Dano] speeches long before the first day of shooting. I got all my tears out writing the scripts with Tony Kushner,” Spielberg added. “I’m a professional. [I told them,] ‘Don’t worry about me. You don’t have to take care of me. My job is to take care of you and guide you to giving some great performances.’ And, it wasn’t to be.”
Also during the sit-down interview with Colbert, Spielberg discussed his road to bringing The Fabelmans to screen and reflected on his iconic work spanning 50-plus years in film. The Jewish filmmaker also weighed in on the rise of public antisemitism in both the U.S. and around the world.
“Not since Germany in the ’30s have I witnessed antisemitism no longer lurking, but standing proud with hands on hips, like Hitler and Mussolini, kind of daring us to defy it. I have never experienced this in my entire life, especially in this country,” he said.
Citing 2014, 2015 and 2016, specifically, Spielberg noted that “hate became a kind of membership to a club that has gotten more members than I ever thought was possible in America. And hate and antisemitism go hand-in-hand, you can’t separate one from the other.”
Calling Spielberg one of the greatest communicators in the world, the host asked the movie-making legend to offer a counter message to that hate, and asked what gives him hope that it will not succeed.
“Without paining a naive portrait of myself sitting here talking to you, and to quote Anne Frank, I think she’s right when she said, in most people there’s good. She saw good in most people,” he said. “And I think, essentially in our core, there is goodness and there is empathy.”
March 3, 6:50 a.m. This story has been updated with a second clip from Spielberg’s Colbert interview.
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