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Cincinnati Native Steven Spielberg To Write And Direct A Film About His Childhood

Steven Spielberg, born in Cincinnati in 1946, will co-write and direct a film loosely based on his childhood after the family moved to Arizona in 1957.
U.S. Defense Department
Steven Spielberg, born in Cincinnati in 1946, will co-write and direct a film loosely based on his childhood after the family moved to Arizona in 1957.

Cincinnati native Steven Spielberg is writing a screenplay which he'll direct loosely based on his childhood.

However, the film will be set in Arizona, where the Spielberg family moved in 1957 when he was 10.

Steven Allan Spielberg was born Dec. 18, 1946, in Cincinnati to Arnold and Leah Posner Spielberg, an Orthodox Jewish couple living on Lexington Avenue in Avondale.

Arnold, a Hughes High School graduate, studied electrical engineering at the University of Cincinnati and worked as co-op at the Crosley Corp. after serving in World War II. He turned down a job with Crosley after graduating and moved the family in 1949 to New Jersey, where he worked for RCA in Camden. He joined General Electric in 1956 to work on mainframe computers.

Leah was a Walnut Hills High School graduate who studied piano at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, now part of UC. They divorced in 1965 when Steven was 19.

The filmmaker told 60 Minutesin 2012 that at age 16 – after being bullied for being Jewish and nerdy – his life changed when his father gave him a video camera. He "found a way to accept myself ... I found that I could do something well," he said.

Deadline reportsthat "throughout the years, Spielberg has talked about how growing up in Arizona was an inspiration for so many of his films from story themes to actual characters." Seth Rogen will play young Spielberg's favorite uncle, and Michelle Williams will play his mother, Deadline says.

Spielberg is co-writing the script with Tony Kushner, who did screenplays for Spielberg's West Side Story(due out later this year) and Lincoln,Deadline says.

It's possible the Oscar-winning director's autobiographical film could reference his Cincinnati maternal grandmother, Jennie Posner, and Cincinnati's Jewish community, which made a profound impression on him.

"My grandmother taught English to Hungarian Holocaust survivors when I was only 3 years old, living in Cincinnati," he told Turner Classic Movies' documentary, Spielberg on Spielberg, in 2007. "I learned my numbers based on all the numbers they had tattooed on their arms (from Nazi concentration camps). And I had one man that used to say, "That's a 2. That's a 5,' " Spielberg said, pointing to his arm.

One of his grandmother's students did a "magic trick" by turning his arm different directions.

"He said, 'This is a 6. Now it's a 9.' I'll never forget that."

In a 1993 CBS interview with Connie Chung, he said the inspiration to make Schindler's List, his Oscar-winning movie about the Holocaust, came from his mother.

"I was very ashamed when I was a child of being Jewish. And this film has kind of come along with me on this journey from shame to honor," he told Chung. "My mother said to me one day, she said, 'I really want to be able to see a movie that you make someday that's sort of about us, and about, you know, who we are.' This is it. This is for her."

Schindler's List won seven Academy Awards, including best picture and best director. He called his mother "my lucky charm" in accepting the Oscar for best director in 1994, Variety said.

When his father died last August at age 103, the family posted a lengthy obit detailing Arnold Spielberg's Cincinnati childhoodand career working with computers. Hismother died in 2017 at age 97.

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John Kiesewetter joined the WVXU news team as a TV/Media blogger on July 1 2015, after nearly 30 years covering local and national broadcasting for The Cincinnati Enquirer. He’ll be posting news about Greater Cincinnati TV, radio and movies; updating your favorite former local TV/radio personalities or stars who grew up here; and breaking news about national TV, radio and media trends. You’ll also learn about Cincinnati’s rich broadcasting history.