Steven Spielberg Paul Dano

Steven Spielberg is about to call Paul Dano “daddy.”

OK, probably not literally – that would be weird and likely unprofessional – but figuratively. That’s because Spielberg is making a movie inspired by his own childhood, and he has hired Dano to play a fictional version of Spielberg’s own father, Arnold Spielberg. Here’s what we know so far.

Spielberg’s new movie, which is still untitled, will be loosely based on his own childhood growing up in Arizona in the late 1950s and early ’60s, around the time that he first began making movies with a Super 8 camera. Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea, Venom) will be playing a character inspired by Spielberg’s mother, and Variety reports that Dano (There Will Be Blood, Ruby Sparks) will be playing a man inspired by Spielberg’s father. Their characters will be raising a young boy inspired by Spielberg himself, but who will not be named Steven in the movie. Seth Rogen (This is the End, An American Pickle) is set to play Spielberg’s favorite uncle.

As has been covered widely in books about the director and the HBO documentary about his life, Arnold Spielberg and Leah Posner split up a year after Steven graduated from high school, and their divorce is one of the defining events of his life. It’s clear that he’ll be pulling from his own experiences for this movie, but it seems likely that the timeline and specific events won’t be exactly the same; perhaps the film will track the dissolution of that marriage through Dano and Williams’ performances in the background, while our young protagonist is making movies with his friends in the foreground. Both of them are excellent at playing internal, contemplative, occasionally repressed characters who are prone to explosions of emotion, so it should be a treat to see what they all come up with together.

Spielberg will co-write the script alongside the Oscar-nominated screenwriter Tony Kushner, who has become one of the filmmaker’s go-to guys over the past 10 years. Kushner previously wrote the scripts for Munich, Lincoln, West Side Story, and Spielberg’s still-unmade The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara. The director has previously only written for three of his own movies: 2001’s A.I. – Artificial Intelligence (which he picked up after Stanley Kubrick’s death), 1977’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and he wrote the story for 1974’s The Sugarland Express.

Production begins this summer, with a release planned for sometime in 2022.

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