ByEric Hanson, writer at
Eric Hanson holds a Bachelor's in Film Studies. Some of his favorite films include To Kill a Mockingbird, 2001, and Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Eric Hanson

remains one of Hollywood's most acclaimed and popular filmmakers, but behind it all there's a very fascinating human being. After bursting onto the scene with Jaws in 1975, Spielberg has made some of the most iconic movies of all time, including the Indiana Jones series, Schindler's List and Jurassic Park. In many ways, Spielberg is just as (if not more) fascinating than his body of work. These five facts may give you a new appreciation for this man and his life, not only behind the camera, but away from it.

1. He Shot His First Feature In Just 10 Days

A young Steven Spielberg at an overseas screening of his first movie, 'Duel'.
A young Steven Spielberg at an overseas screening of his first movie, 'Duel'.

After directing several episodes of classic TV series like Columbo and Night Gallery, Spielberg was given the chance to shoot his first movie. The movie was the 1971 adaptation of Richard Matheson's short story, Duel. This horror/thriller told of a frantic motorist stalked by a tanker truck with an unseen psycho at the wheel. Duel was adapted for television, so the work had to be shot quickly in order to reach the air date. Against the advice of the studio, Spielberg decided to shoot Duel on location, adding extra realism but endangering the film of not making its air date.

In spite of the tight schedule and grueling conditions, the director was able to complete Duel in just 10 days, just in time for it to be edited and aired. The movie opened to good ratings and wide acclaim, even garnering a theatrical release overseas. With its streamline pace and rousing suspense, Duel is still considered one of the director's best movies, all done in a week and a half.

2. He Owns The Famous Sled From Citizen Kane

Steven Spielberg with the famous sled from 'Citizen Kane'
Steven Spielberg with the famous sled from 'Citizen Kane'

Like many films fans, Spielberg loves to collect props and memorabilia from movies that touched him. Among these props are the Auryn necklace from The Neverending Story, and the last surviving pieces of the original Orca from Jaws. He also owns quite possibly the most famous movie prop of all time from one of the most critically acclaimed motion pictures in history.

Spielberg was able to procure the famous sled from Orson Welles's masterpiece, Citizen Kane. This was one of several sleds used in the film, many of which were burned for the movie's famous closing shots. Spielberg was able to find the only surviving sled, preserving it in his collection not just for himself, but for future generations to enjoy.

3. He Created The Medal Of Honor Game Series

Gameplay for the original 'Medal of Honor' a game created by Steven Spielberg
Gameplay for the original 'Medal of Honor' a game created by Steven Spielberg

Not just interested in films, Spielberg is also an avid gamer who has worked in the medium. In the late '90s, Spielberg was one of the founders of DreamWorks Interactive, a company based on the studio of the same name. One of the first games made by the company was the Playstation classic, Medal of Honor.

Inspired by the success of Saving Private Ryan and the video game Goldeneye, Spielberg wanted to do a game that not only captured the excitement of the action genre, but also strove for historical accuracy in depicting combat in World War II. In the game, the characters take part in many real-life missions in real-life locations. Medal of Honor also included an innovative multiplayer system that has since become an industry standard for first person shooters. The game was a massive success upon release and has spawned many sequels, the series ongoing to this day.

4. He Established The USC Shoah Foundation

Being a devout Jewish man, making Schindler's List had a profound affect on the director. Striving for historical accuracy, Spielberg conducted extensive interviews with the actual Holocaust survivors portrayed in the film. Deeply moved by their stories, Spielberg videotaped their testimony and sought to make it available to the public.

Afterwards, Spielberg and many others sought out other survivors of the WWII atrocities, carefully interviewing each witness and cataloging their testimony. From this library of personal tragedies came the USC Shoah Foundation, which seeks to preserve the memories of some of the greatest tragedies in history, including the Holocaust, Rwandan Massacre, and other instances of genocide. Spielberg has personally cited this as his life's greatest work.

The USC Shoah Foundation continues its archival work to this day, with all the testimonies available not just for USC students to view, but anyone willing to watch. Be sure to check out their page.

5. He Refused To Be Paid For Schindler's List

Steven Spielberg holds the 'Girl in Red' on the set of 'Schindler's List'
Steven Spielberg holds the 'Girl in Red' on the set of 'Schindler's List'

Spielberg's Jewish heritage has been one of the central influences in his life, so much so that he refused to accept any payment for the making of Schindler's List. In spite of his popular entertainment, the Holocaust was always a subject Spielberg wanted to bring to film. Opportunity came shortly after he completed shooting Jurassic Park, and he headed to Poland to direct. Though the movie was a massive undertaking for the director, he requested not to be paid for it, feeling it would be inappropriate given the stories he was telling.

Schindler's List remains Spielberg's most critically acclaimed and socially important film, and is no less powerful than when it was first released. This is in large part due to its director, who took this film very seriously from first shot to last. In spite of the massive emotional strain on him and his heavy workload (he was working on post production of Jurassic Park at the same time) Spielberg didn't accept a single cent.

Steven Spielberg dresses as an old woman for halloween on the set of 'ET'.
Steven Spielberg dresses as an old woman for halloween on the set of 'ET'.

There are many things that draw people to Spielberg, not the least of them is the man himself. He collects things he loves, works hard and fast, loves to play a good game, and takes his religion and heritage to heart. In interviews he always comes across as friendly and unpretentious — a man not wanting to stroke his ego, but share his memories with his viewers. Love of Spielberg sometimes masks that he is in many ways the quintessential everyman who watched their dreams come true, and he's always eager to have us join him.

Fans of the Jurassic Park franchise will no doubt recall of the awesome deaths that have taken place. Check them all out below:

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