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Spielberg on Spielberg: 'I Have a Lot More Patience Than I Ever Gave Myself Credit For'

For a recent episode of "Oprah's Next Chapter," Oprah visited Steven Spielberg in the same Dreamworks office where she'd auditioned for "The Color Purple" almost 30 years before. There, she and the acclaimed filmmaker sat down to chat about his newest project, "Lincoln." During the course of their conversation, other topics came up -- such as how Spielberg's children have impacted his work over the years...

OPRAH: I've seen the film ["Lincoln"] now twice. Saw it again last night. The first time I saw it, I woke up the next morning and I was still filled with it. And every time I speak of it, it makes my eyes water. I can't imagine what it took to bring that to life. And I want to know: How long did you dream this dream of "Lincoln"?

STEVEN: Well, I've been dreaming the dream of Lincoln like a lot of kids do when they're in school. When I was younger, my Uncle Bernard took me to the Lincoln Memorial and I saw Lincoln sitting in his chair for the first time. And it absolutely terrified me. Because it was just so massive.

OPRAH: Right.

STEVEN: Colossal. And I was so small. When my uncle saw that I was frightened, we left. I turned around and looked at the face of Lincoln and I suddenly wasn't frightened anymore. It was one of those things. The wisdom and comfort and father figure for me at that moment.

OPRAH: As an African-American, you can't imagine how emotional the film is. As an African-American, what is so moving to me is the line where he says, "Not just for the 4 million, but for the generations to come."

STEVEN: Yes. Exactly.

OPRAH: As I sit in that theater, I recognize I am a part of "the generations to come." I wonder: Has there been a moment when you yourself literally cried about it?

STEVEN: Daniel [Day-Lewis, who plays Lincoln in the film] always made me cry. He got those tears rolling a number of times on the film.

OPRAH: Any particular scene?

STEVEN: I think the first time was when he gave his very long and important explanation of why he needed to get the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery passed as Constitutional law. That was the first time I kind of needed to go into the other room.

OPRAH: Really?

STEVEN: So nobody could see how I was feeling. Because that's not a good thing.

OPRAH: When the director becomes emotional.

STEVEN: Not a good thing, no. My emotion about Lincoln came the closer I got to him as a man. I began to feel really choked up when I first realized how he really suffered. [It] almost seems to me that he saw way out there, a little bit like Martin Luther King saw, to the horizon.

OPRAH: Okay, would you have done this without Daniel Day-Lewis?

STEVEN: For a time I was going do it with Liam Neeson. But then, you know, we just decided to move in two different directions. I was sitting around at home one day realizing I'm never going to make "Lincoln." It's just never going to happen. And Leo DiCaprio came over for dinner that night; it was just my wife and Leo and myself. We were sitting around and Leo said, "What's happening with Lincoln? You've been, what, five years on this thing?" And I said, "Longer." I told Leo the whole story, and I told him I had tried to approach Daniel on another screenplay and I wasn't able to re-approach Daniel. And the next day, my assistant said "Leo's on the phone." He said, "You got a pencil? Write this down. This is Daniel Day-Lewis's cell phone. He's expecting your call." Leo had gone to bat for me and had called Daniel on the telephone and got Daniel and I together. Everything at that point started really moving quickly.

Steven Spielberg's movies have grossed over 8.5 billion dollars -- more than any other filmmaker. He's written, produced or directed over 100 films. Yet he's revealed little of himself in his 40-year career...

OPRAH: Everything that's been said and written about you... we still really don't know who you are. Would you say that the best of yourself is in your films?

STEVEN: I think the best of myself is at the dinner table with my kids and my wife. And my parents and my sisters. I think that's the best -- and my close friends. I think that's the best of me.

OPRAH: Wow. What has seven kids taught you about yourself?

STEVEN: One thing they've certainly taught me is that I have a lot more patience than I ever gave myself credit for.

OPRAH: Mm hmm.

STEVEN: You develop that quickly when you start having kids one after the other. The other thing they really taught me about myself was that I tend to think of them when I'm working: "What about this project is going to attract them? What will appeal to them? What will leave them with something? Is there any value in the story I'm telling beyond superficial entertainment value?" And I never asked myself that question until I began having kids.

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