Spielberg finally gets to graduate ÿ 34 years after dropping out

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The Independent Culture

After winning Oscars, breaking box-office records and earning an honorary knighthood, Steven Spielberg is about to attain a more modest goal that has eluded him for 34 years – he is graduating from college.

Yesterday, Hollywood's golden boy – now a respectably greying 55 – revealed that he re-enrolled at California State University's Long Beach campus last summer and completed the courses in film and electronic arts that he had abandoned in 1968 to pursue his movie career.

He did not attend classes, but he did talk to professors and wrote essays to fulfil the course requirements. Clearly, it was a symbolic gesture, since he knows rather more about cinema than his instructors, many of whom use his films to teach with. In a statement, Mr Spielberg described his bachelor's degree as "my longest post- production schedule".

"I wanted to accomplish this for many years as a 'thank you' to my parents for giving me the opportunity for an education and a career, and as a personal note for my own family – and young people everywhere – about the importance of achieving their college education goals," he said. "But I hope they get there quicker than I did."

In 1965, Mr Spielberg enrolled at Cal State Long Beach after being turned down by the prestigious University of Southern California film school. He gradually lost interest in his formal studies as his directing career took off, first with the short film Amblin – later the name of his production company – and then with his first hits, from Duel to Jaws.

He will attend his graduation ceremony on 31 May, but will not be a speaker or guest of honour. According to Robert Maxson, the president of the university, he just wants to sit among the other graduates.

"It's pretty obvious that his motive in returning to school was not financial or career driven," Mr Maxson said. "It's a wonderful endorsement of college education."

The ceremony will be the start of a busy summer for Spielberg. His futuristic thriller Minority Report comes out in the United States three weeks later, and he is in post-production on another film, Catch Me If You Can, starring Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio.