SAVING PRIVATE RYAN
To transform their acting ensemble into a credible military unit, the filmmakers enlisted the aid of former U
To transform their acting ensemble into a credible military unit,
the filmmakers enlisted the aid of former U.S. Marine Corps Captain
Dale Dye, whose dedication to the military did not end with his
retirement from the service.
"I believe there is a certain core spirit that is common
among men and women who fight for their country, and I think to
understand it fully, the actors playing them need to experience
the rigors that combat people all over the world face," Dye
states. "So, to the extent I can, I immerse the actors in
that lifestyle: I take them to the field; I make them eat rations;
I make them crawl and sleep in the mud and the cold and the dirt...
And when they come out, if I've done my job successfully, they
have an inkling of what people sacrifice to serve their country
in the military."
Dye and the staff from his company, Warriors Inc., took Tom Hanks,
Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper,
Giovanni Ribisi and Adam Goldberg through what amounted to nothing
less than boot camp. From the start, he kept them constantly reminded
of the job at hand, calling them only by their character names
and drilling into them the basics of soldiering. They had a total
of ten days of training, including weapons drills, close combat,
individual maneuvers and tactics, and World War II-era military
lingo and hand signals.
"By the end, we were proficient in drills and infantry movements,
so we really felt like the genuine article," Diesel says.
"We also knew how to handle a weapon. I was able to disassemble
and reassemble an M-1 rifle blindfolded to simulate having to
do it in darkness. That was a cool experience."
The last five days of boot camp--spent in the field, living in
tents and eating rations-- proved a test of their spirits as well
as their endurance. The actors had to suspect that Dye could even
command the elements when, on their first day out, a cold rain
turned the ground to muck.
Goldberg jokes, "If you could imagine Stanislavski running
boot camp, that's what it was like. We were forced to be 'method,'
whether we wanted to or not. The only way I could get through
it was to shut myself down and become this soldier. But, in the
end, it proved beneficial to all of us."
"Essentially, we were trying to get our heads into the mindset
of an infantryman, but the experience of actually being there
was indescribable" Ribisi affirms. "We were soaking
wet, hiking five miles a day with 40 pounds of gear on our backs,
getting about three hours of sleep...only you don't really sleep
because you're freezing and shaking in a tent. Afterwards, I had
a huge sense of accomplishment."
"I didn't want to do it," Sizemore admits. "The
way I looked at it, just because I had to act like a soldier,
why did I have to be a soldier? But something happened to us out
there. We learned that you don't do anything by yourself in the
military; it really is teamwork. If another guy is having a hard
time--he can't get his gear on, he's sick, whatever--you stop
and help him out. It brought us closer together, so when we started
shooting the movie, we felt a bond."
Hanks adds, "We were playing soldiers who were tired and
miserable and wanted to go home, and I don't think we could have
done that justice without having experienced what Dale Dye put
us through. I think he was trying to instill in us the idea that
when you think you can't go any farther, you can. You just have
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