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Who is Steven Spielberg?

Steven Spielberg, the most commercially successful director in the history of American motion pictures, is the director of the movie Amistad. Spielberg's motion picture career began in 1974, with The Sugarland Express, a fairly dated chase movie of the Smokey and the Bandit flavor starring Goldie Hawn and William Atherton. He had previously directed three television movies (one -- Duel -- also a chase film) and directed for the television series Night Gallery. Commercial success came the next year, with the grandfather of all shark movies, Jaws, with Roy Scheider. Spielberg's first Academy Award nomination came for 1977's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, which did for UFOs what Jaws did for sharks. (Although the special effects of Close Encounters were well advanced for the time, it had the misfortune to be released the same year as Star Wars, which well overshadowed the gadgetry of the former.)

Spielberg's first double-nomination -- for both "Best Producer" and "Best Director" -- came for Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), a comic-book quest through North Africa, complete with Nazis, Biblical re-interpretation, and a cameo apperance by the Wrath of God. Spielberg received two other Oscar nominations in the 1980s, for the merchandising blockbuster E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) and The Color Purple, an adaptation of Alice Walker's novel and Spielberg's first foray into drama.
The year 1993 was very successful. Spielberg directed Jurassic Park, was the highest-grossing film in movie history, and won three Academy Awards for effects. Schindler's List, a historical drama about the Holocaust, won seven Oscars, including Spielberg's first "Best Director" award.

In October 1994, Spielberg teamed up with Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen to form Dreamworks SKG, a multi-media production company. Although Spielberg was clearly the movie expert of the trio, Amistad (1997) will be his directorial debut for the studio.

In addition to the lawsuit over Amistad Spielberg was sued for alleged Twister plagiarism. The plagiarism lawsuit against Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton over the 1996 film Twister ended on Thursday January, 29 1998. The jury in the federal case decided for Spielberg and his co-defendants. Plaintiff Stephen Kessler says he plans to appeal the decision.

Kessler claimed that Spielberg and Crichton had read Kessler's screenplay and copied it in order to produce Spielberg's 1996 film, Twister. On January 21, Crichton testified in the case, claiming he'd never heard of or met Kessler. Chrichton said the film was inspired by a 1984 episode of PBS's "Nova" series and the film His Girl Friday. On January 25, Spielberg testified, denying charges of plagiarism, and that he had never seen nor read Kessler's screenplay, "Catch the Wind." He said his interest in the film stemmed from his "lifelong interest in tornadoes." Kessler caused a stir in the courtroom when, while testifying on January 20th, he brought up the fact that Spielberg was also being sued over Amistad. The judge and Spielberg's attorneys had hoped to keep the Twister jury from hearing about Spielberg's other lawsuit.

The year 1997 has raised many questions. Why wasn't The Lost World: Jurassic Park as good or as successful as its predecessor? Why did Spielberg wait until 1997 to direct his first Dreamworks project? Why, for that matter, did Spielberg bump up the release date of Amistad to 1997? And on top of these questions sit the legal issues surrounding the production and release of Amistad.