Meet Sawyer Spielberg, Steven Spielberg's son taking a bite out of Hollywood with 'Honeydew'

Brian Truitt, USA TODAY
·5 min read

After spending his childhood around Indiana Jones and the rest of his dad’s creations, Sawyer Spielberg’s finally making his mark in Hollywood with his first lead role in a movie. And he knows an Indy moment when he sees it.

In his new horror film “Honeydew,” Spielberg, 29, and co-star Malin Barr play young lovers who in one scene are strapped together back-to-back on a raised post while villains engage in nefarious acts and a chest holds precious cargo.

Spielberg doesn’t know for sure if writer/director Devereux Milburn meant to pay homage to “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the classic film directed by the actor’s iconic father Steven. (You know, that other Spielberg.) But filming the scene in freezing New England temperatures in the middle of the night with Barr, the similarity was not lost on the younger Spielberg, who made sure to quote Harrison Ford's globetrotting archaeologist for the occasion.

“I remember one point I turned over and said to Malin, ‘Whatever you do, don't look! Close your eyes!’” says the son of Steven Spielberg and actress Kate Capshaw. “We were all losing our minds in a very fun, creative way."

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Before starring in "Honeydew," Sawyer Spielberg spent a good decade in the New York theater scene.
Before starring in "Honeydew," Sawyer Spielberg spent a good decade in the New York theater scene.

In the backwoods thriller “Honeydew” (in theaters and on video-on-demand platforms now), a cross between “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” Spielberg and Barr's characters break down in a rural area, a strange old lady named Karen (Barbara Kingsley) invites them in for some home cooking and things just get absolutely freaky from there.

“It’ll really come home with you,” Spielberg, admittedly "a huge horror/thriller guy,” tells USA TODAY via Zoom from Brooklyn, New York. “I have friends who are still thinking about it, who saw it back in October, and they're all resentful of me. They're like, ‘Oh, thanks for that.’ There's going to be a lot more vegetarians after this one.”

Here are five things you need to know about the newest Spielberg in the spotlight:

Being in films wasn’t a huge goal for Sawyer Spielberg

Instead of starring in movies, “I always thought I'd be producing or doing something behind the scenes,” Spielberg says. Growing up around movie sets, “I always felt like acting was just a lot of waiting around and there wasn't enough action.” He found "constant" action on stage: Spielberg moved to New York at 18 to attend acting school and has loved theater ever since. “What the audience can give you has always energized me in a big way.” However, doing various film and TV work, “I’ve learned to appreciate it more,” says Spielberg, who's in England filming a secret new TV series.

Sawyer Avery Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg and Destry Allyn Spielberg attend the 55th New York Film Festival screening of "Spielberg" at Alice Tully Hall on Oct. 5, 2017, in New York City.
Sawyer Avery Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Steven Spielberg and Destry Allyn Spielberg attend the 55th New York Film Festival screening of "Spielberg" at Alice Tully Hall on Oct. 5, 2017, in New York City.

He’s worked with Steven Spielberg on and off screen

Sawyer Spielberg was a teenage crew member on the set of his father’s 2008 adventure “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull," and his jobs ranged from barista to runner to production assistant. “I was at an age where I was very aware of everything. That was a movie that I remember taking in all those experiences,” he says. And when making 2017’s “The Post,” Steven Spielberg recruited his son to play a Vietnam vet and protestor for a quick monologue scene. “It was like 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. and I was back home with my dog,” says Sawyer Spielberg.

Father and son have “a great relationship, so it's pretty easy to work with him.” That doesn’t mean he gets to see his dad’s movies early, though: “He likes to keep things private until they're finally ready and share them with everybody, and then we all go support him.”

Kate Capshaw and Harrison Ford star in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," the movie where Capshaw met future husband Steven Spielberg.
Kate Capshaw and Harrison Ford star in "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom," the movie where Capshaw met future husband Steven Spielberg.

But his mom was his biggest inspiration

Spielberg loves talking about Capshaw because “my mom is a big part of my career,” he says. Capshaw, who first met Steven Spielberg when he cast her opposite Harrison Ford in 1984’s “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” has always been “very supportive” of her son. “Watching her act as I was growing up, that was a really nice influence for me, to see how confidently she handled herself in front of the camera.”

For the record, his parents have seen “Honeydew” and “gave me their blessing,” Spielberg says, even though it’s a pretty messed-up horror flick. “Yeah, enjoy it, Mom and Dad! Hope you're doing well. This is what I'm working on!”

Riley (Malin Barr) wonders about their host's home cooking while Sam (Sawyer Spielberg) chows down in "Honeydew."
Riley (Malin Barr) wonders about their host's home cooking while Sam (Sawyer Spielberg) chows down in "Honeydew."

Like his ‘Honeydew’ character, Spielberg is a fan of eating

His character Sam is an actor who’s trying to stay thin and keep his cholesterol down. Much to the chagrin of his girlfriend Riley, he goes to town on steak and cupcakes Karen enthusiastically suggests he eat. During filming, “I had an option to spit it out after each take, but I love food so I ate every bite,” he says with a laugh. “There was one moment where I think I ate probably 20 to 30 pieces of corn during the dinner scene. I didn't have to go on my lunch break afterwards.”

Sawyer Spielberg (left) takes down Antonio Sigillo at Radical MMA NYC in a 2016 AP photo.
Sawyer Spielberg (left) takes down Antonio Sigillo at Radical MMA NYC in a 2016 AP photo.

He’s also really into Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Spielberg was all about sports before he caught the acting bug as a teenager. “Baseball was my jam for a while,” he says, and growing up in LA meant being into skateboarding and longboarding. Surfing’s still a must as a grownup but so is jiu-jitsu, which has been “a big part of my life” for six years, he says. He trains at a New York academy, “but my last class there was in February because the pandemic hit. Because it's such a contact sport, you can't really train right now.”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Sawyer Spielberg, Steven Spielberg's son, stars in scary 'Honeydew'