Steven Spielberg Donates $1M to Sid Sheinberg's Favorite Cause

Fifty years ago, the mogul — who died four months— gave the novice filmmaker his first gig, and now Spielberg along with wife Kate Capshaw is repaying the favor with his gift to Human Rights Watch.
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Steven Spielberg really knows how to repay a debt. Four months after Sid Sheinberg's death — and 50 years after the MCA mogul gave the 20-year-old filmmaker his first TV gig — the director and wife Kate Capshaw donated $1 million to Sheinberg's favorite cause, Human Rights Watch.

"Sid was empathetic and perceptive, and absolutely committed to human rights for all. He and [his wife] Lorraine charmed and cajoled their incredible network of contacts to help build Human Rights Watch into an international powerhouse. We’re so grateful for having Sid as part of the Human Rights Watch family, and to Kate and Steven for extending Sid’s legacy with this extraordinary gift," HRW executive director Kenneth Roth tells THR. "Sid was the first studio boss to extend same-sex benefits to LGBT employees back in the 1980s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, when discrimination and homophobia were routine. I’m sure he would be delighted that the Capshaw-Spielberg gift will be used to fight discrimination and unfairness in the U.S. criminal justice system."

Sheinberg, who was celebrated at a memorial service in Los Angeles in late May, was the first to champion Spielberg, offering him a directing job on a 1969 installment of Rod Serling's Night Gallery. The two would go on to collaborate on Jaws (1975), E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982) and Jurassic Park (1993), among other titles, including the Academy Award-winning Schindler's List (1993).

“I even named my company Amblin Entertainment after the short I made in college that caught Sid’s attention," explained Spielberg at the memorial. "The name Amblin has always been my tribute to Sid. The two streets at Universal on the lot right in front of my corporate headquarters are Amblin Drive and Sheinberg Place. When those two worlds first intersected in 1968, I can hardly imagine what would’ve become of me without having Sid Sheinberg at the vanguard of my life. I love him truly.”

A version of this story first appeared in the July 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.