Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The most humble man in Hollywood: Steven Spielberg

In Daniel Day-Lewis’ acceptance speech at the Golden Globes he fawned all over Steven Spielberg and praised him for his “humility.” Steven nodded graciously as if to say, “Yes, that’s me alright.” And I thought – humility? On what planet are we on here? This man has one of the largest egos in the ego capital of the world. He is enormously talented. There’s no denying that. And he has made some wonderful films. This isn’t Michael Bay we’re talking about. I have tremendous respect for Steven Spielberg as a filmmaker.

But “humility?” Gimme a break! This is the man who orchestrated getting a former president of the United States to introduce his film clip at a made-up award ceremony. It wasn’t enough to have some pompous thespian like Jeremy Irons regale the world with what a genius he is, he had to have the former leader of the free world. And make no mistake -- it was Steven who arranged it. Seeing Bill Clinton at the Golden Globes was like seeing Paul McCartney singing at the new Jiffy Lube grand opening in Pacoima.

A humble man might’ve thought that was overkill.

Who is he going to get to introduce his film at the Academy Awards? I bet he has his staff looking into the Second Coming. I can just see it -- Seth MacFarlane sings a show tune about masturbation and then in his “Stewie” voice introduces Jesus Christ.

Here in LA we have been bombarded by the LINCOLN Oscar campaign. Screenings, screeners, posters, ads -- I’m surprised he doesn’t have interns going door to door handing out stove pipe hats.

The message is clear. Steven Spielberg wants to win awards! He wants to be celebrated, exalted, revered. If Christ does introduce him, Steven would hope the public sees Him as a peer.

Forget that Steven’s already won Academy Awards. A modest man says: “Give someone else a chance.” A glory hog says: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most successful film director commercially and artistically – in all domestic and foreign markets – of them all, and especially Scorsese?”

So I took great delight when Ben Affleck and ARGO beat him and LINCOLN at the Golden Globes, even though those awards are meaningless.

But what it says to me is I’m not the only one not fooled by Steven Spielberg’s “humility.” I doubt if ARGO will top LINCOLN at the Oscars. Its director is not even nominated (which is a joke). And Spielberg has more sway. But the race suddenly became more interesting. And ZERO DARK THIRTY could be a dark horse. If you see Steven Spielberg appearing on CHELSEA LATELY you know he’s worried.

What Daniel Day-Lewis should have done was thank Abe Lincoln for his humility. Somehow I can’t picture Abe giving a shit about losing a Golden Globe.

43 comments:

Michael Stoffel said...

There's a new Jiffy Lube in Pacoima?
Sweet!

Mike Barer said...

I am impressed that with all his wealth, his Mom, I heard, runs a deli on Pico Blvd.

RJ Hope said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
RJ Hope said...

I had the pleasure to meet the man once. I found him to be very nice and gracious. I'm not sure if there is anyone who knows more about the art and history of film making than Spielberg.

However, Hollywood is synonymous with egotism. Everyone wants their name in lights. Credits run the town. A little bit of it gives one a little longer to have a career.

It has been a long time since Spielberg won an Oscar, 1998's Saving Private Ryan was his last. I know if it was me, my ego would want me to win again.

And yes, if you win a major award, you are gratuitous to others and say things that might not be true. You have to practice humility, even if you're not truly humble.

Though I never met him,I have heard that Day- Lewis can be a bit pompous at times.

Johnny Walker said...

He's apparently quite open about needing affirmation from strangers. I happened to watch this video yesterday where he literally says that's what inspired him to make movies in the first place...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBN9jpooZoM

I have a small Spielberg story, too:
A fellow graphic designer friend of mine was in a work conference call, which just happened to have some guy called "Steven" on the other end in LA. My friend spoke to him like he would any other client: Trying to make him think about his ideas, pulling him away from potential problems, raising issues...

His colleagues were stunned at how casual he was, and it was only later he discovered that "Steven" was Steven Spielberg. He had no idea!

When I asked him what he was like, he said that Steven took on his points just like anyone else would, and tried to offer solutions around them. He didn't throw his weight around.

Of course, afterwards Spielberg called back and had my friend fired.

(That last bit was a joke.)

Beef Supreme said...

"This isn’t Michael Bay we’re talking about. I have tremendous respect for Steven Spielberg as a filmmaker. "

Spielberg has produced the 3 "Transformers" movies though...

However, I don't understand the vitriol against him here. I've heard other people talk about meeting him, and nobody has ever said anything other than that Spielberg was a complete gentleman. And if wanting affirmation means you're not humble, well, then so be it. Maybe "humility" was the wrong word, but DDL was speaking of his own experience, and maybe compared to everyone else in Hollywood, Spielberg might indeed just be the most humble man there...

Tim W. said...

I know Spielberg isn't the most humble man in the world because I am. And I'm not afraid to tell everyone.

Jee Jay said...

I'm sure you're right, but ...

remember waaaay back in 2002 - 2005, Spielberg as a director was turning out big movies that never caught on with people the way his early movies did. He was starting to be whispered about in "has-been" terms.

And let's not even talk about TV. His name associated with a TV series was -- and still is -- the kiss of death. (Falling Skies? Terra Nova?? SeaQuest, people, SeaQuest!?!?!)

It looks to me like "Lincoln" could be referred to with the C word: a Comeback picture..

Larry said...

Spielberg's best films are still his early ones, back in the days before Hollywood gave him awards.

Griff said...

"Seeing Bill Clinton at the Golden Globes was like seeing Paul McCartney singing at the new Jiffy Lube grand opening in Pacoima."

Best line of the week. Thanks for this, Ken.

Brian Phillips said...

Friday question: If you were a young writer, would you pitch a comedy with or without serial elements? Many shows have running gags (Buddy Sorrell vs. Mel Cooley, Kramer's mooching), but some have overarching story lines or plots, which I think would be harder on getting new viewers in mid-season.

404 said...

Jee Jay - "Terra Nova" is a good example, but "Falling Skies"? Not only is it going into its third season, with decent ratings for a cable show, but it's just really, really good on top of that. So, it wouldn't go on a list of his failures, is all I'm sayin'.

Mac said...

As Golda Meir said; "Don't be so humble, you're not that great."

To be fair, you don't get that kind of success by being humble, and he does seem to have remained human. Also it's Daniel Day-Lewis talking, and on the rare occasions when he visits our planet, he doesn't always make a lot of sense.

John said...

Paul McCartney at a Jiffy Lube opening kind of recalls some old bit from the Jack Benny Show, where Jack would play any opening if the money was right. On the other hand, Bill Clinton at a Jiffy Lube opening simply brings up a new round of intern/sex jokes. And they really should limit any awards ceremony speeches to no longer than Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

Anonymous said...

Ken, you are da man, but your evisceration of Spielberg here is unwarranted overkill and much projection...I saw DDL give an uncommonly softspoken, gracious and seemingly heartfelt acknowledgment to the man, which elicted (visible on my 50"+ plasma) some seemingly genuine tearing in his eye...wish there were more of such quiet dignity in these nights of blathering high-decibel preening...as for the Clinton intro: You would turn down a former President willing to introduce your film about another President? Clinton went on Arsenio Hall to play the sax, not exactly known for being needed to be coaxed into the nearest spotlight, so it's not at all clear to me who asked who if he could introduce the film...but -- again -- you would turn a Presidential intro down? Really? Contrary to your characterization, Spielberg has been virtually absent from the awards promotion circuit...I've seen Affleck, Bigelow, and many others on talk shows promoting, not Spielberg -- and the suggestion that he is some marauding stormtrooper of ego and publicity seems unsupported by the facts or by most peoples' experience of working with or for him. Generally love your insights and even your snark, but this one seems to be a stretch.

Andy Ihnatko said...

Serious question (maybe for a Friday post): is it even possible for someone to withdraw from future Oscar consideration? Movies are nominated for the Oscars by popular vote and awarded the same way. There have been famous moments when a winner declined the award but can they decline the nomination, for real?

Anonymous said...

Spielberg's in showbiz. He has the right to be whomever/whatever he wants. My problemm with him is that his wife is not telling us who did her work. She looks fabulous.

Paul Duca said...

To the last person...the only thing about your comments that bothers Ken is the fact you didn't identify yourself.

Paul Duca said...

I meant the previous Anonymous...I wasn't aware two other comments posted.

craig m said...

Ken's post reminded me of a Spielberg-produced "Animaniacs" cartoon. At the end of "Hooked on a Ceiling," you see Michelangelo desperately trying to please "His Eminence." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HURMPtfNjLo

Bob Timmermann said...

Lincoln was not exactly a humble guy. He was well-known for being ambitious. After all, he did run for President with a rather flimsy track record.

Lincoln may have come from humble beginnings, but he was able to bring himself up to a rather comfortable standard of living by the time he was elected President.

VP81955 said...

Ken's post reminded me of a Spielberg-produced "Animaniacs" cartoon. At the end of "Hooked on a Ceiling," you see Michelangelo desperately trying to please "His Eminence."

Who says Spielberg never made it in television? After all, he gave us Yakko, Wakko and Dot.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Andy Ihnatko (Hi again - we met at Ebertfest a few years ago): I don't know about the Oscars, but Candice Bergen definitely withdrew her name from consideration for the Emmys after she'd won several in a row for MURPHY BROWN. It certainly seems plausible to me that you could simply not submit your movie for consideration. And even if the movie went in, you could not send the gifts or do the promotion. Your financial backers might be a bit peeved...

wg

MikeN said...

Ben Affleck was in Shakespeare In Love...

He could be Hollywood's Eli Manning.

Little Miss Nomad said...

Okay, Jee Jay, if you were a pre-teen in the early to mid-90s, SeaQuest was awesome, or at least no more or less ridiculous than your Lois & Clark or Star Trek: Pick a Spinoff. And I'd take SeaQuest over 100 Falling Skies or Terra Novas any day.

Gerry said...

Spielberg has an ego?! And likes to win awards?! This is Hollywood. That description could match up with most of the people who live here. Either you just have issues with Spielberg or you've spent too much time in the writer's room.

Self Improvement Quotes said...

He is like any another genius who is fond of his work.

You can discover throughout the lives of successful people in this life that person who loved his work a lot and gave him a lot of time became a legend in people minds.

Look at Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Bruce Lee, Stephen Covey and more like them.

Spielberg is one of persons who loved his work a lot than anything else.
So he became Steven Spielberg.

Dana Gabbard said...

One thing I've notice about Spielberg is he seems to burn through writers -- generally after about 2 1/2 projects it is off to whatever new scribe he points the finger at.

I though Catch Me If You Can was a great film of his more recent efforts -- the cat & mouse of DiCaprio and Hanks was incredible. And the shot at the end where he looks in on his Mom & Step Dad at Christmas worked because the whole film built to & earned it. Walken was even not as over the top as usual. Ditto Sheen.

Eric W. Gray said...

Yes... I'm not sure WHO might have suggested Bill Clinton introduce Steven's film.

As we know, the former President suffers from...
ATTENTION Deficit Disorder

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't it true that often times, Spielberg will receive an executive producer credit/billing for a movie simply for adding input? I remember reading some time back about how some people are given an executive producing credit, and that sometimes, people will receive such a credit for offering input or advice, even if they have nothing to do with the actual production of the movie or show, and Spielberg was used as an example.

Marc Wielage said...

I think Spielberg already has the money. At this point in his career, he's more concerned about his legacy, so I can see why he'd push so hard to try to get more awards for "Lincoln," including calling in favors from Bill Clinton. But I don't think this will be Spielberg's year for another Oscar.

His mother, Leah Adler, *used* to own a kosher dairy restaurant on Pico, but hasn't owned it for at least 10-12 years.

Spielberg is subject to the same foibles as anybody in Hollywood, including occasional bouts with temperament and ego. It's fair to say he's accustomed to getting his way, but he's generally patient and reasonable to deal with, according to the people I know who've worked for him.

Mike said...

@Joseph Scarbrough: I'd guess that Spielberg's name gets attached to film/TV projects to sell the project to an audience, not for his benefit.

Cap'n Bob said...

I don't consider it a coup to get Clinton. That sleazebag, adulterer, lying horndog should be ashamed to show his face in public. I'd consider Larry Flynt a better choice.

McCartney or not, Jiffy Lube is a ripoff.

I'm in a good mood today.

mdv1959 said...

"I'd guess that Spielberg's name gets attached to film/TV projects to sell the project to an audience, not for his benefit."

Trust me, whenever his name is attached to a project it is to his financial benefit. Spielberg is a brand and he and his fleet of lawyers would no more let someone use it for free than Nike would.

Jack said...

In a recent studio head roundtable, Katzenberg was saying that he was frustrated that Spielberg didn't campaign for Saving Private Ryan back in 97/98. But also here's a young Spielberg expressing disappointment at not being nominated for Jaws:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mgrxvTdl-Q

Mr. Hollywood said...

Everyone seems to forget that Mr. Spielberg was on the set of TWILIGHT ZONE when that tragic Vic Morrow accident happened .... and old Steve high tailed it of there very quickly ... he knew what the hell was happening. It was all brished under the carpet when it came to Steven. His buddy Frank Marshall fled to Europe and around the world running away from having a subpoena served ... nice guy Steve.

Mike said...

@mdv1959: I've not said that he's allowed the use of his name for free. I've said that his name is being used to market a product. It's not simply a matter of receiving high-ranking credits for minimal input, as per the original comment.

Breadbaker said...

Let's try a mental exercise, Cap'n Bob: let's take all the adulterers out of the audience at the Golden Globes, then all the liars. Look, it's Michael J. Fox's kid, he looks awfully lonely.

mlblogsmosiahsmarinermind said...

I get the message here even if others don't. It's one thing to be famous & even be the best or at least one of the best at something,... even to recieve acolades for it. But when you start calling somthing or someone by names superfluous or even contrary to who they really are simply as a compliment it smacks hard of pride, Especially when the compliment is accepted, no matter how gracefully. Often when you see it happening the intended target usually accapts the "Compliment" gracefully & many ooh & ahh, heads nodding in agreement. Had comments such as "humble" man not been proffered or accepted by him this article would not ring so true. I'm sure Spielberg can be Plenty Gracious, but the compliment wasn't that he was a gracious man, but a humble one. And unless humble has changed it's meaning the point is beyond valid.... Which Ken's vivid writing captures well as always...
d;-)

Ramon Envidela said...

Will be interestingg when Steve does his GUEST BLOGGER bit for you!

jbryant said...

Re McCartney at Jiffy Lube: First thing I thought of was that LEAVE IT TO BEAVER episode where Wally doubts one of Eddie Haskell's outrageous claims by wondering if it's like that time he swore he saw Broderick Crawford on the bus.

Re refusing Oscar nominations: I believe George C. Scott declined his Best Supporting Actor nomination for THE HUSTLER a full nine years before refusing his PATTON win. If I'm not mistaken, the Academy basically said "It's not your call; we nominate who we want." Before that, Ingmar Bergman also tried to decline his nod for WILD STRAWBERRIES, with similar results.

Storm said...

I agree with you, and yet I feel that in fairness I should point out that Spielberg was supposedly diagnosed at some point with Asperger's Syndrome. In my experience (LOTS of AS folk in the Nerd World), people with AS tend to be total geniuses at whatever they're obsessed with, but can also be extremely self-centered and unaware of other's feelings and need to be reminded when they are being/doing so; they often genuinely don't realize what dicks they are being (or merely coming across as) until you point it out, and then they feel awful about it. And they also seem to have an intense desire and need to be acknowledged for the efforts, and yet prefer to be left alone by people; very perplexing sort. That being said, he knows he has AS, but still acts like a dick anyway and doesn't seem to care because hey man, he's Steven Frickin' Spielberg, which *is* annoying. But at least I can understand that there's a reason behind it; James Cameron has no such excuse/reason for his general douchebaggery.

He is also dyslexic, and every dyslexic I've known has been a control freak, bless them, because since they find it hard to control/stop their dyslexia, they take control over things they *can* change or control to compensate. (shrug) Maybe I'm making allowances for him because I used to enjoy his work so much, and so much of it was such a part of my life as a young nerdling. I'm just sayin'... he's a complex man, with complex complexes.

I had the pleasure of meeting his lovely mother, Leah, at her old deli (IIRC, it was called "The Milky Way"?)in '84. My friends and I were attending a small Rocky Horror convention at a nearby hotel, and cruised over for lunch in full costume. Broad daylight, we come walking in-- Magenta (me!), Riff Raff, Columbia, and Eddie. We thought she'd give us the ol' hairy eyeball and bounce us on our ears, but no! She was delighted to see us, tickled by our outfits, and gave us great seats and extra latkes! SUCH a nice lady, with a HUGE smile and a great laugh. :D

Cheers, thanks a lot,

Storm

Johnny Walker said...

That's a nice story, Storm!