Spielberg says antisemitism ‘on the rise’ – as new film shows abuse he faced as teen

Steven Spielberg’s cultural impact is unmatched – from Jaws to Jurassic Park, his films have imprinted on generation after generation for 50 years.

His new movie, The Fabelmans, tells the story of the childhood that shaped the most iconic director of our time.

As well as being a family drama, it portrays the antisemitic abuse the young Spielberg faced.

Speaking at the UK premiere of the film, he told Sky News it is an issue that is not going anywhere.

“It has been a problem worldwide because it is certainly a systemic problem in all societies, not just in our country or even here in the UK,” Spielberg, 76, said.

“But antisemitism has been steadily on the rise, I think, since 2015.

“And there’s been a lot of evidence that this isn’t going away any time soon, and that’s frightening.”

The Fabelmans is already a critical hit, winning best drama and best director at last week’s Golden Globes, and is tipped to be on the Bafta and Oscar shortlists.

But it’s a different story at the box office where it has taken £16m so far, only half its £32m budget.

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Fabelmans. Pic: Amblin Entertainment/Universal Studios
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Pic: Amblin Entertainment/Universal Studios

Spielberg is open about what he perceives to be the issue with audiences: “I don’t feel that I’ve really communicated the fact that I made a superhero movie,” he laughed.

“I think if I told people I had made a superhero movie – the superheroes being my mom and my dad – we would have done much better at the box office in the States.

“We hope we’re going to fare better in the UK having now said to all of you: This is a superhero movie.”

‘I’ve never made a film like this before’

Audiences may feel they know Spielberg, but he says it is only now with The Fabelmans that he is finally showing his truth on screen.

“A lot of people feel they know me because they see my movies and they think they know me through my films, but they don’t know me in any other iteration – as, by the way, I don’t know myself in so many other iterations,” he said.

“When I make a movie, I kind of live the experience of that story, and I have to research and I have to learn a lot about it, but it’s not often reflective of who I am.”

Michelle Williams and Paul Dano star in Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans. Pic: Universal Pictures
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Michelle Williams and Paul Dano star as Spielberg’s parents in the movie. Pic: Universal Pictures
Gabriel LaBelle and Chloe East in The Fabelmans. Pic: Universal Pictures
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Gabriel LaBelle and Chloe East are also in the cast. Pic: Universal Pictures

He continued: “It reflects what I’m interested in, what my passions are, but this is the first time I ever made a film that was about things that had actually happened to myself, my three sisters and my mom and my dad.”

With that honesty comes some emotional moments, as the family home, even his parents as he remembers them from childhood, are reproduced on set.

“I’ve never made a film like this before,” Spielberg said.

“Nor have I had an experience making a film that has been so emotionally – now, Schindler’s List was maybe the most emotionally draining experience of my career – but in terms of family and personal reflections and actually shooting a movie in a house that was a facsimile of the home I grew up in, in Arizona, nothing, nothing can challenge that.”

The Fabelmans is out in cinemas in the UK on 27 January.

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