Why The Fabelmans Isn’t Called ‘The Spielbergs’

In the January 2023 issue of Total Film Magazine, Kushner revealed more about the process of mapping out the original draft of “The Fabelmans,” which started taking proper shape in Spring of 2020. “I asked him all the questions that I could think of asking him about,” says Kushner. “And we sort of covered everything in his childhood. It felt overwhelming to both of us. How do we extract a coherent story out of this vast amount of material?”

But life’s nothing like the movies. In order to stuff the most significant memories of Spielberg’s childhood into the flow of a narrative feature film, the only natural solution for Kusher was to reshape, exaggerate, and fictionalize some events in the filmmaker’s life. Kushner explained his dedication to staying true to Spielberg’s story amongst all the artistic freedoms:

“I said, ‘I think I want to take it, and have your permission to play around with it, and move things around, and also really try to figure out motivations and character arcs. I’m going to try to adhere to what you told me, but it’s going to be a work of fiction.'”

The result is something closely personal and semi-autobiographical, but with just enough distance to allow some room for universality. From New Jersey, to Arizona and Northern California, Spielberg’s frequently uprooted and chaotic life comes through, it’s just altered enough to feel freeing. “He said, ‘It’s really weird. It’s my life, but it’s not my life.’ Which I think is exactly the point.” Kushner explained, “It gave him a certain kind of cooling objectivity that he wouldn’t have had otherwise because it’s really his story and his life. And then we boiled it down.”

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