13 Things To Know About Steven Spielberg’s WWII Epic, ‘Saving Private Ryan’

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13 Things To Know About Steven Spielberg’s WWII Epic, ‘Saving Private Ryan’

13 Things To Know About Steven Spielberg’s WWII Epic, ‘Saving Private Ryan’

No, Saving Private Ryan did not win Best Picture in 1998. But it should have – does anyone list Shakespeare in Love as one of the best films of the 90s? Didn’t think so.

Here are 13 things to know about Steven Spielberg’s war masterpiece…

1. 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.

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2. In the D-Day landing sequence there are anti-landing obstacles all along the beach, one type being short and prickly–nicknamed “Czech Hedgehogs”–designed to rip open the hulls of the landing craft as they approached, the other being long poles pointing at an angle. Officially called Hemmbalken, they were made out of wood or metal and angled towards the beach, most being topped with a Teller mine (anti-tank mine) and placed in rows. The Germans expected the Allies to land at high tide–to minimize the open space that the infantry had to cross–and the beach obstacles were designed with this in mind. The plan was that the landing craft would ride onto the poles–which, at high tide, would be underwater–and detonate the AT mines, causing death and destruction. However, the Allies landed at low tide, making the obstacles visible–and useless.

3. 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.

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4. 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.

5. The actors all had to undergo an intensive pre-shoot six day boot camp during which all but one of them voted to quit as they found it too arduous. The one dissenting voice was Tom Hanks who thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Naturally, his vote counted the most so the rest of the actors were obligated to complete their training.

6. 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.

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7. 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 in 1997 and become an overnight star before the film was released.

8. 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.

9. Tom Sizemore turned down a part in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, a WWII film released the same year and nominated for Best Picture alongside Ryan, to appear in this film.

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10. Spielberg claimed that he considered the film a passion project as a gift to his aging father, a WWII veteran. He further claimed that he made the picture against his commercial instincts, believing there would not be a wide audience for a World War II movie with graphic violence. He was pleasantly surprised when it became a blockbuster hit.

11. 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.

12. Billy Bob Thornton turned down the role of Sergeant Horvath because he did not want to film the Normandy beach scenes due to a phobia of water.

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13. The role of Caparzo was written just for Vin Diesel after director Steven Spielberg saw Diesel’s 1997 independent film Strays, which was also his directorial, writing, producing and lead acting debut.

Related topics Facts, Saving Private Ryan Trivia
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