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'The Fabelmans' Producer Says Steven Spielberg Is 'More Vulnerable and Raw' Than Ever Making Autobiographical Films

Kristie Macosko Krieger, who has been working for Steven Spielberg for the past quarter century, frequents The Milky Way, a Los Angeles restaurant once owned by the director’s mother Leah Adler (died at

) and her second husband, Bernie Adler. Krieger also knew Spielberg’s late father, Arnold, and knew that Bernie and Arnold had been close friends, but had no idea that a young Steven Spielberg found out while making the family movie as part of his Relationships between his mother and family friends. Obsessed with amateur filmmaking. This deeply personal story came to light in the making of the semi-autobiographical The Fabelmans, written by Krieger with Spielberg and Tony Co-produced and directed by Kushner, who co-wrote the script.

Krieger began as Spielberg’s assistant, then was promoted to associate producer, co-producer, and became his official director following the departure of Kathleen Kennedy. Producer for Lucasfilm. The Fabelmans is her fourth Best Picture nomination, behind Bridge of Spies , Post

and West Side Story .

Steven Spielberg What is the hardest thing about being a boss?

Well, he’s always demanded excellence. And he is greedy. Keeping up with Steven, who is 53 years old, is almost impossible for me 2020 -age. He is doing it. He can read scripts faster than anyone on Earth. He has seen everything. He knows everyone in the industry, including up-and-comers.

How about itFabelmans coming?

I know Leah is married to Arnold’s best friend Bernie, but I don’t know the full story of the camping trip and history How Steven discovered [their relationship]; it was new to me when Steven started talking about it. I think Steven will always make this movie. I just don’t think he even knows when he’s going to make it, and I think his parents want him to make it, but at the same time, I think they might be a little nervous about it. His mom always said, “Steve, when are you going to tell our story?”

Steven discusses with Tony Kushner It took a long time to make this movie. What role did you play in driving this process?

Tony would often say to me, “Steven and I just met and we talked about his family story again.” I Just encourage them both to keep trying and write it down. I’m more inclined to be supportive because, in my opinion, if Steven was never interested in making the movie, I wouldn’t mind if he didn’t. But it sounds like it was such a big story for him that they made a long transcript. That might be March or April in 1402. I think they’re just talking about it. They talked about it when we were doing West Side Story. Previously, they spoke during Munich and Lincoln . During West Side Story, Steven would amuse Tony with stories. I think in that moment, they were like, “Okay, let’s actually meet up and start writing.” Tony would ask Steven questions, and Steven would answer. They’re just thinking about what the story might be. And then I think they’ll put it on hold for a while. Then in October of 1402, I would say, they started having Zoom meetings three days a week for two hours a day. Eight weeks later, in December, I had an actual script in hand to read.

Considering that the story is loosely based on his childhood, how is the interaction with him in this movie different than others?

He’s more vulnerable and raw, it feels like all his armor has been stripped from him. It felt like he was ready to see what the cast would bring to him and what he would bring today. With all these actors and Steven together, the end result is really magical.

What was the biggest challenge for you making this film?

Making a movie during a pandemic and keeping everyone safe and on time. By the beginning of January [2021], we thought, well, how quickly can we prepare this movie and make it during COVID? We do casting in March and April. Then we shot in Los Angeles because we didn’t want to travel during the pandemic. We could have filmed the Jersey stuff in New York or New Jersey. We could have gone to Arizona, we could have ended up in Northern California, but we shot the whole thing in Southern California.

Steven hasn’t announced what he’s going to do next. Any ideas?

Well, we have a project with Bradley called Bullitt Cooper [2017 original starring Steve McQueen], Josh Singer is writing. That’s definitely something we want Steven to direct, but it’s still a ways off. I think it will be amazing.

Do you think this could be his next directorial project?

Probably yes, but again, no script. I didn’t know what we were doing until we walked on the floor. We have other things that we’ve been looking at. He was known to be looking for westerns. He recently said on the podcast that he would do a limited series and if Mare of Easttown came to him, he would direct it.

Did you call him and ask what the hell he was talking about?

I did it. “Are you really going to do TV?” I asked. He said, “If it’s as good as the Mare of Easttown, I absolutely will.” For the past few weeks, everyone has been sending us limited collections. We have six . I mean, a lot.

The Fabelmans

, like many other coming-of-age dramas in this year’s awards race, struggled at the box office. That must have been tough.

Anemic box office numbers are always sad. Nobody wants that. We want this industry back, and I want to make movies that people my age want to see. Steven didn’t really focus on box office receipts. He tries to stay away. I can’t imagine he didn’t know, but he and I never talked numbers.

It’s no secret Steven is a staunch supporter of drama. You and him at The Fabelmans Go for premium VOD since it’s still playing in theaters?

Well, I think we want more people to see this movie. Some people still haven’t been to the movies because of the pandemic. So that enables people to watch it at home.

How many times did you turn down assistants before agreeing to be Steven?

I turned down the job three times. When they called, I thought, “There’s no way I’m going to answer someone’s phone.” I was 24 or 24. And the offer keeps coming back. I thought, “You know what, I’m going to do this job for two to four years and know the industry from start to finish.” And then I’m going to go back and do a better job of publicity and marketing because I know how the whole sausage works of. I kept thinking, “If this job gets boring or it’s too much for me, I’ll just leave, and leave.” But I never did. It’s always different. With Steven, there’s so much he does and is involved in. It never gets boring. My mentors were Kathy Kennedy and Steven Spielberg. I don’t know that they ever groomed me to be a producer, but I feel like I’m becoming more and more indispensable in everyday life. Then, when Casey left to run Lucasfilm, there was a vacancy there. When we made Bridge of Spies , Steven asked me to be a producer on that movie. I’ve made everything for Steven since then.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in the February stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe . 2021

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