Steven Spielberg (‘The Fabelmans’) could earn his first ever screenplay bid at the Oscars

Throughout his long career, Steven Spielberg has received a total of 19 Oscar nominations (and three wins) in the categories of Best Picture and Best Director. This year it looks like he’ll be recognized for the very first time as a writer in the category of Best Original Screenplay for “The Fabelmans.”

Spielberg’s latest film is loosely based on his childhood growing up in a post-World War II era Arizona. Shown from age 7 to 18, Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) discovers a shattering family secret and explores how the power of movies help us see the truth about each other and ourselves.

Writing screenplays is something Spielberg himself rarely does. He previously received story credit on 1973’s “Ace Eli and Rodger of the Skies” as well as 1985’s “The Goonies.” He also had a shared story credit with Hal Barwood and Matthew Robbins on his feature directorial debut, 1974’s “The Sugarland Express.” Spielberg also wrote the screenplays for 1977’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and 2001’s “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.” And he had a shared story credit on 1982’s “Poltergeist,” whose screenplay he also co-wrote with Michael Grais and Mark Victor.

Of those efforts, the Writers Guild of America nominated Spielberg for “The Sugarland Express.” He went on to receive a second WGA nomination two years later for “Close Encounters,” for which he also garnered bids from the Golden Globes and BAFTA. However, neither of those films resulted in him getting writing nominations from the academy.

“The Fabelmans” marks Spielberg’s fourth collaboration with screenwriter Tony Kushner following 2005’s “Munich,” 2012’s “Lincoln,” and 2021’s “West Side Story.” Kushner received Best Adapted Screenplay bids for each of those films with the exception of “West Side Story.” Kushner, who has been heralded as one of the best writers of any medium working today, is overdue for an Oscar at this point. So the fact that he co-wrote “The Fabelmans” with Spielberg could help a lot. As we’ve seen in recent years, if the director has also written the script, academy members tend to put their votes there in the writing categories: for the last 11 years in a row Best Original Screenplay has been won by the film’s director.

According to the combined predictions of Gold Derby users as of this writing, “The Fabelmans” is in second place for a nomination in this category with 4/1 odds. It is only behind “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which has 18/5 odds. The latter film could benefit from being seen as more original. After all, originality has certainly been a key factor for previous winners in Best Original Screenplay such as 2013’s “Her,” 2017’s “Get Out,” and 2020’s “Promising Young Woman.”

Then again, not every single champion from this past decade has necessarily had the most original concept. In 2018 “The Favourite” was the odds on favorite (pun intended) to win for its original, offbeat approach to British history. Yet it was beaten by the Best Picture winner of that year, “Green Book.” And last year “Belfast” managed to pull ahead in this category on Oscar night over arguably more original films such as “Don’t Look Up” and “Licorice Pizza.”

Like “The Fabelmans,” “Belfast” was inspired by the childhood of its writer/director Kenneth Branagh. So given that “Fabelmans” is currently predicted to win Best Picture and Best Director, the film could also take Best Original Screenplay as part of its final haul. Some could argue that academy members don’t need to give Spielberg every single award he’s eligible for. But that didn’t stop Alejandro González Iñárritu (2014’s “Birdman”) or Bong Joon Ho (2019’s “Parasite”) from sweeping when they had multiple noms.

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