His train keeps rollin'

DeMille honoree Spielberg looks back, forward

Steven Spielberg, who accepted the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.'s Cecil B. DeMille Award on Sunday, recalled the massive train wreck in DeMille's 1952 circus epic "The Greatest Show on Earth" during his speech at the Golden Globes.

Spielberg had a year to compose his remarks because he originally was chosen to receive the lifetime achievement honor last year. But when the 2008 festivities were postponed because of the WGA strike, the HFPA moved its Spielberg toast to this year.

But he appeared to be summoning a primal recollection — "one of my first and most vivid childhood memories" — as he recalled how, when he was just 6, his father took him to see the DeMille movie. "My fate was probably sealed that day in 1952," he recalled.

At first, though, that meant that young Spielberg became obsessed with staging wrecks with his Lionel model trains. When his father told him to knock it off, he used a Kodak 8mm camera to film one smash-up. "It actually brought the same feeling of gratification watching that little home movie again and again instead of actually wrecking the same thing," he said.

Spielberg used the occasion to stress the importance of mentors.

"None of the movies that I've made throughout my whole life would have been possible … without somebody first believing in me, and I really believe that being a mentor to talented newcomers is a very time-honored tradition," Spielberg said.

He gave special thanks to former Universal Studios head Sidney Sheinberg. "He said, 'I will be there for you in success, but I will also always be there for you during the tough times,' " Spielberg said.

He went on to describe his own efforts to support up-and-coming filmmakers as "an opportunity (that) was given to me to be an enabler" of other directors, actors, writers and other film craftsmen.

"I think, in a way, there's a feeling floating around during these hard economic times that the impulse and the future might be to make more movies for broader audiences," he said. "And I just want to say we can't ever forget that we are also an audience of individuals, and without the kinds of movies nominated tonight, we would be in danger of losing that very thing that none of us can live without." (partialdiff)