Variety learned “The Fabelmans” director had tested positive before the red carpet opened for the annual gala, but Paul Dano confirmed the news when he replaced Spielberg for the Williams tribute.
Dano, who plays Spielberg’s father in “The Fabelmans” opposite Williams as his mother, recalled talking to Williams about their early days in Hollywood while at events for the film.
“Michelle said, ‘I remember just driving around town looking for work,’” he said. “And I thought, ‘Imagine if that teenage girl knew that at the midpoint of her career she’d be seeing a tribute award at the Gothams from none other than Steven Spielberg, and what would she have thought?’”
He continued, “Then I thought, ‘Well, what if we had to tell that girl that Steven got COVID?’ She’d be like, ‘What’s COVID?’ and that ‘Paul Dano was going to introduce you?’ She’d be like, ‘Who the f*ck is Paul Dano?’”
Spielberg was also scheduled to be interviewed by old pal Martin Scorsese at a DGA screening of “The Fabelmans” while in New York for the Gothams. That has been postponed.
When “The Fabelmans” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September, Spielberg said during a press conference that the pandemic prompted him to make the very personal movie. “I remember, as the death toll mounted, we kept watching the reports of what was happening throughout the country and the world and I kept thinking, ‘What is this going to mean for humanity? How far is this pandemic going to actually take us?’” he said. “And I thought, ‘This is something I’ve got to get out of me now.’”
So Spielberg used the free time he had during the height of COVID to hop on Zoom and write the script with Tony Kushner. The final product hasn’t just led to a tribute for Williams’ work as Spielberg’s mom, it has also landed him in the thick of the awards race.