Steven Spielberg tells Martin Scorsese why a very special director made The Fabelmans, and how Laura Dern convinced David Lynch to play John Ford

“I’ve been very private about my private life, and I haven’t made my private life public until now,” Steven Spielberg said Sunday. It was the existential threat of the Covid pandemic at its deadliest in 2020 that propelled his family’s deeply personal story to the big screen.

“What I thought was if I had to make another movie, if I had to tell another story, what would that story be? That’s why I decided to put this into production,” he told Martin Scorsese in a Q&A after a screening in New York City. Fablemans at the DGA Theatre.

“My mom and I had a secret for a long time, and my mom always said to me, ‘G Steve, this is going to be a really great movie. Why don’t you do it someday. So I had it come to me on the part of and Tony Kosher, who had heard the stories and was kind of pushing for it.” He refers to the award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and longtime collaborator who co-writes Alfabelmanas well as a central plot point between the mother and son in the film.

Aspiring young director Sam Fabelman plays Gabriel Labelle. Michelle Williams and Paul Dano are his parents. Seth Rogen and Judd Hirsch also star in the worldwide version, currently in theaters.

When asked about the film’s origin story, Spielberg told Scorsese that feelings of loss and loneliness following the deaths of his parents in recent years had led him to get really serious about setting his story up. He and Kushner wrote the script but “I had no intention of doing it…and I’d be happy to put it in a drawer somewhere. But Covid gave me a lot of time to think about it. And especially when Covid was really bad.” “By the time we’ve lost 500,000 Americans, not to mention millions around the world… Was it really a foregone conclusion that this wasn’t a life-ending event?”

Scorsese also wanted a great David Lynch theatrical background story playing John Ford, the inspiration for Sam Fabelman. Ford gives brief but memorable advice at the end of the film and the beginning of the young man’s career.

“I was looking for a new actor personally and was going to ask him to stand in for John Ford,” Spielberg said. Before he did, Kosher’s husband, Mark Harris, suggested he ask David Lynch to “and go off the light bulb.”

Lynch was highly flattered, but declined. “He said he wasn’t an actor, he had other projects, and John Ford was great, what if he didn’t hold up to that standard? He was kind of shy about it.”

Lynch softened when he learned that Spielberg and his wife had become passionate about Transcendental Meditation through the Lynch Foundation. But he said no. So I went to my best friend, Laura Dern. “You have to talk David into doing it. You have two weeks to talk to him about this.”

When the two directors spoke afterward,” he said, “I decided I’d do it on one condition… I want to get the costume two weeks before I have time to live.” I said, ‘You mean you’re going to wear it?’ He said, ‘Yeah, every day. The hat.'” [eye] Correct everything. “He showed up in a very poor costume,” Spielberg said.

“And the time it takes to light that cigar?” Scorsese asked. It was a comically slow process.

“This is one of the things we all know about the magic of film editing, you can make anything last as long as you want,” Spielberg said.

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