FASCINATING FACTS: 24 Facts About ‘Saving Private Ryan’

The epic war drama is about a commander and his company trying to find Private Ryan, the only surviving brother of four servicemen. The movie has received critical acclaim for its historically accurate and realistic depiction of the Invasion of Normandy at Omaha beach during the Second World War in 1944. It has also received five Oscars along with six nominations for various categories.

The production and pre-production of the film were done on a massive scale making the behind-the-scenes stories just as awe-inspiring as the film itself. So, here are some fascinating facts about Saving Private Ryan gathered from IMDB and other sources that will make you admire the movie more.

1. The Normandy beach landing scene in the movie alone cost $12 million. It involved up to 1,500 extras, partly consisting of Irish Reserve Defense Force members and was called the “best battle scenes of all time” by Empire Magazine. 

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Saving Private Ryan received much critical acclaim because of its realistic depiction of battles during World War II. The Normandy scene itself was praised by many critics and was ranked first among the “50 Greatest Movie Moments” list on TV Guide. The movie is also well known for employing actors who were war veterans and had real life experiences of what war could do.(source)

2. Spielberg cast Matt Damon for Private Ryan because he wanted an All-American looking actor who is not very well-known. But before the film was released Matt Damon won an Oscar for Good Will Hunting (1997) becoming a star overnight. 

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3. Steven Spielberg gave Tom Sizemore the role of Technical Sergeant Mike Horvath with a promise that he never test positive to drugs during the filming. He promised that if he failed the test once, even on the last day of shooting, he would fire him and re-shoot all his 58 days of work with another actor. 

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Tom Sizemore battled with heroin and meth addiction for a long time. His much praised performances were only shadowed by his addiction at that time. Steven Spielberg was among the many who tried to help him get rid of his addiction problems, which he did by giving him a role in the movie. Thankfully, Sizemore was able to keep his job without Spielberg having to replace him.(source)

4. A struggling Vin Diesel wrote, directed, scored and produced a semi-autobiographical short film called Multi Facial about the frustrations in finding work as an actor of mixed ethnicity. When Spielberg saw the film he was so impressed that he created the role of Private First Class Adrian Caparzo just for him.

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Initially Diesel wrote a feature film script called Strays but was unable to secure finances to make the film. So he made Multi Facial instead by writing the script in one night and filming it in three days with a budget of three thousand. Though he felt disillusioned in the beginning his film soon was accepted for Cannes Film Festival in 1995. Spielberg saw both the films and later decided to hire him.(source)

5. For his accurate portrayal of an Army Ranger in the role of John H. Miller, Tom Hanks was inducted as an honorary member of US Army Ranger Hall of Fame. 

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Tom Hanks is the first actor to have ever received such an honor. He also has quite a repertoire of services towards WWII campaigns. He was known to have served as the national spokesman for the World War II Memorial Campaign, being the honorary chairman of the D-Day Museum Capital Campaign and helped in writing and producing the Emmy Award winning series Band of Brothers.(source)

6. All the principal actors, except Matt Damon, had to go through several days of brutal army training so that they would resent him for it and show that in their performances. 

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13. Two of the landing crafts that you see in the Omaha Beach scenes were actually used in World War II. 

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14. Saving Private Ryan was the last movie edited non-digitally to win the Academy Award for Best Film Editing. 

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15. During the landing scene the maimed American soldiers were actual amputees hired from all over Ireland. 

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Around twenty to thirty amputees were recruited for the scene so that the war injuries would be realistic. Apart from the 1,500 extras hired to play the soldiers, there were as many as 400 crew members involved during filming of the scene which Spielberg turned into an unforgettable masterpiece.(12)

16. Over forty barrels of fake blood were used for the Omaha beach scene to simulate the effect of blood in seawater. 

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The scene depicts many soldiers being shot underwater and the filmmakers had to use underwater cameras to shoot the scenes. The scene has so many deaths that there were pools of blood with even the seawater and waves getting stained red. It required considerable amounts of fake blood to show the intensity of what happened during the war.(source)

17. The combat scenes in the movie were filmed so realistically that the D-Day veterans left the theaters unable to finish watching the opening scene. They said that it was the most realistic depiction of the combat they’ve ever seen. 

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The opening scene of the movie shows the US army troops landing on Omaha Beach and then engaging in a battle with the Germans. The scene is said to have shown a very historically accurate account of what happened when the landing crafts came towards the shore. For them it had become an emotional experience reliving the past and the trauma of death and destruction.(12)

18. Stephen Ambrose, a military historian and author, had to ask the special screening for him to be halted after 20 minutes because the opening scene was too intense for him. It took him a few minutes to compose himself before returning to the screening room and finish watching it.

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19. After the film’s release the number of veterans who visited PTSD counselors rose so much that the Department of Veterans Affairs set up a special 800 number to help them cope. 

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20. The D-Day landing scene was so violent that the film was supposed to receive NC-17 rating. But the Motion Picture Association of America decided to give it an R because it was “masterpiece exception”.

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The opening scene in the movie managed to generate a lot of reactions from censor boards everywhere. It is said that the movie came quite close to getting an NC-17 rating because it was too violent to watch without that warning. Spielberg wanted to release the movie as it was, without softening it down with cuts to suit sensitive audience. He also stated that even if the movie did receive NC-17 rating he would have still released the uncut version.(1 ,2)

21. The Censor Board of India blocked the film’s release because of its violent content and demanded cuts which Spielberg refused to make. He decided not to release the movie at all in India. But the Home Minister of India, realizing the seriousness of the situation, saw the movie and impressed, he ordered it to be released uncut. 

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22. Saving Private Ryan was the highest grossing film in the United States in the year 1998. It was also the last R-Rated film to top the box-office until American Sniper in 2014.

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23. Even though Spielberg decreased the color saturation by 60% for artistic reasons, many satellite and cable TV providers increased it to normal values while broadcasting because they received complaints from the viewers that something was wrong with the color. 

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24. Steven Spielberg requested that no one be allowed into the theater once the show begins. 

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