Sally Field on How Potential Date With Steven Spielberg Led to 50-Year Friendship: “I Can’t Imagine My Life Without Him”
Steven Spielberg focused a lens on his family history in The Fabelmans so it was fitting that Thursday’s Palm Springs Film Awards saw someone he loves like family take the stage to honor his team with a Vanguard Award.
Sally Field, who starred as Mary Todd Lincoln opposite Oscar winner Daniel Day-Lewis’ Abraham Lincoln in Spielberg’s 2012 film Lincoln, kicked off her tribute by attempting to recall the exact moment she met the filmmaker. “Somewhere in the ‘70s, I think — he’ll correct me,” Field admitted. (And Spielberg did, by revealing that their paths crossed at a party in 1968.)
The reason for their initial meeting? A potential date.
“My newly acquired business manager wanted me to meet one of his clients and wanted me to go to Universal for a supposed ‘meeting’ because he thought the two of us would really hit it off,” continued Field, who is also in town for the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s opening night festivities that feature a screening of her new film 80 for Brady. “And though we never actually went on a date together, my beloved Steven Spielberg has never left my life. For almost 50 years — is it really? — we have gone through this life that’s been filled with good and bad, the laughter and the angst. He has been my biggest supporter and a constantly welcoming place.”
Field then went on to praise Spielberg for the singular mark he has made on culture through his wide-ranging filmography.
“I honestly can’t imagine my life without him at this point, but I can’t imagine our country, much less the industry, had Steven Spielberg never held a camera in his hands. His vision, his sense of humor and fun, of terror and entertainment, his humanity and heart has been woven into the whole world’s consciousness,” she said, before calling out dialogue from his films like Jaws, E.T. and Raiders of the Lost Ark. “We smile when we hear someone say, ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat.’ Or, ‘Phone home.’ Or, ‘Snakes…why did it have to be snakes?’”
She continued: “For almost six decades, he has terrified, touched and enthralled the entire planet. His art is so deeply in our blood that it’s easy to take him for granted. Like we don’t know his breathing to nod when we hear his name and overlook how impossible and how unequal his career has been and always will be.”
Spielberg and his Fabelmans collaborators arrived on stage to accept their trophies as they were greeted by a standing ovation from the Convention Center audience on a night that saw awards going to Austin Butler, Cate Blanchett, Colin Farrell, Viola Davis, Brendan Fraser, Danielle Deadwyler, Bill Nighy, Michelle Yeoh and Sarah Polley.
Spielberg was accompanied by his producer Kristie Macosko Krieger and Fabelmans castmembers Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Seth Rogen, Gabriel LaBelle, Judd Hirsch, Julia Butters, Sam Rechner and Keeley Karsten.
Before turning his attention to the experience of making the film and his own family, Spielberg thanked Field for the kind words and said her work in Lincoln (for which she received an Oscar nom) is “one of the best performances of your long Oscar-winning career.” He added: “Sally has been part of my family, part of our lives and she went to our wedding 31 years ago and she’s been everywhere with us and we with her.”
About The Fabelmans, Spielberg said it wasn’t easy telling a story that he’d actually lived by returning to those memories, some of them painful, and then having to put it all on film.
“But I knew that if I was going to make this movie, I’d have to work very hard just to keep it as honest as possible, and without the talent and commitment of this film family, I can never have put my real family on film,” he said. “I tell people all the time that filmmaking is a collaborative party and that’s never been more true than it has been with this film. The cast and crew took the journey home with me to help me make my first movie about coming home.”
He then corrected himself: “Well, the second movie about coming home. The first one was E.T. who got home. So, this is the sequel to E.T. where I come home and every day, because of everybody up here, I was surrounded by love and support.”