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Many people have wanted and tried to be the next Steven Spielberg, but now someone may actually be Steven Spielberg… as a teen boy, that is.
According to multiple sources, Spielberg is working on his post-West Side Story movie project, a story rooted in his childhood that he wrote Tony Kushner, a frequent collaborator with whom he worked on films such as Munich and Lincoln, and will direct.
The filmmaking legend is enlisting four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams as one of the leads and, under the radar, is conducting test screenings for young actors that would star in the modestly-budgeted untitled drama that said to be loosely based by the filmmaker’s formative years and by his relationship with his parents.
A July start date is being scheduled with a plan for a release in 2022.
Plot details for the untitled project are being kept secret but one aspect of the project is a split time period that would focus on the character, who is not being called Steven, according to sources, as a young child and also a teen living in Phoenix, Arizona.
Phoenix is where Spielberg lived in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The filmmaker has spoken numerous times about those years, in which he faced anti-Semitism while also making home movies and adventure movies using his father’s 8 mm camera that he entered into contests. (The latter was a focus on his 2011 collaboration with J.J. Abrams, Super 8.)
Spielberg’s family moved to California while he was still in high school and later his parents divorced, with the budding filmmaker moving in with his father. He has spoken publicly about how he maintained his mother on a pedestal but had a strained relationship with father, a relationship that would inform movies ranging from E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial to Hook and Jurassic Park to Lincoln and Catch Me If You Can.
(One aspect that is unclear is whether the project is a period piece.)
Williams, who is in negotiations, is said to be playing the mother while a range of a dozen or so teen and kid roles, two of them leading, are being sought.
Supporting teen and child roles are also a big push as friend characters are also an important focus of the project. (Groups of teens as central to the action were key in the director’s early works such as E.T. and the Spielberg-produced The Goonies.)
From his earliest films, Spielberg has shown an affinity for working with young actors and spotting talent, be in Henry Thomas E.T., Christian Bale in Empire of the Sun, with many of them looked at as stand-ins for Spielberg. Now, finally, Spielberg may find someone to embody him in a project that is as personal as can be without it being a biopic.
Kushner most recently worked with Spielberg on the latter’s remake of West Side Story. The movie, starring Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler, is due to open Dec. 21, 2021, after having been pushed from past year.
Williams won an Emmy and Golden Globe for her work in Fosse/Verdon and returns for Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which will open June 25.
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