Steven Spielberg made his life story into The Fabelmans to bring his late ‘mom and dad back’

“It also brought my sister, Annie, Susie, and Nancy, closer to me than I ever thought possible,” Spielberg said at the film’s TIFF world premiere.
For Steven Spielberg, directing The Fablemans was not only a chance to share his life story with the world but also an opportunity to come to terms with the loss of his parents.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time,” the Oscar-winning Schindler’s List filmmaker said Saturday night at the film’s world-premiere screening at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival. “I didn’t know when I would get around to this. It is not because I decided to retire, and this is my swan song, don’t believe that. Tony [Kushner] and I started talking about this possibility when we were making Lincoln together, then Tony kind of performed the function of a therapist, and I was his patient.”

The pair worked through Spielberg’s childhood memories to craft a script that serves as an intimate portrait of his formative years, during which he processed difficult realizations about the dynamic between his mother (Michelle Williams) and father (Paul Dano) — all while honing his passion for filmmaking.

“I thought, if I was going to leave anything behind, what was the thing I need to resolve and unpack about my mom, my dad, and my sisters?” he continued, later adding: “This film is, for me, a way of bringing my mom and dad back. And it also brought my sisters, Annie, Susie, and Nancy, closer to me than I ever thought possible. And that was worth making the film.”

The audience at Saturday’s event gave the film a sustained standing ovation while Spielberg repeatedly clutched his chest in thanks. His sisters — fictionalized versions of whom appear throughout the film — also attended the screening. The director eventually asked them to stand up from their seats so the crowd could also applaud them.

The Fabelmans — also starring Seth Rogen, Judd Hirsch, Julia Butters, and David Lynch — is widely expected to be a major player in the upcoming awards race, with significant Oscar talk already buzzing for Spielberg’s direction and his cast’s performances.