Steven Spielberg’s Oscars contender this year is his most personal project yet. The Fabelmans is a semi-autobiographical story of his childhood as an aspiring filmmaker through the lens of a fictional family. Nevertheless, Paul Dano and Michelle Williams’ Burt and Mitzi Fabelman were heavily based on his late parents Arnold Spielberg and Leah Adler. So much so in fact that the director became incredibly emotional on the first day on set. The 76-year-old made the reveal in his first-ever late-night show appearance and first on an evening programme in over 40 years.
Speaking on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Spielberg said: “Mark Bridges (costume designer) came over to me and said, ‘I’ve got Paul and Michelle here in their hair and makeup and costumes.’
The director shared how he had seen them in their costumes separately but not together and that’s what totally set him off. He added: “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.”
Spielberg’s parents Leah and Arnold died in 2017 and 2020 respectively. He’d initially conceived of the project in 1999 with his sister Anne writing a screenplay called I’ll Be Home. However, the director held off until after his parents’ deaths for fear that they’d be hurt by how they were portrayed at times in the film.
Despite being a box office bomb, The Fabelmans has been showered with five star reviews and is up for seven Oscars. These include Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress for Williams and Best Support Actor for Judd Hirsch.