Steven Spielberg has found his latest young discovery, as Gabriel LaBelle is in negotiations to play the lead in the Oscar-winning filmmaker’s coming-of-age movie inspired by his own formative years in Arizona.
Paul Dano and four-time Oscar nominee Michelle Williams are set to play the boy’s parents, while Seth Rogen will co-star as a character modeled after Spielberg‘s favorite uncle. The director is co-writing the script with his frequent collaborator Tony Kushner (Munich, Lincoln) and it will be the first film Spielberg has taken a co-writing credit on since A.I., a project he inherited from Stanley Kubrick. Spielberg, Kushner and Kristie Macosko Krieger are producing the film for Amblin Partners, which expects production to start in July in advance of a 2022 release. Though the film is officially untitled as of now, the rumored title appears to be The Fabelmans according to a recent casting call.
Deadline broke the news, reporting that LaBelle will play the protagonist as a teenager, though another actor is expected to play the character as a young boy. Spielberg is also casting several young actors to play his various friends over the years, as the director truly valued his early friendships as a kid. Spielberg would later develop a knack for working with young actors including E.T. stars Henry Thomas and Drew Barrymore, Christian Bale (Empire of the Sun) and Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds) as well as Jurassic Park duo Joseph Mazello and Ariana Richards. Spielberg also looks to have struck casting gold with West Side Story star Rachel Zegler, based on the upcoming film’s first trailer. Only time will tell whether he has done so yet again with LaBelle in this very personal picture.
In the late ’50s and early ’60s, Spielberg spent his formative years in Phoenix, Arizona, and it was his experience making 8mm movies in his backyard that led to him becoming the best-known filmmaker in the world. Though it’s unclear whether his new film will be a period piece, it is expected to draw from his relationship with his parents, who got divorced after the family moved to California while Steven was still in high school. He wound up moving in with his father, though the two had a strained relationship until they hashed things out later in life. Spielberg also faced anti-Semitism while living in Phoenix, and I think it’s safe to expect those themes to play a part in this film, as the director’s work can’t help but be influenced by his own life.
LaBelle previously appeared in Shane Black‘s The Predator and he has two new promising TV shows on the horizon — Showtime‘s American Gigolo series, in which he plays the younger version of Jon Bernthal‘s character, and Netflix‘s genre series Brand New Cherry Flavor from Nick Antosca and Lenore Zion. LaBelle is represented by Canopy Media Partners as well as Vancouver-based Play Management.