SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
About The Production
"How do you find decency in the hell of warfare
"How do you find decency in the hell of warfare?" asks
director Steven Spielberg. "That was the paradox that first
attracted me to the project."
Screenwriter Robert Rodat agrees. "The film is about decency,
and how patriotism ultimately has to do with one's responsibility
to family, to neighbors and to those one fights alongside in the
Two events, coinciding four years ago, inspired the screenplay
for "Saving Private Ryan": the 50th Anniversary of D-Day
and the birth of Rodat's second son. He recalls, "A number
of books were published to commemorate D-Day, and I was reading
them when my son was born. I live for much of the year in a small
New Hampshire town, and I would take my new son for walks in the
early morning hours. In the town square, there's a monument to
those from the village who died in war, dating back to the American
Revolution. In almost every war, there were repeated last names--brothers
who were killed in action. The thought of losing a son to war
is painful beyond description; the thought of losing more than
one is inconceivable."
Rodat brought the initial story concept to producer Mark Gordon,
who remembers, "When Robert pitched me the idea, I instantly
responded to it. It had the elements of a powerful human drama
within an exciting action tale."
Over the next year, Rodat developed the screenplay with Gordon
and his Mutual Film Company producing partner Gary Levinsohn.
They then got it to the actor they had always envisioned in the
lead role: Tom Hanks. "We were thrilled when he expressed
an interest in the project," Levinsohn says.
"I've always been fascinated by World War II," Hanks
reveals, "and I'm perpetually searching out books and other
material that depict the war as a human experience as opposed
to a tactical one. That was a very vivid thing that came through
in 'Saving Private Ryan'-on the one hand, it is a grand adventure
story, but it is also a very human story."
Coincidentally, the screenplay had also been given to Steven Spielberg.
whose own fascination with the era in which the story is set has
been evident in many of his films. "Nearly half the films
I've directed take place in the '30s and '40s." he acknowledges.
"In fact, when I was barely a teenager, the second or third
movie I ever made was a World War II action adventure called 'Escape
to Nowhere'; I also grew up watching war movies, which had a tremendous
influence on me
Though the closest of friends, Hanks and Spielberg had never collaborated
on a film before. The director allows that they shared some concern
about working together, though it proved unwarranted I was thrilled
that we were able to do this movie together." Spielberg says
I've always had tremendous respect for Tom, and this experience
enhanced my respect for him, both as an actor and as a human being.
He offered great suggestions that benefited the film and was completely
open to my ideas about his character. It was wonderful."
Hanks stars as Captain John Miller, the enigmatic officer who
is chosen to lead a squad of young GIs on the perilous mission
to find Private Ryan. "You're not really supposed to know
anything about him." Hanks states, "You know he's a
Captain, but beyond that, even his own men don't know where he's
from, what he does for a living, what his motivations are
I think, as an officer, you have to remain cognizant of the fact
that you're sending guys off to be killed, and that takes a kind
of self-defense mechanism. It was one o
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