Steven Spielberg: Still in the throes of movie passion

“I just know what it feels like to be overwhelmed with a desire to make a movie,” the director Steven Spielberg told the New York Times, giving a clue as to why he has two movies in theaters this holiday season.

Spielberg directed both the animated adventure “Tintin”, based on the bestselling European comic books by Herge, as well as the film adaptation of the play “War Horse,” which his producer, Kathleen Kennedy first saw on Broadway.

Two things struck me about this interview. First, when the reporter asked him the question about why he wanted to make “Tintin”, he basically said that he saw himself in the character.

I became enthralled with the way Hergé told his stories. Grand, epic, global adventures about a young reporter who goes all around the world looking for stories to tell and then gets himself deeply involved, and dangerously involved sometimes, in the stories he’s telling. And then eventually becomes the story itself. And I always related to that because I do the same thing. I go out and look for a good story to tell and if I like it enough and I decide to direct it, I become dangerously involved in becoming a part of that story.

The first thing that came to mind, of course, was “Schindler’s List,” which for Spielberg, became something of a permanent project. He invested heavily—both financially and otherwise—in creating The Shoah Foundation, a non-profit Holocaust memorial effort that cataloged visual histories of survivors. Holocaust preservation, subsequently, owes much to Spielberg’s personal connection.

Though his family-friendly fare is not every cinema-goer’s delight, that Spielberg himself is still ensorcelled by his vocation is kind of astonishing. Even at age 65 (which he became on Sunday), he still possesses the childlike wonder that attracted him to movies in the first place. And he isn’t afraid to try new things as “Tintin’s” experiment in form proves. “It made me more like a painter than ever before,” he told the L.A. Times last February.

The other bit I found both nostalgic and sweet was his admission that he runs a “mini-industry”—though he couches it in terms of community. It’s as if he works in an entirely different Hollywood than the one we’ve come to know, a cold-competitive corporate world that values profit above all. The way he puts it, Spielberg’s industry is a vestige of the way Hollywood used to be, preserved through the commitment of a devoted community.

[A]s an adult, filmmaking is all about appreciating the talents of the people you surround yourself with and knowing you could never have made any of these films by yourself.

My job was constantly to keep a movie family going. I’m blessed with the same thing that John Ford and Howard Hawks and Alfred Hitchcock were blessed with, a mini-industry very similar to the one from the golden era of Hollywood, where it was the same people making movies with you each and every time. And it makes life so much more enjoyable when you get to go home to your family and go to work with your other family.

It’s redundant to say, but how Jewish is that?