A long way to top Cannes post

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STEVEN Spielberg. RUBEN NEPALES

HOLLYWOOD—Steven Spielberg, named head of the Cannes Film Festival jury on Wednesday, is a Hollywood legend and one of modern cinema’s most influential filmmakers.

The 66-year-old was named to the prestigious post days after his second disappointing awards season in two years, with his top-tipped drama “Lincoln” going home with only two Oscars out of 12 nominations last weekend. Cannes, the world’s top festival, will be held on the French Riviera from May 15 to 26.

Spielberg has directed more than 50 films in his five-decade career, including pop culture touchstones “Jaws,” “ET,” “Indiana Jones” and “Jurassic Park.” His movies  have raked in over $4 billion at the box office, according to Boxofficemojo. He last won a Best Director Oscar 14 years ago for “Saving Private Ryan.”

Born in Ohio in December 1946 and raised in Arizona, Spielberg is the oldest of four children born to a Jewish engineer and a musician mother. He made his first movie, “The Last Gun,” at age 12, an eight-minute Western that he financed with proceeds from a tree-planting business.

Spielberg went to a university near Los Angeles but dropped out and began hanging around Universal Studios, where he became a tour guide. He was spotted by a screenwriter who taught him film techniques. When he was 22, after his short film “Amblin” won a prize, Universal gave him a seven-year contract making TV shows.

He made the classic TV suspense movie “Duel” in 1971, the story of a traveling salesman being pursued by a psychopath in a truck, which was so well-received that it was released in theaters. His career took off and he became a household name in 1975 with his second  movie, the risky shark thriller “Jaws,” which launched the tradition of the summer blockbuster.

A string of mega-successes followed: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977), “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981), “Poltergeist” and “ET” (1982) and “Jurassic Park” (1993).

He came into his own in the field after he produced the 1985 blockbuster “Back to the Future.” He soon became one of Hollywood’s richest, most powerful movie moguls. His estimated net worth is $3.2 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

Spielberg has also made several movies close to his heart, including “The Color Purple” (1985), “Schindler’s List” (1993), “Amistad” (1997) and “Munich” (2005).

He is married to actress Kate Capshaw, with whom he has five children. He has another child with his first wife, Amy Irving. AFP

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