Steven Spielberg Once ‘Hid in the Bathroom Stall’ at the Universal Studios Lot to Freely Explore the Studio as a Teenager

Legendary director Steven Spielberg is behind some of the world’s biggest movies, including Jaws and Saving Private Ryan. However, he didn’t always know that film directing was the right path for him as a teenager. Spielberg was even bold in his youth. He once recalled how he hid in the bathrooms at the Universal Studios lot to explore the lot on his own.

What was Steven Spielberg’s first movie?

Featured image about Steven Spielberg Universal Studios Lot wearing a black coat and a scarf in black-and-white
Steven Spielberg | Rich Fury/Getty Images

Spielberg made his first home movie at 12 years old capturing a toy train wreck. He won his first award in a statewide competition at 13 years old with a 40-minute war film called Escape to Nowhere that starred his classmates. Spielberg enjoyed making 8 mm adventure films throughout his childhood and in high school.

However, Spielberg said to the Directors Guild of America that he wasn’t entirely sure that he wanted to be a film director. “I never had a big thought about what I could do with movies in those days,” Spielberg said. “I was infatuated with the control that movies gave me in creating a sequence of events or a feeling.”

Spielberg continued: “I knew that made me feel really good about my life, and possibly I could bring some other people into this amazing medium, to enjoy what I was putting together.”

Steven Spielberg once hid in the bathroom on the Universal Studios lot

Spielberg set the record straight about whether he started in the film business when he snuck onto the Universal Studios lot. He explained that he snuck onto the studio lot before they hired him to direct any projects. Spielberg was attending high school in Arizona, but he was in Los Angeles visiting his cousins. He took a tour and took advantage of the midday bathroom break.

“So I got off to go to the bathroom and I hid in the stall, and I waited until everybody had left,” Spielberg told the DGA. “I came out a half an hour later and I was free.  I was on the Universal Studios lot.”

Nobody stopped Spielberg from walking around on the Universal Studios lot but that proved to be a significant memory for the iconic film director.

“Nobody stopped me,” Spielberg said. “I met the film librarian, a man named Chuck Silvers, and he thought I had a lot of chutzpa and showed ambition, so he gave me a three-day pass on his own name. So I did that for three days, and then I took a shot that maybe the guard would recognize me without having to show him my papers.”

Spielberg concluded: “And so on the fourth day I walked onto the lot and waved at Scotty, the guard. Scotty waved back and I spent the next two and a half months on the lot five days a week until school began and I had to go back to Phoenix.”

‘West Wide Story’ is coming to theaters

Spielberg’s next movie is the second feature-length adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical West Side Story. The 1961 film version won 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Munich screenwriter Tony Kushner wrote the screenplay for Spielberg’s upcoming adaptation. The cast includes Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler in the lead roles.

West Side Story comes exclusively to theaters on Dec. 10 after coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delays. Awards audiences will have to wait and see how West Side Story stacks up against the several competing musical movies that hit theaters this year, including Tick Tick Boom, In the Heights, and Annette.

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