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Steven Spielberg Had A Lot Of Emotional Moments On Set Of The Fabelmans

The primary architect of the modern blockbuster, Steven Spielberg catapulted to fame in the 1970s and 1980s by directing "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," and the "Indiana Jones" franchise. But behind the veneer of sharks, aliens, and ancient relics, Spielberg has always been interested in the American family. "E.T." is as much about divorce as it is about extraterrestrials, and one of the more memorable scenes in "Jaws" doesn't involve sharks at all, but rather a child mimicking his father at the dinner table.

Spielberg's upcoming film, "The Fabelmans," promises to be the filmmaker's most explicitly family-oriented project to date. Loosely based on Spielberg's childhood, the movie follows the Fabelman family in the 1950s and '60s, with Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) serving as a stand-in for a young Spielberg. At the film's premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, Spielberg said, "This is the most personal film I've ever made" (via Variety). As such, filming "The Fabelmans" was an emotional experience for the seasoned director.

Revisiting his childhood for The Fabelmans was difficult for Spielberg

"The Fabelmans" looks at Steven Spielberg's journey as a nascent filmmaker, as well as his parents' dissolving marriage. For Spielberg, revisiting his childhood and his late parents' divorce elicited an emotional response. "To come to work every morning and walk on a set that is an exact replica of the house I grew up in created a level of nostalgia verging on grief," the director told The Hollywood Reporter. "It was a healthy kind of grieving."

Luckily, Spielberg had a supportive cast through the process, especially Paul Dano and Michelle Williams, who play Burt and Mitzi Fabelman — fictionalized versions of Spielberg's parents Burt Spielberg and Leah Adler, who passed away in 2020 and 2017, respectively. "Those were the hard moments," said Spielberg of the emotional catharsis he experienced. "Those were the moments where after I said 'Cut,' I'd have to leave the set. And inevitably, I'd suddenly see Paul coming around the corner, and he would just grab me and hang onto me. And the same thing with Michelle. She'd see me putting my hands up and say, 'I need a break.' And I'd go off, and she'd find me."

That poignancy comes through in the film. As Spielberg said at TIFF, "This film is, for me, a way of bringing my mom and dad back" (via Entertainment Weekly). Audiences can see "The Fabelmans" when it opens in select theaters on November 11.