Oscar nominee profile: Steven Spielberg (‘The Fabelmans’) seeks 3rd directing win on 9th bid

Since becoming one of 21 two-time Best Director Oscar winners with victories for “Schindler’s List” (1993) and “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), Steven Spielberg has been given four shots at following Frank Capra, John Ford and William Wyler as the category’s fourth triple champion. Although he had no luck on his bids for “Munich” (2005), “Lincoln” (2012) or “West Side Story” (2021), academy voters may now feel especially compelled to reward him for “The Fabelmans” (2022), which serves as a slightly fictionalized yet palpably honest account of his own childhood. After a quarter century of only being invited to the Oscars stage as a presenter, the time may be right to put some gold back in the legendary filmmaker’s hands.

Spielberg is the only veteran directing nominee in this year’s lineup, which also includes Todd Field (“TAR”), Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”), Martin McDonagh (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) and Ruben Ostlund (“Triangle of Sadness”). Ostlund and the Daniels are general first-time Oscar contenders, while Field and McDonagh are simply new to this category. The two past nominees have a collective total of seven previous bids, one of which resulted in a Live Action Short win for McDonagh’s “Six Shooter” (2004).

“The Fabelmans” is primarily set in the early 1960s, at a time when Spielberg – represented here by Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle) – was navigating adolescence and beginning to develop his moviemaking craft. Most of the story focuses on Sammy’s relationships with his free-spirited mother, Mitzi (Michelle Williams), and straight-laced father, Burt (Paul Dano), whose opposing worldviews leave their son torn when it comes to forging his own life path.

“The Fabelmans” is up for a total of seven awards, including Best Actress (Williams), Best Supporting Actor (Judd Hirsch), Best Production Design and Best Score. As one of its writers and producers, Spielberg is also nominated for Best Original Screenplay with Tony Kushner and Best Picture alongside Kushner and Kristie Macosko Krieger. This is his 12th nomination for the academy’s top prize and fortifies his position as that category’s most-recognized individual, which he has held since 2016. His sole producing victory to date came for “Schindler’s List.”

Spielberg’s first three directing nominations were for the blockbusters “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981) and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982). Decades later, the 76-year-old ranks as the eighth oldest directing nominee ever, just three years behind present record holder John Huston (“Prizzi’s Honor,” 1985). If he does achieve his third win here, he will supplant Clint Eastwood (74, “Million Dollar Baby,” 2004) as the category’s all-time oldest victor.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Oscar nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2022 Best Picture nominees.

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