The Fabelmans Perfectly Recreated Steven Spielberg's Childhood Home, Made Him Break Down

My childhood memories are far hazier than they should be. There have been numerous times in my life when my family will bring up things that I did or happened to me as a kid that I have absolutely no recollection of, or if I do, it's only fleeting, vague images. And it isn't like I'm repressing things either. It's often innocuous things that have just slipped my mind. I remember the major things — moving across the country twice, performing in my first high school play, seeing "Ocean's Thirteen" in the theater — but the day-to-day stuff isn't that crystal clear.

What I do have vivid recollections of are the various houses I lived in growing up. I can remember every address, every home phone number, and the floor plans for each different house. The images of the tiny two steps down into the living room in one or the odd sliding doors to my bedroom that never quite closed properly in another. I can see it all in my head, and if you gave me the opportunity to recreate them, I probably would be very accurate. Not 100% obviously, but a high percentage.

Of course, this doesn't really happen. Well ... unless you are Steven Spielberg making a film about your own coming of age, which is exactly what he did with his most recent film (and the best film of 2022) "The Fabelmans." Part of reconstructing this lightly fictionalized version of his own life meant being able to actually recreate the homes he grew up in from New Jersey to Arizona to California, along with the help from his sisters Anne, Nancy, and Sue. When it was all put together for such a personal project, you'd expect that Spielberg would be quite emotionally moved by it. And he was.

'I wanted to have a good cry'

In the words of Don Draper, "Nostalgia: it's delicate, but potent." We think of nostalgia as wanting to return to a simpler time, which is why we see a barrage of reboots and sequels to properties that came out decades ago because it makes people feel comforted. But nostalgia can also be painful and messy, which is what Steven Spielberg was harnessing in "The Fabelmans." His upbringing came with a lot of familial complications, and he was attacking that head-on, digging into a part of himself he really hadn't before. So, stepping inside a perfect facsimile of the house he grew up in was going to stir up quite a lot inside him, saying to W Magazine:

"We re-created the house I grew up in from blueprints and photographs, and we matched it exactly. I stepped into my childhood home! I wanted to ask everyone to leave me alone in the house, but I didn't do that. I wanted to have a good cry, but I didn't want to cry in front of my entire crew and cast on the first day of interior shooting. Instead, I turned around, and there was Paul [Dano] looking like my dad and Michelle [Williams] looking like my mom, and I just broke down. Paul and Michelle came over and hugged me, and I will never forget that moment: The family was forged in those few seconds."

If I was making a film about my own childhood, I would be more in wonder at the recreation than feeling that emotional connection, but Spielberg has nearly 50 years on me. His distance from those early years is massive, and there's no reason he thought he would be there again. I'm glad he felt the beauty of that moment.