TORONTO (TBEN) — Steven Spielberg premiered his highly anticipated “The Fabelmans” to thunderous applause at the Toronto International Film Festival, debuting his most autobiographical film and which the 75-year-old filmmaker said he has spent his life building. used to be.
“The Fabelmans,” which Spielberg co-wrote with Tony Kushner, draws heavily from the director’s childhood—from his parents, played by Michelle Williams and Paul Dano in the film, and from his early formation as a filmmaker. The film opens with a shy little boy outside a movie theater going to see his first movie (“The Greatest Show on Earth”). His mother encourages him: “Movies are dreams, doll.”
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, of course,” Spielberg said on stage after the showing late Saturday. “I didn’t really know when I would get around to this. It’s not because I decided to retire and this is my swan song. Don’t believe any of that.”
Spielberg said he first spoke about what “The Fabelmans” would become with Kushner while making “Lincoln.” The playwright, Spielberg said, played the role of therapist as Spielberg unloaded his memories. But it was only during the pandemic that the director decided to tell his own story for the first time.
“As things got worse and worse, I felt that if I left something behind, what I really needed to fix and unpack?” said Spielberg.
Spielberg, whose three sisters were in the audience, later added: “This film is a way for me to bring my mom and dad back. And it also brought my sisters—Annie and Sue and Nancy—closer to me than I ever thought possible. And that was worth making the film for.”
Universal Pictures will release “The Fabelmans” in New York and Los Angeles on November 11 before expanding nationwide on November 23. The Toronto world premiere—which happened to immediately follow Rian Johnson’s “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” at the Princess of Wales Theater—was a big event, and an unusual one. It was Spielberg’s first film at TIFF, and during the film’s introduction, he said it was his first time ever on the official lineup of a film festival.
The two-and-a-half-hour film was immediately received as a grand and personal opus for Spielberg, who would almost certainly star at the Academy Awards. Aside from Williams, who is pregnant with her third child, and Dano, the cast includes Seth Rogen as a close family friend, a short standout performance by Judd Hirsch, Jeannie Berlin and newcomer Gabriel LaBelle who plays Sammy Fabelman, the fictional young Spielberg.
“Steven was generous in letting us into his life,” said Dano, who said he has access to Spielberg’s old photos, home videos and lengthy Zoom conversations with the director. “The goal was to capture a life lived.”
While there are vividly drawn moments from movies that transport Sammy, “Fabelmans” may surprise some because of the complex interweaving of filmmaking and family life. Cinema in Spielberg’s film is both a transformative force and something dangerous; a way to express genuine emotion and hide from it. Kushner, a frequent collaborator of Spielberg, said the film shows how “film is an unreliable friend”.
“It takes you to a safe place, and cutting right through the safety is something unexpected and scary,” Kushner said. “It happens over and over in the movie.”
“The Fabelmans” is populated by early experiments with 8 millimeter cameras, films made with family members and increasingly ambitious short films. All mirrors Spielberg’s own first forays into filmmaking, although there are some differences.
“I made all the behind-the-scenes stuff in this movie way better than the actual movies I made when I was Sammy’s age,” Spielberg said with a smile. “It was a great makeover.”
Follow TBEN film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP