From ET to Jaws, Steven Spielberg has brought us cinema’s most enduring stories. He reveals why he’s driven by fear, how he beat his bullies – and the heartbreak behind his take on The BFG
When Steven Spielberg is enthused, his sentences pick up speed and momentum, the words coming in long, unpunctuated bursts that have you worried he’s going to forget to breathe. Just over a month ago, he tells me, his eldest daughter Jessica had a baby girl, his fourth grandchild. Spielberg has seven children, aged between 19 and 39; now he is making up stories for his grandchildren the way he did for them. “They’re all stories of empowerment, and being magical or able to read your mom and dad’s mind, or your best friend being a Tyrannosaurus rex that only you know about and he lives in your backyard,” he explains excitedly.
We are sitting in the conference room of his production offices at Amblin Partners in Los Angeles, a two-storey building that looks like a cross between Fred Flintstone’s cave and a resort chalet, situated in a quiet corner of the Universal lot surrounded by lawns, palm trees and fake-looking boulders. On one wall of the room hang three Norman Rockwell originals and the Rosebud sledge from Citizen Kane, mounted inside a protective glass case. Downstairs are an editing suite, a screening room, a daycare centre and a restaurant-sized kitchen.