Cold War drama Bridge of Spies, based on a true story, is directed by Steven Spielberg. Here he tells they weren’t the first to think of making this story into a movie.
James Donovan (played by Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer from Brooklyn, finds himself thrust into the center of the Cold War when the CIA enlists his support to negotiate the release of a captured American U-2 pilot.
At the press conference for the movie Steven told about the conception and of making this true life drama into a movie. Bridge of Spies is released this weekend.
How did you get involved with this, and why do you think it’s taken so long to tell this story.
Steven Spielberg: I knew nothing about this story two years ago. I knew about Gary Powers because that was big news when he was shot down, and taking prisoner in the Soviet Union.
I knew nothing about how he got out of the Soviet Union. I knew nothing about Rudolf Abel; I knew nothing about James B. Donovan.
It was simply a piece of history that was so compelling, personally for me, to know that something like this, a man who stood on his principles, and defied everybody hating him and his family for what he thought he needed to do – equal protection under the law, even for an alien in this country, even for a Soviet accused spy.
In 1965, Gregory Peck came after the story. And Gregory Peck got Alec Guinness to agree to play Abel. Gregory Peck was gonna play Donovan. And they got Stirling Silliphant to try to write the script. And then MGM at the time said, “No, I don’t think we’re gonna tell this story.”
So we weren’t the first.
Which do you find more challenging or compelling, fictional heroes, or real heroes?
Steven: I don’t really distinguish between a fictional hero and a real life hero, as a basis for any comparison. You know, to me, a hero’s a hero.
I like making pictures about people who are – who have a personal mission in life, or at least in the story, the life in the story, and who start out with certain low expectations, and then overachieve our highest expectations for them.
What impact would you hope this movie has on the national conversation?
Steven: You make a movie that is relevant to our times, because the Cold War, you know, seems to be coming back. I wouldn’t call what’s happening right now between Vladimir Putin and the Obama Administration a cold war, but there’s certainly a frost in the air.
Those wonderful scenes in East Berlin, especially as the train goes over while they’re building the Berlin Wall. Was it a practical location somewhere?
Steven: Well, we shot that on the border of Poland and Germany, in a town called Breslau. The Germans, when they invaded Poland, they changed the name to Breslau from Wroclaw.
There’s still bullet holes in all the buildings from World War II there, and they never, they never repaired it.
So we went to the area closest to the east of Berlin, that looked just like East Berlin and we actually built that wall. The wonderful production designer, Adam Stockhausen, who does all of Wes Anderson’s movies, did an incredible, exceptional job, really making a modern, scenic, look exactly the way it looked all those years ago.
Two years ago, you predicted the implosion of the film industry. Where are your thoughts on that now?
Steven: I didn’t ever predict the implosion of the film industry. I simply predicted [for] those big, sort of tent pole, superhero movies, [there] was going to come a time where two, or three, or four of them in a row didn’t work.
I was also just simply saying that I felt that that particular genre doesn’t have the legs or the longevity of the Western, which was around since the beginning of film, and only started to wither and shrivel in the 60s.
I was also trying to make a point that there was room for every kind of movie today, because there seems to be an audience for everything.