Whether it's killer sharks, man-eating dinosaurs, or the horrors of Omaha Beach on D-Day, Spielberg said Sunday night it was all in some way inspired by a train wreck filmed by director Cecil B. DeMille for his movie, "The Greatest Show on Earth."
Spielberg accepted a lifetime achievement accolade that bears DeMille's name during the Golden Globes. His acceptance speech traced his own history in Hollywood, as many of those who he had directed helped heap on the thunderous applause.
Now 62, Spielberg accepted the honor bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association after a highlight reel of his films, including "Jaws," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Schindler's List" and clips from his "Indiana Jones" franchise.
"I'm feeling history tonight," Spielberg said, acknowledging his wife and looking out on an audience that included some of his film's stars, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
The vast majority of times, he has. Certainly in the eyes of friend and fellow director Martin Scorsese, who introduced Spielberg.
"For 40 years he's been inventing and reinventing cinema with each new picture," Scorsese said.
Spielberg, who often recreates history in his films, used the honor to reflect praise back on DeMille, the award's first recipient. It has since been given to a cast of Hollywood royalty, including Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery and fellow director Alfred Hitchcock.
Spielberg has won six Golden Globes and three Oscars, along with lifetime achievement honors from the Directors Guild of America, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute and the Kennedy Center.
While much of Spielberg's acceptance speech focused on history - his own and Hollywood's - he put a special context on his career while chatting backstage. He said clip montages of his films always make him think of family.
"Did I have kids then? How old were they? What grade were they in? All of these movies are like measurements in the road, having to do with my entire life."
By Anthony McCartney