Steven Spielberg: “Actually, most of my career tends towards Saving Private Ryan”

In October 1998, the filmmaker was on the cover of Première to talk to us about his war films. And in particular this classic, worn by Tom Hanks, also interviewed.

In view of the 80th anniversary of the Landings, on June 6, television channels are increasing the number of special programs. France 3 will be betting this evening on a great classic, The longest daywhile TF1 Séries Films will offer We have to save the soldier Ryan.

This blockbuster had conquered First, in the fall of 1988, notably thanks to its spectacular opening scene retracing the Landing at Omaha Beach. Its director, Steven Spielbergthen made the cover of the following issue, and in the company of Tom Hanks, he recounted the creation of this successful war film. Here are some extracts from these interviews, given to Gérard Delorme and Christian Jauberty.

Also note that the film is currently available on VOD, notably on First Max, and that it is preparing to be released in French cinemas, on June 6, 2024, precisely. All the details are to be read here.

Steven Spielberg: his cult interview for Première in 1981

“I made my first film about the Second World War when I was 14. It was a little film shot on 8mm at home, called Escape to Nowhere. The war served more as a setting for adventures, as in Indiana Jones. Later I realized 1941 And Empire of the Sun. In fact, most of my career tends towards Ryan. When Roger Rodat wrote the first draft of the script, I was struck by the moral aspect of the question: should we send eight to save one? With this question, I found something to tell, not History, but a story that I always wanted to tell about the Second World War. Another question interested me: can we behave decently in times of war?”
I didn't want to embellish the Second World War or make a propaganda film. This is exaggerated and ostentatious patriotism. I love watching these movies again
(post-war Hollywood blockbusters, editor’s note) Today ; some are brilliantly staged and performed, but they only exalt the fight.”
I'm not sure I would have had the guts
(to shoot the opening scene) ten years ago. At the time, I was still missing a few crucial steps to take. The most important of these is obviously Schindler's List. This is where I used the handheld camera and a semi-documentary approach for more realism in the sequence of liquidation of the Krakow ghetto. That's at least what gave me the courage to shoot Ryan entirely on handheld camera.”

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A few pages later, Tom Hanks was also interviewed. First saying he was delighted with this first collaboration with the filmmaker, whom he has since reunited for Stop me if you can (2002), The Bridge of Spies (2015) and Pentagon Papers (2017), he then reacted to the shock of the first scene, which had received some negative reviews because of its violence, upon its release.

“I had no worries about working with the director of films like Encounters of the Third Kind Or Schindler's List. It is incredibly bright. Making films is his normal state. When he's not working, he's just this funny, discreet, poorly dressed, clumsy guy who spends his time talking about cinema. On set, he is in his element: he is totally focused, at ease, and you just have to try to follow him so as not to be the one who screws up his ideas.
Violence in films has become so common that it has become commonplace. There's not a single shot of gratuitous violence in our film, not a single time where we show someone using a weapon because it's cool. Rather, we show the other side of things, the bullets that pass through the flesh. And it's not a pleasant sight. If we had muted the human cost of battles like Omaha Beach, the characters' emotions would work much less well. Obviously, this won't be the case for everyone, but those who survive the first twenty-five minutes will surely consider human life very precious and will not want to see anyone die again, neither the Americans nor the Nazis. And they will be even more anxious to see Ryan return home safe and sound…”

Tom Hanks: “I've played a lot of ordinary characters who are nothing special, probably because I'm not that special myself”


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