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Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks Talk ‘Bridge of Spies,’ the Return of the Cold War, and Following in Gregory Peck’s Footsteps

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks Talk 'Bridge of Spies,' the Return of the Cold War, and Following in Gregory Peck's Footsteps


In advance of their new film “Bridge of Spies,” director Steven Spielberg and star Tom Hanks have been making the rounds, including an illuminating press conference and a chummy satellite Q&A with audience members and People Magazine’s Jess Cagle (watch the latter here). The Cold War spy thriller follows American lawyer James B. Donovan (Hanks), recruited by the CIA to secure the release of pilot Francis Gary Powers after his U-2 spy plane is shot down over the Soviet Union. Below, catch three new clips from the movie, along with highlights from the recent New York press conference.

READ MORE: “NYFF: Spielberg’s ‘Bridge of Spies’ Celebrates a Stand-up Man’

Spielberg on the project’s surprising history:

“In 1965, Gregory Peck came after the
story. And Gregory Peck got Alec
Guinness to agree to play [Soviet intelligence officer Rudolf] Abel [played in ‘Bridge of Spies’ by Mark Rylance]. Gregory Peck was gonna play Donovan… [T]hey 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.’ And I didn’t even know that until a couple of hours ago. So we weren’t the first.”

Hanks on doing (or not doing) his research:
“[Donovan] wrote a book
about his experience with Rudolf Abel that goes so in depth into the trial, I
felt like I was a court stenographer after a while. It just goes on, and on, and on—this motion and that
motion. But I ended up not reading
it all. You look for some
degree of superstructure of who it is, and outside the fact he’s got a smokin’
hot wife, you look for something in the past. And that he was a prosecutor of the Nuremberg War Crimes,
that means he wasn’t the type of soldier that went off and wanted to kill as
many Nazis as possible; he was a guy who wanted to nail as many Nazis as
possible, using the letter of the law. That’s a different kind of man, elsewhere, and when you take that into
account, it pays off in the screenplay.”

Spielberg on the film’s political relevance today:
“[T]he 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. And with the recent encouragement of
the Crimea, and ambitions further into Ukraine, and what’s happening right now
in Syria, it seems like history is repeating itself.”

Hanks on finding his character on YouTube:
“Immediately after I
read the screenplay, I did what, you know, everybody does. You just Google the guy you’re gonna
play, you know. You just Google
‘James Donovan.’ And there was an
awful lot, and a lot of it was repetitious. But I came across a piece on YouTube in which the real
Donovan, when he was defending Abel, was interviewed at the courthouse. And he said, he literally stated the
reason why he took the case, and the reason why he carried it all the way to
the extremes of the Supreme Court. He says, ‘You can’t accuse this man of treason. He’s not a traitor. He’s actually a patriot to his
cause. Only an American can be a
traitor, only an American can commit treason against their own
country. He’s just a man doing his
job.'”

“Bridge of Spies” opens in theaters nationwide Friday October 16.

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