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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 military."

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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