Tom Hanks and the cast of the critically-acclaimed “Bridge Of Spies,” directed by Steven Spielberg, received a standing ovation at the 53rd Annual New York Film Festival last week.
The cast participated in a press conference about the film. Read highlights below:
Do you see this character as a bookend or another chapter in men you’ve played before or similarly heroic?
Steven Spielberg: I knew nothing about this story two years ago. I knew about Gary Powers because that was big news and it was national news when he was shot down and taken prisoner by the Soviet Union, but I knew nothing about how he got out of the Soviet Union. I knew nothing about Rudolph Abel, I knew nothing about James B. Donovan, and that all came to me, as all good stories come to us in a surprise package. It was simply a piece of history that so compelling personally for me to know that something like this, a man who stood on his principles defied everybody hating him and his family for what he thought he needed to do. He would protect him under the law, even for an alien in this country, even for a Soviet accused spy. That was to me a righteous reason to tell the story. I was meeting with the Donovan family, the two daughters and a son this morning and I found out something I never knew before. In 1965, Gregory Peck came after this story and Gregory Peck got Alec Guinness to play Abel, Gregory Peck was going to play Donovan, and they got a Stirling Silliphant to try to write the script and then MGM at the time said nah, I don’t think we’re going to tell this story and I didn’t even know that until a couple of hours ago. So we weren’t the first.
Tom Hanks: I don’t view this as a bookend to anything cause every movie starts fresh and has to exist on it’s own auspices. The interesting that happens when you play somebody real is that you have to have meetings with them if they’re alive and you have to say look, I’m going to say things you never said, I’m going to do things you never did, and I’m going to be in places you never were. Despite that, how do we do this as authentically as possible. Much like the boss, I was fueled by absolutely no preconceived knowledge of James Donovan. I knew nothing about the man. When you’re coming across this, the guy who’s an awfully good insurance lawyer that ends up being part of such a momentous 6 days in history, I’m a selfish actor. I’ll lunge at that opportunity regardless of anything else I’ve done prior.
How did you come to be cast in this movie?
Mark Rylance: I cast myself. I called Steven and said you better put me here. No, I just had a message that Steven was interested in me playing this part and we had met each other back in the 80s and I had not been able to take part in a wonderful film he made called Empire of the Sun. So I was very delighted he came to me again and asked me to take part in this so I could work with these people. It was a no brainer, I think you call it.
How does showing the work life and home life, especially your characters, contribute to the overall story?
Amy Ryan: I think what’s so fascinating is that this is a happily married couple both devoted to their family and I love that Mary is so outspoken and protective of that and she also knows he’s involved in some other greater good that she’s not quite sure. Yet here’s a man, who even loving his family and as protective can still set forth for the greater good, has the foresight to push apart fear that the majority of the country is feeling at this time, not able to make maybe such a strong decision between right and wrong but he does and she knows that. I was privy before we started filming to family photographs and all the images of Mary and these staged photographs of their family, every single shot she’s [looking at her husband]. There’s not one of her looking straight ahead, not even her wedding photo with her big glasses. Apparently she was as blind as a bat, but she couldn’t take her eyes off this man. I love that she could even go against him and express her own fears and protect this family and I think that he has that on top of this plate of going to one of the greatest negotiations to pull off the greatest hat trick ever.
Alan Alda: I love how they were able to develop the home life so believably, so un-movie like. Like two people who were running a family together. That gave resonance to the moment I said to him don’t do this, think about your family, think about what it’s going to cost them. That really would’ve been a hollow argument if you hadn’t experienced their home life in such an authentic way and I think that’s important to the whole thrust of the movie so you can understand what these people were going through, what they were thinking when they did and said things that were not in the interest of justice but other considerations and you could believe their point of view a little better which brought back to the real drama of that situation at the time.
This film has a very distinct Coen brothers flair, how did their style affect your direction?
Steven: I think that the Coen brothers looked upon this, and they’re not here to speak for themselves so I’m just going to hazard a guess, that this was a genre that they were very compelled by from their early years as lovers of movies and genres, like the spy genre. I know that they reached out to us because they had heard about the story and they expressed their interest in the story. I think when they reached out to us they thought we only had a treatment and didn’t even have a script yet and were wondering if I wanted to meet with them and I let them know we did have a script, a wonderful script by Matt Charmin but I was going to go deep with all the characters and deeper with the story and deeper with the research and they threw their hats in the ring. They really came to us, stepped on board because this was a genre that really peaked their interest and we’re very lucky to have them. That was the script that Tom and Mark and everyone here first read. They made a huge contribution while always acknowledging the heavy lifting that Matt Charmin did when he first found the story and put it all together in a manageable, very taut drama.
Tom: This is the second time I’ve been in anything the Coen’s have done, I call them Joe and Nathan, their dialogue scans, if you know what that means. It ends up devolving into almost a percussive give and take that’s different from other motion picture dialogue in which it’s mostly text as opposed to subtext. There’s a number of great examples of it throughout but that first scene which is essentially an insurance negotiation, that’s them to a tee. I don’t want to say literate in using it like I don’t want to put too many roses on what they do but there is a cadence that is individual to each character that the best I can say is that the dialogue scans in a way. A lot of times you read the screenplays in which one very specific thing is happening in the scene and both characters sound the same after a while. They just lock into the antagonist protagonist thing and that just never happens with this. It seems as though someone is either rocking back on their heels in a Coen brother’s scene while another person is making arguments you can’t even begin to imagine. I must say, it’s pretty cool when you get to wrap your heads around that.
The film hits theaters on Oct. 16.