Spielberg discusses his career with Ken Burns at the National Archives in November 2013.
An actors’ director
For me, the second fact is just as remarkable as the first. While Spielberg is rightly lauded for his technical abilities, for his skill in tapping into the zeitgeist and giving the public exactly what they want (before they even knew they wanted it) and also for his long-standing collaborations with John Williams, Michael Kahn and Janusz Kaminski, I feel that his work with actors is vastly underrated.
Aside from Day-Lewis’ stunning performance, I was hugely impressed by the entire ensemble cast of “Lincoln”. This should not be a surprise considering the ensemble performances in the likes of “E.T.”, “The Color Purple”, “Schindler’s List” or “Munich”. To consider that these films feature astonishing performances by Henry Thomas, Oprah Winfrey, Ralph Fiennes and Eric Bana, amongst numerous others, is a testament to Spielberg’s ability with actors.
Indeed, Spielberg is equally adept at eliciting brilliant lead performances such as Christian Bale in “Empire of the Sun” (his career-best performance in my opinion), Whoopi Goldberg in ”The Color Purple” and, perhaps the most underrated of all, Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. In each of the four “Indy” films, Ford always manages to convincingly play both the action hero and academic sides of the world’s favourite archaeologist.
I believe that Spielberg is an actors’ director equal to that of any film-maker who is widely regarded for the performances featured in their films.