Movie audiences have two train wrecks to thank for the epic visions of Steven Spielberg -- a big one, and a little one.
Whether it's killer sharks, man-eating dinosaurs, or the horrors of Omaha Beach on D-Day, Spielberg said Sunday night it was all in some way inspired by a train wreck filmed by director Cecil B. DeMille for his movie, "The Greatest Show on Earth."
Spielberg accepted a lifetime achievement accolade that bears DeMille's name during the Golden Globes. His acceptance speech traced his own history in Hollywood, as many of those who he had directed helped heap on the thunderous applause.
He recounted how his father took him to see "Greatest Show" in 1952 and that afterward, the young Spielberg resolved to recreate the epic crash with his own model trains. Only after several warnings from his parents -- and committing a crash to 8mm film -- was Spielberg satisfied.
Now 62, Spielberg accepted the honor bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association after a highlight reel of his films, including "Jaws," ''Close Encounters of the Third Kind," ''Schindler's List" and clips from his "Indiana Jones" franchise.
"I'm feeling history tonight," Spielberg said, acknowledging his wife and looking out on an audience that included some of his film's stars, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
"I think what was on my mind when I was risking losing my Lionel train set was me thinking, 'Am I going to get away with this?' he recounted. "That anxiety has been haunting me throughout my entire movie career. Whenever I've tried to tell a risky story, whether it's about sharks or dinosaurs or about aliens or about history, I'll always be thinking, 'Am I going to get away with this?'"
The vast majority of times, he has. Certainly in the eyes of friend and fellow director Martin Scorsese, who introduced Spielberg.
"For 40 years he's been inventing and reinventing cinema with each new picture," Scorsese said.
The lavish praise was another reminder that this was a belated celebration for Hollywood. The DeMille award wasn't presented at last year's stripped-down Golden Globes press conference, which took the place of the glitzy show because of the writer's strike.
Spielberg, who often recreates history in his films, used the honor to reflect praise back on DeMille, the award's first recipient. It has since been given to a cast of Hollywood royalty, including Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Anthony Hopkins, Sean Connery and fellow director Alfred Hitchcock.
Spielberg has won six Golden Globes and three Oscars, along with lifetime achievement honors from the Directors Guild of America, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the American Film Institute and the Kennedy Center.
While much of Spielberg's acceptance speech focused on history -- his own and Hollywood's -- he put a special context on his career while chatting backstage. He said clip montages of his films always make him think of family.
"Did I have kids then? How old were they? What grade were they in? All of these movies are like measurements in the road, having to do with my entire life."