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The Fabelmans Star Gabriel LaBelle Reflects on Immense Pressure of Playing a Young Spielberg
"You don't want to be that guy who ruined Steven Spielberg's life."
For decades, Steven Spielberg has funneled the emotional turbulence of his parents' rocky divorce into seminal films like E.T., Hook, Jurassic Park, and War of the Worlds. The profound wonder of childhood, the inexplicable heartache of broken families, and the reluctant loss of innocence are all iconic thematic staples of the director's celebrated filmography.
While beloved and impeccably crafted, the features mentioned above were simply a way for Spielberg to cathartically process his youth through the prism of genre. It would take nearly half a century before he was ready to tackle the core trauma head-on in The Fabelmans (now available from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment).
Written by Spielberg and Tony Kushner (known for his work on Munich, Lincoln, and West Side Story), the semi-autobiographical project centers around the character of Sammy Fabelman (Gabriel LaBelle), an aspiring filmmaker navigating the trials of divorce, familial relocation, and anti-Semitism. You know, just the silver screen origin story for one of the greatest storytellers who ever lived.
Star Gabriel LaBelle on Reading for The Fabelmans
"The first time I auditioned, I did not know what it was," LaBelle confesses to Empire in the magazine's July 2023 issue (now on sale). "It was an untitled Amblin film. I found out later that it might be a Steven Spielberg movie, about his life, where that character I auditioned for was a young him. I was like, 'Why didn't anybody tell me this? I think it added to the pressure — oh, every filmmaker imaginable is probably going to see this. In a way, it felt like an audition to the world."
Between his first audition and the callback three months later, the young actor did as much research on the legendary filmmaker as he could, "so I can understand what's going on his life." Once LaBelle landed the coveted role, the unimaginable pressure was back on, though he could now go directly to the source.
"I could talk to him about his life and as I got to know him and learn about his family and his story, it was more about making sure my friend Steven could get the story he deserves. That's where the pressure shifted. I know Steven belongs to the public, and I know Steven is an incredible filmmaker, and you don't want to be that guy who ruined Steven Spielberg's life."
The Fabelmans is now available to rent or purchase from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.