Director: Steven Spielberg
Actors: Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore
Genre: Action, Drama, War
Saving Private Ryan is a 1998 American epic war film set during and following the invasion of Normandy in World War II. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and written by Robert Rodat.
Opening with the Allied invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944, members of the 2nd Ranger Battalion under Cpt. Miller fight ashore to secure a beachhead. Amidst the fighting, two brothers are killed in action. Earlier in New Guinea, a third brother is KIA. Their mother, Mrs. Ryan, is to receive all three of the grave telegrams on the same day. The United States Army Chief of Staff, George C. Marshall, is given an opportunity to alleviate some of her grief when he learns of a fourth brother, Private James Ryan, and decides to send out 8 men (Cpt. Miller and select members from 2nd Rangers) to find him and bring him back home to his mother… Written by J.Zelman
- The role of Caparzo was written just for Vin Diesel after director Steven Spielberg saw Diesel’s independent film Strays, which was also his directorial, writing, producing, and lead acting debut.
- All the principal actors underwent several days of grueling army training – except for Matt Damon, who was spared so that the other actors would resent him, and would convey that resentment in their performances.
- Real amputees were used for the shots of people with limbs missing. However, Bryan Cranston, who portrayed the colonel in the headquarters unit to whom the 3 separate death notices are presented, and later presents to General George C. Marshall, is not an amputee, although depicted as missing a left arm, apparently above the elbow.
- The two German Tiger tanks in the movie were in fact Russian T-34 tanks modified to appear as convincing Tiger tanks. You can see the difference between these fake Tigers and the real ones by the differing road wheels.
- Although Steven Spielberg reduced the color saturation of the movie by 60% for artistic reasons, both major American satellite providers (DirecTV and Dish Network) and numerous cable TV providers turned up the chroma gain to re-enhance the color saturation to normal-looking levels when broadcasting the movie. They did this because, on the first day or two of the movie’s broadcast run, their customer service centers were swamped with calls from viewers complaining that something was wrong with the color.
- This was the first movie to be rated NC-16 in Singapore. Due to the nature of the violence of the movie, it couldn’t be passed as a PG film. Also, with the lack of adult themes, it couldn’t be granted R(A) rating.
- The names Rieben reads off the dog tags are all friends of actor Edward Burns.
- For the initial battle scenes in the sea, spare ammunition carried by the actors was made from wood, as the metal was too heavy.
- The two “German” soldiers who are shot trying to surrender were speaking Czech. They were saying, “Please don’t shoot me, I am not German, I am Czech, I didn’t kill anyone, I am Czech!” They were members of what the Germans called Ost [East] Battalions, men – mostly Czech and Polish – taken prisoner in eastern European countries invaded by Germany and forced into the German army.
- Edward Norton was offered the role of Private Ryan but turned it down.
- The siege in the village of Ramelle was filmed on a set created on a disused airfield in Hatfield, England. The bridge so valiantly defended actually crosses a three-foot deep canal created for the movie. Earlier scenes in the village of Neuville-au-Plain used the same set carefully shot from different angles.
- This is the last film edited on a non-digital editing system to win an Academy Award for editing.
- Full character names: John H. Miller, Michael Horvath, Richard Reiben, Daniel Jackson, Stanley Mellish, Adrien Caparzo, Irwin Wade, and Timothy E. Upham.
- Voted #1 greatest war film in UK’s Channel 4 poll in 2005.
- Gunfire sound effects heard in the film were recorded from actual gunfire with live ammunition fired from authentic period weapons, recorded at a live-fire machine gun range near Atlanta, Georgia. The range is owned by a weapons manufacturer.
- In the German-dubbed version of the movie, one of the actors, himself a German veteran of the Normandy invasion, couldn’t deal with the emotional realism of the film and dropped out and had to be replaced.
- Michael Madsen was offered the role of Sgt. Horvath. He turned it down, recommending friend Tom Sizemore for the part instead.
- Ranked #10 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time (2006).
- [June 2008] Ranked #8 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Epic”.
- In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked this as the #71 Greatest Movie of All Time. This was one of the newest entries on the list (from films which were released between 1997 and 2005).
- Selected as the opening film at the 55th Venice Film Festival in 1998.
- Just after the scene where Captain Miller “recruits” Upham for the mission there is a short scene that shows the motor pool. For a few brief seconds, a jeep with a small trailer rolls by. If you look carefully you can see that the jeep and trailer contain Captain Miller and his men. The next scene shows Miller and the others walking through a meadow on foot with no vehicle in sight. This is due to the fact that the scene which shows how Miller and the men lose the jeep was deleted from the final cut. Later in the film, Miller mentions something about losing “most of their ammo”. This occurred when they lost the jeep.
- Inspired by the true story of the Niland brothers. Sgt. Frederick Niland was in the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne. Band of Brothers, produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, told the story of another 101st Airborne unit, Easy Company of the 506th PIR.
- Foley artist Jana Vance dislocated three ribs while lugging heavy gear and military boots for a scene’s sound effects.
- When the camera shakes during explosions, Steven Spielberg used drills attached to the side of the camera which was turned on when required. While shooting with this affect the crew’s photographer let Spielberg know that there was a shaker lens for cameras. Spielberg said in an interview that he had thought he had invented a great new technique at first.
- Cap. Dale Dye (USMC Ret.), the film’s military advisor, makes an appearance as a War Department colonel in the scene with Gen. George C. Marshall. He is the white-haired officer advising Marshall against sending a rescue party after Ryan.
- Upham’s shoulder patch, a blue, and grey “yin yang” symbol, identifies him as a member of the 29th US infantry division. It symbolizes the fact that the division was composed of units from Virginia and Maryland, who fought on both sides of the American Civil War.
- Robert Rodat’s script was bought by producer Mark Gordon who liked the story but only accepted the final screenplay after 11 drafts.
- The Omaha Beach scene cost $11 million to shoot and involved up to 1000 extras, some of whom were members of the Irish Army Reserve. Of those extras, 20-30 of them were amputees issued with prosthetic limbs to simulate soldiers having their limbs blown off.
- Two of the landing craft used in the Omaha Beach scenes were actually in use in World War II.
- 40 barrels of fake blood were utilized in the opening battle scene.
- Local reenactment groups such as the Second Battle Group were employed as extras to play German and American soldiers.
- The Battle of Ramelle never took place in real life. The town and the battle were both fictional. A German counter-attack over the causeway at La Fiere by the 1057th Grenadier Regiment and light tanks of the 100th Panzer Replacement Battalion was the inspiration for the climactic battle in the film, which is set around a bridge over the Merderet River in the fictional town of Ramelle.
- One of the very last films to be released on Laserdisc in November 1999. Laserdiscs ceased being manufactured at the end of that year.
- The input of Industrial Light & Magic was significantly downplayed so as not to make the film appear to be a special effects movie. ILM’s contribution, however, was subtle but highly necessary as most of the bullet hits in the Omaha Beach attack were digitally created.
- To achieve his unique “look” for the film, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski adjusted his film shutter to 90 degrees to create sharper, more realistic images and used an Image Shaker to vibrate the camera to approximate the impact of explosions.
- The first DreamWorks film to cross the $100 million mark.
- In 2006, Tom Hanks was inducted into the US Army’s Ranger Hall of Fame as an honorary member, largely thanks to his portrayal of company commander John Miller in this film.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs set up a special 800 number to help the hundreds of former soldiers who were traumatized after seeing the film.
- Cinemas were instructed to up the volume when they showed the film as the sound effects play such a crucial part in its overall effect.
- Director Steven Spielberg considered casting Matt Damon after viewing his performance in Courage Under Fire but thought he was too skinny. Robin Williams introduced Damon to Spielberg on the set of Good Will Hunting, and Spielberg changed his mind.
- When Tom Hanks’s character tells the rest of the unit what he does for a living back at home, Hanks’ speech was much longer in the original script. But Hanks felt that his character wouldn’t have said so much about himself, and he told director Steven Spielberg so. Spielberg agreed, and the speech was shortened.
- Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford were both considered for the role of Captain John Miller before Steven Spielberg decided on casting Tom Hanks.
- Many veterans of D-Day have congratulated director Steven Spielberg for the film’s authenticity, including actor James Doohan, best known as Scotty from Star Trek. Doohan lost the middle finger of his right hand and was wounded in the leg during the war. Also, he participated in the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, at Juno Beach, where the 3rd Canadian infantry division led the attack. He commended Spielberg for not leaving out any gory details.
- Matt Damon ad-libbed the story he tells towards the end of the film about spying on his brother in the barn with the ugly girl. As described in Peter Bart’s book “The Gross”, the speech was rambling and not particularly funny or interesting, but the crew decided that’s why it worked – that it was true to an unformed kid like Private Ryan, fated to be at the center of this incredible operation. Steven Spielberg liked it so much he decided to leave it in the film.
- The film was blocked by the Censor Board of India for too much violence. The Board demanded cuts that Steven Spielberg declined to make, and instead, he decided not to release the movie in India at all. Realizing the seriousness of the situation, the then Home Minister of India saw the movie himself and, impressed, ordered it to be released uncut.
- Scott Frank and Frank Darabont did uncredited script doctor work on the screenplay. Scott Frank’s work is, according to claims, the most prominent.
- Filming switched from the UK to Ireland after the British Ministry of Defence declined to provide the huge numbers of soldiers requested to act as extras in the film. The Irish Defence forces supplied 2500 men drawn from a mix of units of the FCA (Army Reserve) and Slua Muiri (Navy) reserves. They spent four weeks in the surf on the beaches while filming the landing scenes. The UK MoD also supplied a couple of hundred soldiers from their reserves, but not the thousands that Steven Spielberg had asked for.
- As Steven Spielberg refused to cut the violent scenes, the film was banned in Malaysia.
- Steven Spielberg requested that no one gain admittance to the movie once it had begun.
- Originally Steven Spielberg envisaged the film as being like a Boy’s Own adventure. However, after he started interviewing WWII vets, he realized that such a treatment would be wholly inappropriate.
- Steven Spielberg is on record as saying that even if the film had received an NC-17 rating, he would have released it uncut anyway.
- Steven Spielberg donated an undisclosed amount of money to build a theater at America’s National D-Day Memorial in honor of his late father, who flew Army Air Corps missions and was a radio operator in Burma during World War II.
- Former US President George W. Bush’s favorite movie.
- Voted #2 in “The top 20 war films as voted for by the British Forces” 2008 poll, by British Forces Broadcasting Service Television (BFBS TV).
- Private Jackson’s shot through the sniper scope and into the eye did actually happen, though not in WWII and not by a Private Jackson. In fact, this was accomplished by Carlos Hathcock during the Vietnam War. It is rumored to be a tribute to Hathcock who has been regarded as one of the USA’s most famous snipers.
- The final film of Kathleen Byron.
- Features two actors who have played the role of Tom Ripley, the protagonist of Patricia Highsmith’s ‘Ripliad’ series, which consists of The Talented Mr. Ripley and its four sequels. Matt Damon played Ripley in that film, and Barry Pepper (Private Jackson) played Ripley in Ripley Under Ground, based on the second book.
- Steven Spielberg’s last feature film of the 20th Century.
- The battle of Normandy at the start and the battle to defend Ramelle at the end both run to about 25 minutes in length, comprising nearly an hour of the film.
- Pvt. Daniel Jackson kisses a Christian cross before going into battle. Nathan Fillion, who plays the “wrong” Pvt. Ryan later played Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly, a war veteran who did the same thing. But when his side lost the war, he also lost his faith in God.
- The highest-grossing film of 1998.
- Steven Spielberg cast Matt Damon as Ryan because he wanted an unknown actor with an All-American look. He didn’t know Damon would win an Oscar for Good Will Hunting and become an overnight star before the film was released.
- The cast endured a grueling, week-long course at boot camp instructed by technical advisor Dale Dye. Tom Hanks, who had previously been trained by Dye for the Vietnam war scenes in Forrest Gump was the only one of them who knew it would be a hard and uncompromising experience: “The other guys, I think, were expecting something like camping in the woods, and maybe learning things while sitting around the campfire.”
- The half-track motorcycle Miller calls a “rabbit” (it’s Allied nick-name) was better known to the Germans as the Kleines Kettenkraftrad HK 101, or just Kettenkrad (“tracked motorcycle”). Designed to tow small trailers and light artillery over rough ground, it was the smallest tracked vehicle used in WWII. It was manufactured by NSU Motorenwerke AG, which survived the war to merge with Auto Union in 1969 to form Audi.
- The Omaha Beach battle was filmed in sequence over a four week period, moving the action up the beach shot by shot and day by day. Steven Spielberg claims that none of it was storyboarded in advance.
- Tom Sizemore was battling a drug addiction during production. Steven Spielberg gave him an ultimatum that he would be blood tested on the set every day of filming, and if he failed the test once he would be fired and the part of Horvath would be recast and re-shot with someone else, even if it was at the end of production.
- Writer Robert Rodat first came up with the film’s story in 1994, when he saw a monument dedicated to four sons of Agnes Allison of Port Carbon, Pennsylvania. The brothers were killed in the American Civil War. Rodat decided to write a similar story set during World War II. The script was submitted to producer Mark Gordon, who then handed it to Tom Hanks. It was finally given to Steven Spielberg, who decided to direct. The film’s premise is very loosely based on the real-life case of the Niland brothers.
- Ironically, the ‘Bixby Letter’ which is featured prominently in the film was actually inaccurate. The War Department incorrectly informed Abraham Lincoln about the fate of Mrs. Bixby’s sons: two had died in battle, the others eventually survived the war. It is not clear whether Mrs. Bixby’s story about her sons was borne from error or exaggeration, and why the War Department had failed to correct the report based on their own records.
- Til Schweiger turned down the role of ‘Steamboat Willie’, because he feared being typecast by it.
- When using the field radio on the beach, CPT Miller says something that sounds like “Cadaff, Cadaff” into the radio. He is actually saying CATF, meaning he is calling the Commander: Amphibious Task Force.