Steven Spielberg’s autobiographical ‘The Fabelmans’ preps its awards-season strategy

Quick, run the vacuum and tidy up the living room, “The Fabelmans” are coming early. Who are “The Fabelmans”? Why, they’re just a stand-in for Steven Spielberg’s family in his forthcoming, memoir-ish film, one of the more unusual projects from the Oscar-winning director in his 50+ year career. (Unusual for him, that is. Many auteurs get their “this is my childhood” picture out of their system early on, debut it at Sundance, then start booking gigs in Hollywood, not the other way around.)

The Hollywood Reporter has reported that “The Fabelmans” will open in Los Angeles and New York on November 11, one week before the rest of the country. This kind of old-school platform release from Universal suggests a significant Oscar play. It’s not far-fetched to think the movie might have its world premiere at the New York Film Festival, which runs from September 30 through October 16th, then hit the AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles, which runs from November 2 through November 6, right before the release. That’s the same trajectory “Lincoln” took.

“The Fabelmans,” which boasts a rare Spielberg co-writing credit (alongside frequent collaborator Tony Kushner) is set in post-war Arizona, where the “Indiana Jones” and “E.T.” creator grew up. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano play the stand-ins for Spielberg’s parents, Seth Rogen is the “cool uncle” and Judd Hirsch and Jeannie Berlin are (probably) the grandparents. David Lynch is also in the cast in a small role. The usual Spielberg crew is on board, including Janusz Kaminski as cinematographer, Michael Kahn (with Sarah Broshar) as editor, and John Williams composing the score. Gabriel LaBelle plays “Sammy,” the young man at the center of the film, and Julia Butters plays his sister. In reality, Spielberg has three younger sisters, but if you blend them all into one character this way you can portray her doing something bad and everyone can claim it wasn’t them. Smart!

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