Film-maker Steven Spielberg has infuriated US comedienne Kathy Griffin by pressuring her to apologise after she joked his 10-year-old acting protegee Dakota Fanning had been admitted to rehab.

Griffin made the joke at last year's Golden Globe Awards (JAN05), leaving Spielberg fuming. But the 44-year-old insists the maverick director should have been more focused on his War of the Worlds lead Tom Cruise's outrageous declarations of love for Katie Holmes, than her harmless humour.

She says, "I think Steven Spielberg has a lot of nerve. I don't care how big you are, you will not trample on my, or anyone else's, First Amendment rights. That makes me furious.

"I get a call from the lawyers, and they're, like, 'DreamWorks is furious about the whole Dakota Fanning thing, and they're livid, and Spielberg is personally furious, and DreamWorks is putting you on a list, and they demand an apology.'

"As if War of the Worlds didn't have bigger fish to fry. With Tom Cruise losing his (mind) on THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW and the TODAY show and everything else, they're all worried about my Fanning joke, right?"

A spokesman for Spielberg tells, "I think it was made very obvious that people were very upset and they were looking for some sort of an apology. It was a very upsetting thing for a young child and her family.

"Obviously, to Kathy Griffin it was a joke, but why make a joke out of (Fanning)? She's a terrific young lady who was there with her family, and it was very upsetting."