Rudolf Ivanovich Abel's seemingly incongruous accent, as voiced and acted by actor Mark Rylance, was actually accurate. Abel was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Russian parents and spent some of his school age years in Scotland. He returned to Moscow in his late teens but never lost his accent when speaking English.
According to Tom Hanks in a press release for the movie, when his lawyer character of James B. Donovan makes arguments to the Supreme Court about Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, the actual words used in the dialogue for this movie were the same as the arguments presented to the US Supreme Court.
As seen in the film, Soviet agent Rudolf Ivanovich Abel received coded messages from his KGB handlers that were hidden inside a hollow U.S. nickel. The FBI first became aware of Abel's activities in 1953, when a Soviet agent mistakenly used one of the hollow nickels to buy a newspaper. The Brooklyn newsboy who had received the nickel thought it felt too light. He dropped the nickel on the sidewalk, and it popped open, revealing a piece of microfilm with a coded message inside. But FBI cryptologists were unable to crack the code until 1957, when a KGB defector, Reino Häyhänen, gave them the key to deciphering the code, and also gave up Rudolph Abel. The "Hollow Nickel Case" was also dramatized in The FBI Story (1959), starring James Stewart.
For the full inhibition for six days of the Glieniecker Bridge (on which the actual event and the story's climax took place) and surrounding streets, the production firm had to pay altogether 10,552.13 EUR (~11.428,96 USD) to the local district, the city of Potsdam, and the state of Germany. It took one person 5 months to get the all bureaucratic allowances from 23 different local and federal agencies.
For the scene outside the courtroom, the photographers were initially instructed to put their used flashbulbs, which are extremely hot to the touch, in their pockets. One of the background actors on set happened to be the historian of the New York Press Photographers Association. He told executive producer and 1st assistant director Adam Somner that, at the time, photographers would have ejected the bulbs onto the floor. After several takes, noticing the bulbs strewn across the floor, director Steven Spielberg decided to shoot the low-angle view of the principals walking through them.
Steven Spielberg had a good laugh when he read the line in the screenplay of a policeman taunting Donovan that he had been in "the third wave on Normandy." Spielberg joked to Tom Hanks that he ought to answer: "I was in the first", a reference to Saving Private Ryan (1998), also directed by Spielberg.
Arnold Spielberg, the father of the film's director Steven Spielberg, actually went on a foreign exchange to Russia as an engineer during the cold war, right after Francis Gary Powers was shot down, when there was tremendous fear and hostility between the two nations. Arnold Spielberg recalled seeing Russian citizens line up to look at Powers' crashed gear and "see what America did." When they saw the American engineers, they pointed at them and said, "Look what your country is doing to us," demonstrating the fear and rage the nations felt towards each other.
Principal photography on "Bridge of Spies" began in September 2014 and shot for twelve weeks on locations in New York, Germany and Poland, including many of the very places where the events in the story actually took place. European production kicked off in Berlin where the actual prisoner exchange of Rudolf Ivanovich Abel and Francis Gary Powers took place. To film the crucial Berlin Wall sequences, production also traveled to Wroclaw, Poland which more accurately resembles the East Berlin of 1961 than Berlin itself.
In an interview with the International Spy Museum, the son of Francis Gary Powers, Francis Gary Powers Jr., indicated that his father was not told to commit suicide if shot down, unlike the depiction in the movie. Instead, it was given as an option in case physical torture had been involved, allowing the pilots to use a poison pin if the pilots chose to commit suicide. He also indicated that the Soviets found the pin on a third strip search but Powers warned them not to touch it; the Soviets tried the pin on a dog and the dog died a few moments later.
When James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) and CIA Agent Hoffman (Scott Shepherd) are in West Berlin, they walk past a German cinema where one of the movies playing is "Eins, Zwei, Drei." This is the German title of the American Cold War comedy One, Two, Three (1961), which was directed by Billy Wilder. In the film, James Cagney plays an American business executive working in West Berlin who, like Donovan, must cross over into East Berlin and negotiate with Soviet officials for the release of a political prisoner.
The Russian phrase "stoikiy muzhik" literally translates to "persistent peasant" - "stoikiy" being a term meaning persistent, rigid, or uncompromising, and "muzhik" being a slang term for a Russian peasant. Abel's translation of the phrase as "standing man" is therefore appropriate on a metaphorical level.
In an interview with the International Spy Museum, the son of Francis Gary Powers, Francis Gary Powers Jr., recounted how when he heard about the making of the movie he reached out to the producers about concerns on getting the details of his father's history correct, given the information that has been revealed subsequent to the 1980s. He was invited to meet director Steven Spielberg, star Tom Hanks, and actor Austin Stowell, the latter of whom plays his father Francis Gary Powers in the movie. He then introduced them to Joe Murphy, his father's co-pilot and who also helped identify him on the bridge where the spy trade occurred.
Just before the U-2 takes off, its auxiliary landing gear can be seen falling off the right wing. The U-2 was designed to be as light as possible to give it maximum range and altitude capability. So its auxiliary landing gear, or "pogos", were designed to fall away from its wings on takeoff to minimize weight. The plane lands with its nose and tail gear in an inline "bicycle" configuration, and its wingtips are equipped with titanium skid plates to prevent damage.
The subway car that Donovan is riding on his way home is the only remaining N.Y.C. Transit R11 subway car that was part of an order of 10 built in 1949. It was called the "million dollar train" as each of the 10 cars cost over $100,000. The interior seen in the film is from a 1964/65 rebuild of the car , not the one it had when the story took place in 1961.
The car used by the East German negotiator is a Volvo P1800 early production model, from 1961-3 called the "cow-horn" bumper and similar to the one used by Roger Moore in The Saint (1962). Even the speed dial shown is correct.
The Paris premiere of the film in France was canceled. The French debut had originally been slated for 15th November 2015, but after several terrorists attacks hit Paris on 13th November that year leaving more than 120 people dead, this launch did not go ahead.
When London-based playwright and television writer Matt Charman stumbled upon a footnote in a biography on John F. Kennedy that referenced an American lawyer whom the President had sent to Cuba to negotiate the release of 1113 prisoners, his curiosity was piqued. Some quick research yielded a name he did not recognize, that of James Donovan, a successful insurance claims lawyer from Brooklyn. But it was the story of what took place several years earlier which he found most interesting. Donovan had defended a Soviet agent accused of espionage during the Cold War, and while he specialized in insurance law and had not practiced criminal law for some time, was then asked to negotiate one of the most high-profile prisoner exchanges in history. Charman had little knowledge of the inner-workings of the film industry. Nevertheless, he flew to Hollywood in hopes of convincing a studio to green-light a film based on Donovan's remarkable true story. While Donovan's role was not well known in the annals of Cold War history, Charman pitched DreamWorks Pictures a gripping tale of an idealistic man navigating the world of national security and subterfuge. The executives at DreamWorks were immediately intrigued. "When I heard the story, it knocked my socks off," says producer Kristie Macosko Krieger, who was a co-producer on Steven Spielberg's Lincoln (2012) and is based at DreamWorks. Krieger said: "Not many people know the story of James Donovan and what he accomplished during this period of U.S. history, but it sounded like something that was right up Steven's alley."
Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, whose real name was Vilyam Fisher, passed away in 1971, and was rarely photographed or interviewed while alive. According to actor Mark Rylance who portrays Abel in the film: "We don't really know all that much about him, other than the fact that he received and passed on messages at various drop sites throughout New York using a hollow coin. He was, what you call, a sleeper spy. Abel had been in the United States for several years before he began these clandestine activities, and he wasn't the chief organizer of the spy-ring, he just carried out the mission. But when he was caught, the U.S. government made him out to be a little more important than he actually was."
Co-screenwriters, "The Coen Brothers" - Joel Coen and Ethan Coen', immediately dove in after Matt Charman's first couple of screenplay drafts, immersing themselves in the language of the period and incorporating Tom Hanks' persona into the character of James Donovan, expertly interweaving this remarkable experience in his life into a powerful story that captured the essence of the man. Director Steven Spielberg said: "Joel and Ethan got us very, very deep into the characters. They really instilled a sense of irony and a little bit of absurd humor, not absurd in the sense that movies can take license and be absurd, but that real life is absurd. They are great observers of real life, as we all know from their great august body of work, and were able to bring that to the story." One theme woven throughout the texture and framework of the Coen Brothers' screenplay which struck a chord with the director was the notion that spies looked like everyone else. Spielberg explained: "It wasn't just shadows and light and spies in a stereotypical way, but it was spies as people that we wouldn't even think twice about, we wouldn't even notice them to begin with, let alone figure out that they're here to do a mission against our national security. Between Matt Charman and Joel [Coen] and Ethan Coen, I was in the hands of three wonderful storytellers."
Costume Designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone's research showed that, for the most part, people dressed up in the late 1950s and 1960s. She said: "Men and women were more formally-attired, meaning suits and hats for men and dresses, suits and skirts for women. But the men's suits were not at all like those worn today. They were constructed in another manner, an older tradition, with a different body shape, a different sleeve, a different fit to the trousers and a thicker weave in the fabric."
Producer Marc Platt, was familiar with James Donovan's story and was also aware of director Steven Spielberg's interest in the Cold War and history in general, and felt it was ideally suited for the director's sensibilities. Platt said: "As a filmmaker, Steven has studied some great iconic characters and can re-create history in an extraordinarily cinematic way. He's the perfect filmmaker to tell a story like this." And they were both right. The story was part legal drama, part thriller and part historical epic, and Spielberg was riveted. But it was the character of James Donovan that he found most appealing. The story of a well-respected lawyer living the life of a typical family man in the '50s who took on a dangerous assignment and prevailed through sheer instinct and conviction of principle, had enormous cinematic potential.
The film was nominated for six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Production Design, and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures - Original Score, and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Mark Rylance.
In 1964, James B. Donovan wrote an account of the classic Cold War spy incident of which this film is the subject. It was entitled: "Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel [Rudolf Ivanovich Abel] and Francis Gary Powers".
The movie was released in the 30th Anniversary year of the romantic cold war thriller White Nights (1985). One person, George Doering, is billed for both movies, both as a musician in the music department, credited as a musician for White Nights (1985) and an instrumental soloist for Bridge of Spies (2015). Both pictures also both won an Academy Award, but in different categories, Best Song for White Nights (1985) and Best Supporting Actor for Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies (2015).
To film crucial scenes in the story which took place at the Berlin Wall, the production moved to the city of Wroclaw in Poland, approximately four hours southeast of Berlin. Wroclaw (pronounced Vrotzwuav) was in a state of disrepair, the result of economic hardship and years of neglect, but similar in look to that of a city ravaged by war. The city had actually been part of Germany before the borders were redrawn and was called Breslau at the time, so all the architecture was German in style. According to producer Marc Platt, "many of the buildings had not been touched since the war. . . There were literally bullet holes in some of the buildings."
The end result on-screen conveys not only the terror of the Berlin Wall, but the confusion as well. Director Steven Spielberg said: "The Berlin Wall was really symbolic, but it didn't look like San Quentin or Alcatraz or some other huge federal penitentiary. The walls were actually fairly easy to scale, you just didn't dare do it. When we shot those scenes I looked at the Wall and thought to myself, 'Did this really happen? Was Berlin really divided like this?' It brought back a time in my life when walls started to go up all over the world, most of them invisible walls, but walls nonetheless." Star Tom Hanks added: "It was terrifying, and it felt so permanent, too. What production designer Adam Stockhausen was able to do with the wall, finding that perfect crossroads in the city of Breslau in Poland that matched up so well to the architecture of the time, was truly amazing."
Director Steven Spielberg said of regular collaborator music composer John Williams not being able to score this movie: "It was devastating to me because John was having this medical thing, and he's okay now, thank God, but we have always worked together, and after forty-two years of collaboration, not to work with him was almost incomprehensible. At one point my response was not to have any music at all . . . it would just come out of record players and radios and those kinds of things. But then I knew that there were parts of this film that really would benefit from score and I didn't think twice when I knew it wasn't going to be John . . . the first person I thought of was Tom Newman."
It was important for director Steven Spielberg that James B. Donovan ('played by Tom Hanks) remained the story's focus, and the fact that there was no music at the beginning of the film helped to reinforce the story and accentuate the dialogue. Editor Michael Kahn explained: "By not having music there, it allowed us to really get a sense for what Donovan's life is like, and it worked out beautifully because we got to know him quickly because we were able to hear all the dialogue so clearly."
Based on the caliber of filmmakers already in place, star Tom Hanks, was inclined to come on board without even reading the script. Once he did, however, he knew it had the potential to become one of the most exciting projects in his distinguished career. Hanks said: "This subject matter has always fascinated me, because of the area and because of the time. I knew that Francis Gary Powers was a U-2 pilot who was shot down by the Soviet Union, that it was a huge international incident and that there was a trade that got him back, but I didn't know any of the details or who James Donovan was." Hanks continued: I love reading history and finding out something brand new, particularly about a subject that I think I'm well versed in, and when that happens, man, it's like winning the lottery."
Director Steven Spielberg had been very much interested in directing a James Bond spy film in his earlier years and did have talks with then Bond franchise producer Albert R. Broccoli about directing For Your Eyes Only (1981) but Broccoli told him he only wanted British directors to helm the Bond series. Shortly afterwards, George Lucas offered Spielberg an iconic hero of his own, in the form of Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981).
Director Steven Spielberg has often tackled seminal historical events throughout his career. A history enthusiast, his knowledge of the Cold War dates back to childhood when his father told stories of the deep-seated feelings of animosity and distrust that existed between the U.S. and Soviet Union, stories he still remembers today. "My father had gone to Russia during the Cold War on a foreign exchange right after Francis Gary Powers was shot down," remembered Spielberg. "My dad and three other associates from General Electric stood in line because they were putting Powers' flight suit, helmet and the remains of the U-2 on display for everybody in Russia to see what America had done. He was about an hour away from the front of the line when a couple of Russian military officials approached my dad and asked for their passports, saw they were Americans and got them to the head of the line, not to convenience them, because after they got to the head of the line this Russian pointed to the U-2 and then pointed to my dad and his friends and said, 'Look what your country is doing to us,' which he repeated angrily several times before handing back their passports." "I never forgot that story," he says, "and because of that I never forgot what happened to Francis Gary Powers."
Director Steven Spielberg said: "As a youngster growing up in the 50s and 60s, I had a tremendous amount of awareness of what was happening during the Cold War, but I didn't know anything about the exchange of Rudolf Abel [Rudolf Ivanovich Abel] for Francis Gary Powers. I knew about Powers because growing up everyone had heard that his U-2 spy plane had been shot down and that he had been put on public display at a very public trial, but the story kind of ended with a spectacular shoot down. I didn't realize that something had happened subsequent to his capture, which was this very backroom exchange, this spy swap between Abel, a Soviet spy, and Powers, the American spy pilot. So there was a lot to this story that really pulled me in."
The movie's "Bridge of Spies" title refers to the nick-name of the "Glienicke Bridge" in Berlin, Germany. This was the place where of several Cold War spy prisoner trades and exchanges between the USA and Soviet Union (The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics aka the USSR) occurred during the Cold War.
James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) believes that Rudolf Ivanovich Abel (Mark Rylance) was acting honorably, but when he comes across some technicalities in the search and seizure of Abel's art studio and apartment, begins to question whether Abel received due process at the time of his arrest. Producer Marc Platt explained: "This is basically a guy from the CIA who believes that the most important thing should always be protecting the security of the country, and Donovan has a different set of principles that have to do more with his take on the Constitution . . . sort of a constitutional viewpoint versus a national security viewpoint."
Actor Alan Alda plays the role of Thomas Watters Jnr. who is a senior partner at the law firm he works at with James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks). Alda said: "My character sort of edges Donovan out of his job in order to protect the firm. Watters just wants to protect the firm and prevent Donovan from becoming too idealistic, which was a clever way for the screenwriters to show what Donovan was up against when he agreed to take the case."
During the Cold War, the need to gather strategic military information from our adversaries led to the development of the U-2 spy plane by the USA. It was a reconnaissance aircraft that flew at heights of 70,000 feet, twice the altitude of a commercial jet whilst the aircraft was undetectable by Soviet radar.
German actor Sebastian Koch was cast as the petulant, devious East German lawyer Wolfgang Vogel, who represents Rudolf Ivanovich Abel (Mark Rylance)'s so-called family, and with whom James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) must discuss Abel's exchange. Vogel works for the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), which was not recognized by the American government of the USA but was desperately trying to become its own country. Director Steven Spielberg explained: "Nationalist East Germany was actually shaking their fists at the Soviets, saying, 'I know you feed and clothe us, and provide for us, but we are not your puppets." Donovan ends up trading Abel to two different parties: Vogel and the GDR for Frederic L. Pryor at Checkpoint Charlie and Ivan Schischkin and the Soviets for Francis Gary Powers at the Glienicke Bridge.
The crash of Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell)'s U-2 spy plane was shot via a large screen at Flughafen Tempelhof Airport, where production designer Adam Stockhausen and his team built a replica of the U-2's cockpit on a motion base which was used for all the close-ups of Powers in his aircraft. According to producer Kristie Macosko Krieger, "it was amazing to be able to shoot with these old airplanes at beautiful locations like Tempelhof where the events in the story actually took place . . . you can't re-create stuff like that."
The historic Glienicke Bridge in Berlin, Germany where the actual exchange of Rudolf Ivanovich Abel for Francis Gary Powers took place, was the setting of the story's historic climax. The Bridge spans the Havel River and is near Wannsee, where the Wannsee Conference with Adolf Eichmann and the other architects of the Holocaust took place [See: Conspiracy (2001), Die Wannseekonferenz (1984), and The Wannsee Conference (1992)]. During the war, the Glienicke Bridge separated East Berlin and West Berlin. At the time Bridge of Spies (2015) was made, it connects the Brandenburg section of Berlin to the suburb of Potsdam.
Scenes of James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) trying to talk his way past East German guards at the Friedrichstrasse Checkpoint so as to not miss his appointment at the Soviet Embassy with Wolfgang Vogel (Sebastian Koch), were filmed at Berlin's City Center. Friedrichstrasse, which is more commonly referred to as Checkpoint Charlie, is the best-known border crossing point between East Berlin and West Berlin. "Everyone assumes the only way into East Berlin was through Checkpoint Charlie, but that wasn't the case," production designer Adam Stockhausen pointed out. "You could actually take the S-Bahn past the border and get off at the Friedrichstrasse Station, but when you got off you'd still have to go through a checkpoint to enter the East."
Production designer Adam Stockhausen and his department built approximately three hundred yards of the Berlin Wall at different phases of its construction with the same materials and same dimensions as the original. It is when the American student Frederic L. Pryor (Will Rogers) comes into the story, that the audience first sees the Berlin Wall. Pryor, while visiting a professor in East Berlin, whose daughter also happens to be his girlfriend, has an unfortunate encounter with the East German border guards, who arrest him as he tries to return to West Germany. James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) first hears about Pryor when he is in East Berlin, and refuses to leave the country unless Pryor is factored into the exchange of Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) for Rudolf Ivanovich Abel (Mark Rylance).
Portions of the Friedrichstrasse Checkpoint were re-created in Wroclaw, Poland by production designer Adam Stockhausen and his team as well, including its iconic sign in three languages which read, "You Are Now Leaving the American Sector". The set was used to film the climatic sequence where Frederic L. Pryor (Will Rogers) is being escorted to the Checkpoint by Wolfgang Vogel (Sebastian Koch), among others. Producer Marc Platt said: "Everything about the Checkpoint Charlie set was remarkable. You felt as though you were living in that moment in time, in history." Star Tom Hanks added: "These people do work that I can't even begin to fathom. It all just looks like homework to me, and they always seem to be just barely operating in time to get it all done. But when you see the end result and it is so evocative that even someone like myself who knows that it is a set still lingers on it as long as possible, that is a special talent." Actor Mark Rylance agreed, saying, "the sets were all incredibly beautiful with an amazing amount of detail. As an actor, we are working among craftspeople, and just being surrounded by these people with such skill and love for what they do is very inspiring. It is the combination of all these crafts which make a great film, and [director] Steven [Spielberg] leads so creatively."
Director Steven Spielberg was clear with Thomas Newman that he was not expecting him to deliver a John Williams score. Newman said: "Steven has a very fundamental, almost primal, relationship with John Williams, and a very successful one at that, but he encouraged me to write music that reflected my aesthetic as opposed to trying to match John's. I've known John forever through my family, but I always knew I didn't want to end up being a third-rate John Williams because his style has been such a defining part of what movie music is." While John Williams was unavailable to score the film due to a minor health issue, which was corrected, Williams did go on to write the score for Spielberg's next film, The BFG (2016)."
According to director Steven Spielberg, some of the best moments in his films are accidents, either accidents of interpretation or something audiences read into on their own. He said: "Other times they are determined choices for which I cross my fingers that people will discover as they watch the movie. And that's the most satisfying thing: when you intend something and people understand what your intention was, and they're getting it and they're liking what they're getting. That's the best reward."
One incident in particular which stood out for the cast involved the inadvertent smashing on the ground of used flashbulbs from the press photographers. It was after the reading of Rudolf Ivanovich Abel (Mark Rylance)'s verdict in court when the media were surging around James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), his wife Mary Donovan (Amy Ryan) and Thomas Watters Jr. (Alan Alda). Actor Mark Rylance explained: "[Director] Steven [Spielberg] came up with the idea of using these discarded bulbs littering the floor as a way to heighten the drama when Mary [Donovan], who's being overwhelmed by the media, steps back and her high heel crunches one of the bulbs." Actress Amy Ryan added: "Steven had this idea in an instant. I saw him get down onto the floor at the level of the camera so he could see exactly what the shot, the smashing of the bulbs, would look like. We learn a great deal about Mary because of the way Steven filmed this scene, myself included." Star Tom Hanks added: "It ends up making a comment on the waste. It wasn't even in the script, it wasn't even a cool shot, but it actually added to the tapestry of the moment, and Steven comes up with stuff like that because that's the way he thinks. Steven thinks in cinematic terms. His ability to tell important story moments just by what he does with the camera is the reason he's Steven Spielberg. He's done it again and again and again, and all you can do is stand back and watch."
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, and with "this film, the incredible story of an ordinary man placed in extraordinary circumstances, it is all the more compelling because the character at the heart of the story is a real person. Because of his association with Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, James B. Donovan was subjected to a great deal of scrutiny from the media and the general public, and a source of fascination in the story for director Steven Spielberg is the notion that people often jump to conclusions and make snap judgments, which ended up helping him determine the best way to approach the story. Spielberg explained: "We have to find the villain and find the hero in real-life stories, and so by quickly targeting and earmarking a villain, we immediately stop being mindful, or even empathetic, about the person that we deem a villain. We give all our empathy to the hero, and we give no credit and no currency to the villain. By doing that, we become very one-sided and all our tolerance goes out the window." Spielberg continued: "One of the things I loved about this story was that everyone you think should be wearing a black hat isn't necessarily wearing that hat, nor did they intend to. It doesn't make it easy to root for someone who is a spy against the national security of our nation . . . how could we possibly come out on the other end of this experience caring about this person in the least? But in this case we do, and that was something that made me want to get involved with the project."
As a child, the 8mm war movies director Steven Spielberg made in his backyard were often set in World War II, a recurring subject in a number of the films he would one day direct-titles ranging from Schindler's List (1993), Saving Private Ryan (1998), and Empire of the Sun (1987) to 1941 (1979) and the "Indiana Jones" films but until now, none were set in the world of international espionage. "I love spy movies," said Spielberg. "I love John le Carré, the James Bond movies, Mad Magazine and the infamous 'Spy vs. Spy' column that I grew up with, so spying has always been on my mind."
Lead actor Tom Hanks was fascinated by the strong bond that develops between his character James B. Donovan and Russian spy Rudolf Ivanovich Abel. Hanks explains: "What he developed with Rudolf Abel was, first, a very completely professional relationship as an advocate. He even says, 'I am your advocate, my job is to represent you and bring you the best version of American justice that I can surmise, and here's what I think that justice needs to be,' and he was dogged in his pursuit of that. He also developed a great personal relationship with Abel because he felt as though he was fighting for a good guy, both personally and in terms of what he stood for."
To director Steven Spielberg, James B. Donovan (played by Tom Hanks) represents the ideals of a genuinely altruistic person, someone who had the tenacity to put Rudolf Ivanovich Abel's defense ahead of his own comfort and safety because he truly believed that the law needed to be respected. Spielberg said: "It brought a lot of tension to Donovan's family, the same kind of tension that I imagine my own dad went through when he told people he spent three weeks in the Soviet Union at a time when if you even mentioned the Soviet Union in the wrong way, you could be accused of complicity."
In Brooklyn, where Rudolf Ivanovich Abel (Mark Rylance) had created a simple existence for himself as a painter, Abel is captured and doesn't try to hide his past. He remains tight-lipped and reveals no information about his activities in the U.S. or connections to anyone in Moscow, frustrating the FBI to no end. Says star Tom Hanks: "Abel was just a guy doing his job. He's a spy, and we have guys over there doing the same thing for our country. I believe that Abel was surprised to hear this argument from a man who was his advocate . . . it was not just some sort of legalistic ploy on his part, it was what he believed. It was an irrefutable fact, and that played itself out through the relationship."
The real Rudolf Ivanovich Abel was, in fact, a very-skilled artist, something director Steven Spielberg chose to focus on in the film's opening scene. Spielberg explained: "How we see ourselves and how other people see us, what we hide in order for others to discover something hidden . . . that was all part of this idea I had to start the film on Mark Rylance's face playing Rudolf Abel, then to pull back and discover that he's actually studying his face because he's doing a self-portrait." Spielberg continued: "It gave me a kind of stylistic theme to continue to think about, like how do we see ourselves . . . is that actually who we are when we paint what we look like, or is that our idea of somebody we want others to see, which is what spies do. They have to go into disguise and blend in and actually disappear to be successful. I just thought that was a good way of starting the story on the right thematic note."
Before filming began, actress Amy Ryan, who portrays Mary Donovan, had the opportunity to meet Mary's real-life grand-daughter. Ryan explained: "I saw her family's wedding albums and vacation photos and heard firsthand stories where I found out that Mary was born in Bay Ridge, raised in a strong Irish Catholic family, graduated from Marymount College and eventually settled down in Park Slope. Mary was proud of what her husband was doing, but she didn't like the attention it drew to her family and worried that their children might be in danger."
In the early scene of the Donovan family eating dinner together, a dish of peas and carrots is clearly visible in the same shot as James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks). "Like peas and carrots" is a favorite catchphrase of Hank's title character in Forrest Gump (1994).
Screenwriter Matt Charman went to London to start writing, and within six weeks delivered a thought-provoking, well-crafted script that generated a wonderful feeling of suspense between the multiple stories. Says director Steven Spielberg: "Matt did a good job of connecting the Powers story with the [Rudolf] Abel / [James] Donovan story." It was a clever, and important, juxtaposition because Powers was technically doing the same thing Abel was arrested for, only from the air, and Charman knew that structurally he needed to make all of the different stories speak to one another. Platt agreed, saying, "Matt did a fantastic job, and once he was finished, we brought his draft to the Coen brothers, who write with a tone which is real yet has a particular edge to it, which was perfect for this story."
With this film, the characters truly are the story, and James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), an insurance lawyer who is lured into the powerful corridors of the FBI and CIA, is the heart of the story. When it came to casting the crucial role, the choice had always been obvious: one of the most iconic actors working at the time, Tom Hanks. Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger said: "There is no one better suited for this role than Tom Hanks. James Donovan is just an ordinary guy . . . he is like my best friend's dad. He was a guy who did his job and then gets thrown into this incredible international story. That just doesn't happen, but people think of Tom Hanks as everyman, and that's why he is so brilliant as James Donovan."
Francis Gary Powers Jr., who has a cameo and was a consultant to the production, and is the son of Francis Gary Powers, according to the film's DVD extras documentaries, is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Cold War Museum.
The actual Francis Gary Powers in real life passed away in 1977, but his son Francis Gary Powers Jr., who was a consultant to the production and also has a cameo in Bridge of Spies (2015) as a CIA agent who is involved with the training of U-2 pilots, or "DRIVERS" as they were commonly referred to at the time.
Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's first film with director Steven Spielberg was Schindler's List (1993), and since that time they have worked on more than a dozen films together. According to producer Marc Platt: "One can start a sentence and the other can finish it, and the result for us as moviegoers is to watch the film come to life and to watch the beauty of it, the look and the feel of it, and that lies in whatever miraculously occurs between Janusz and Steven."
In New York, Manhattan's Metro Station at Broad Street was the setting for scenes of Rudolf Ivanovich Abel (Mark Rylance) being tailed by the FBI and of James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) on his way to work, as the producers felt that a live subway system was needed to realistically film a subway car from a station platform. Fortunately New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority was eager to work with the production, allowing access to the subway station very early on a Sunday morning.
Production Designer Adam Stockhausen explained the film's production design: "We had to work fast in 'blitz-style,' which meant swapping out posters and signage, changing lighting fixtures and redressing everything from top to bottom. And then, of course, everything had to be put back in place as quickly as possible."
Interiors of the Donovan home and additional set pieces were built on sound-stages at Steiner Studios in Brooklyn, New York. Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger said: "When I stepped onto the set of Donovan's home for the very first time it was like I had gone back in time to the late '50s and I was having dinner with someone's family. [Production Designer] Adam Stockhausen got every little detail perfect in that house."
A strong sense of history infused the production once filming began in Europe, as the iconic locations helped depict, in stark images, the horrors to which the East Germans were subjected, instilling a sense of respect for what these people had lived through.
Finding a place to shoot the scene in contemporary Berlin, Germany had initially presented a challenge for the filmmakers, as the Friedrichstrasse Station standing today is more modern than the one that existed during the Cold War. But production designer Adam Stockhausen came up with a solution and re-created the station using a hulking, rusty overpass of S-Bahn tracks near another S-Bahn station that ran along a crumbling brick wall.
The Berlin Wall was in the midst of construction when James B. Donovan's story took place, and director Steven Spielberg wanted the audience to see it being built on-screen as well. The first version that went up was a makeshift wall made from concrete blocks and barbed wire, which was quickly replaced with the version most recognize today with reinforced cement slabs and an enormous pipe on top, making it much more sturdy and more difficult to scale.
Production in Berlin, Germany coincided with the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Even though the city of Berlin was located entirely within the Soviet portion of Germany, East Berlin was part of the Soviet Union; West Berlin was not. Residents of the city were able to go back and forth until the GDR built the Berlin Wall to separate the two cities, and entrance was only accessible at one of several check points located along the Wall.
For the character of Mary Donovan, played by Amy Ryan, costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone drew inspiration from Jacqueline Kennedy, and accentuated Ryan's look with a string of pearls and glasses similar to ones worn by the real wife of James Donovan, Mary Donovan. Kasia Walicka-Maimone said: "We had a lot of good information about the real Mary Donovan, most of which came from Amy, including some amazing photographs from the family's personal collection. Looking at those photos helped us understand the essence of who this woman was. We created a lot of pieces for her, like the green coat she wears in the courtroom, which seemed to represent the era and, subliminally, provide the audience with a better feeling of that time." Ryan said: "She created these beautiful looks for the time period, and even though my costumes were more casual in style, each was more beautiful than the next. But the undergarments were far more constricting than what I'm used to wearing, which, believe it or not, helped me get into character since I had to move differently."
First time that composer Thomas Newman wrote music for a film directed by Steven Spielberg. Newman said: "Steven was a true collaborator. You can sense someone who very much understands the notion of artistic collaboration and wants to bring things out of the people that work for him, and that is definitely Steven."
Music has always played a crucial role in Steven Spielberg's films, but from day one Spielberg envisioned Bridge of Spies (2015) differently. There are approximately thirty-eight minutes of music in Saving Private Ryan (1998) and about 38 to 40 minutes of music in Bridge of Spies (2015), and there is no music in this film for around the first twenty minutes. Spielberg explained: "Many of my films are dependent on score, sometimes even dependent on wall-to-wall scoring, but I didn't feel 'Bridge of Spies' was that way, the same way I didn't feel that 'Private Ryan' needed wall-to-wall music."
The film's music score was performed by an orchestra made up of eighty-five musicians and was occasionally supplemented by vocals from a male choir, but composer Thomas Newman was cautious that it did not imply any kind of political bias. Newman explained: "In terms of that color, I didn't want the music to say, 'Okay, here is Russia and here is America, and Russia is going to be represented by deep male voices,' but I did want to kind of push that as a means of compelling the story."
Molding a film about the courageous exploits of a family man turned Cold War spy negotiator presented editor Michael Kahn with a unique challenge. Kahn explained: "It was a big dialogue piece. He [director Steven Spielberg] shot it in more of a conventional way, where dialogue was key. He wanted the audience to really be involved in what was being said and to really think about things, so we didn't cut it like an action film. In fact, Tom Hanks and Mark Rylances' performances were so scintillating at some points that it was difficult to cut away at all."
Editor Michael Kahn is one of director Steven Spielberg's long-time collaborators, a relationship that dates back to 1977 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). According to star Tom Hanks: "Matt Charman realized that there was something fantastic there and wrote it up, and then the Coens [Joel Coen and Ethan Coen] end up sprinkling their substantial amount of fairy dust on it. Some of those are in the text, but the timing and the composition is all Steven and Michael. Thank God they have the shorthand that they do, because no one can write that stuff."
The picture was green-lit In June 2014 with the production being co-financed between three production houses: DreamWorks, Fox 2000 Pictures, and Participant Media. This movie was an international co-production being co-produced globally by two nations: Germany and United States of America (USA). The movie's distribution was split between two studios and was distributed worldwide by Disney Pictures and 20th Century Fox depending on the territory. Director Steven Spielberg's next film after this movie, The BFG (2016), would actually be made by the Disney Pictures studio, Spielberg's first ever.
Actor Mark Rylance and director Steven Spielberg would yet again team up for another movie, The BFG (2016), after both working together on Bridge of Spies (2015) which earned Rylance the Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role of 2015. The pictures were released in consecutive years.
Star Tom Hanks said of his co-star actor Mark Rylance: "What Mark brings to the role is a completely-realized self-assuredness. Mark will not take a moment and throw it completely out and come in and completely redo it. What Mark will do instead is construct the character in the scene that slow little motions of feint, either one way or the next, will bring a new jolt of energy to, but is still the same character he built."
Co-star Mark Rylance had nothing but praise for lead actor Tom Hanks. Rylance said: "Tom saw me in 'Twelfth Night' in Los Angeles in 2003 before the production was famous and he was one of the first actors to come to it and to come backstage afterward and talk to the cast, which was very exciting for everyone. But what surprised me the most about Tom is that he loves to make people laugh and has this very goofy sense of humor, which immediately puts people at ease."
A Volvo 1800 vehicle also appears in the background of a scene in Steven Spielberg's earlier movie Jaws (1975) when the little boy's mother confronts Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) at the dock after the tiger shark is caught. Bridge of Spies (2015) was first released in the 40th Anniversary year of Jaws (1975).
Producer Marc Platt explained of the production: "Producing this film was interesting because it was almost like we were making two separate films, which is representative of the extraordinary journey that James Donovan goes on. We first meet him in Brooklyn where he takes on the case, which was one movie, and then he travels unexpectedly to a completely different part of the world, a completely different culture, which felt like an entirely different film."
Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger said of the production: "It was pretty complex. We knew we wanted the audience to go on a journey, and we shot, for the most part, in continuity. Because of time constraints we had a few scheduling issues with some of the crew we normally work with, which allowed us to discover some amazing people that we had never used before. We had Adam Stockhausen, who is a brilliant production designer; Kasia Walicka-Maimone, our costume designer; and the composer Thomas Newman, and those three really helped infuse the film with vitality."
Lead actor Tom Hanks said of filming this movie about the Cold War: "There was not a single day when we didn't show up on the set for the first time and think, holy cow, this is not just an odd little re-creation . . . this is a three-dimensional, authentic, holographic representation of what it was."
Renowned for his ability to capture emotional details amid stunning visuals, cinematographer Janusz Kaminski's primary goal is establishing a cinematic grammar in which to tell the story. Fortunately with "Bridge of Spies," the outstanding locations, set dressing and costumes provided countless opportunities for the camera.
Star Tom Hanks said of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski: "What I love about working with Janusz is that I can understand very quickly the stakes that he's going for. I can ask him what will be in the shot and he will tell me, so I have the luxury of working with someone like that who will help me, which means a couple of things: I will not screw up the shot, and he will help me get another little moment of James Donovan into a scene."
Flughafen Tempelhof Airport in the south-central section of Berlin, Germany is where the historic airlifts of 1948 and 1949 took place, and was an indispensable location. These airlifts took place when the Soviet Army closed off access to the western part of the city by all other means of transport. Planes from the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa transported food and supplies to the city's inhabitants to prevent them from starving. Director Steven Spielberg filmed multiple scenes at Flughafen Tempelhof Airport, including the return home of both James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) and Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) to the USA inside a U.S. Army cargo transport plane. Scenes featuring actual U-2 planes, both on the ground and in the air, were shot several months later at Beale Air Force Base in Yuba County, California.
The wardrobe reflected the culture and the period of the story, helping to articulate the director's vision. Star Tom Hanks said: "The costumes were off the scale, which is really saying something. Anyone can go to a costume house and rent a bunch of stuff, but they still end up looking like rental costumes. I don't know how she did it, but Kasia [Kasia Walicka-Maimone] was always coming up with fresh ideas, everything down to the waitress uniforms in Berlin's Hilton Hotel . . . but that's what artists do."
Composer Thomas Newman, a member of the legendary Newman film-scoring family, which includes father Alfred, brother David, uncles Lionel and Emil, and cousin Randy, was brought on board to create music that would complement James B. Donovan's powerful story without overpowering it. Thomas Newman said: "This is an American story - the difficulty was figuring out the best way to represent America in a way that didn't sugar-coat anything, while representing the ideals of Donovan at the same time. What it ended up boiling down to, for me, was simple family values, a sense of what it means to be an American in the most idealized sense of the word." Star Tom Hanks added: "Great scores do two things: They play underneath and you don't even notice them, or they play and you can't imagine the scenes without them."
Thomas Newman, the film's music composer, said of his music for the film: "It's pretty compelling. The sounds of New York City really set up a sense of anticipation about what was going to happen to Abel [Rudolf Ivanovich Abel]. Francis Gary Powers' plane crash is also brilliantly done without music, and it's just thrilling that it's all sound."
Composer Thomas Newman said of working with director Steven Spielberg: "When Steven and I would get together to discuss the music, he was always looking at the movie as someone who was trying to enjoy it and trying to relate to it as opposed to someone who had intentions. So he would watch and listen and he would react, which was ultimately very rewarding because I felt like I found my own voice and that the voice was accepted by Steven."
Adds Hanks, "When you show up on Steven's set, it has already been built, not only physically, but deep inside Steven's head. Your job is to do exactly what he wants you to do, but he also expects you to add in all the little things he expects you to come up with. He has the film cut in his head long before we even get to the set. He reads the screenplay thousands and thousands of times, over and over and over again, so he knows what he's going to be doing, cinematically, five weeks from now."
The picture was a tremendous learning experience for actress Amy Ryan. She said: "[Director] Steven [Spielberg] is so enthusiastic about what he's doing that it's infectious. There were times when I would be observing him at work and all of a sudden his eyes would get big as saucers, almost as if he was this twelve year-old boy still making films in his backyard."
During the prisoner exchange on the bridge, a government official instructs James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) to stay behind and not accompany his client, to which Donovan responds, "Not likely" - an allusion to the response John Wayne's character Ethan makes in John Ford's _The Searchers_ when he is told to stay behind during the meeting with Comanche warrior "Scar" (whom Ethan has been searching for).
Of star Tom Hanks, director Steven Spielberg and producer Kristie Macosko Krieger said respectively: "Tom is the perfect collaborator. He will try anything and he's got a thousand ideas and is open to a thousand ideas from other people. He's this incredibly creative vessel that just wants to figure things out in a more original way" [Spielberg] and ""Watching Tom and Steven work is such a joy, such a pleasure. They are both really masters at what they do, and you can see it. They have such fluidity and a sense of ease with each other, which really brings out the best in one another." [Krieger].
Crucial was finding an actor to play a captured Soviet spy with divergent loyalties and surprising depth who was interesting enough that the audience would be able to feel his humanity and thoughtfulness . . . and someone who could hold his own opposite Tom Hanks, as well. Director Steven Spielberg has always appreciated actors who portray their characters in an honest and truthful way, and as a result, was drawn to Mark Rylance. For years, he had been following the career of the British actor and was eager to work with him, just looking for the right part. Spielberg said: "Mark is one of the most extraordinary actors working anywhere. I saw him in 'Twelfth Night' and that pretty much cinched it for me."
For Mark Rylance, an actor best known for his acclaimed stage work in such productions as "Jerusalem" and "Boeing-Boeing" and the then recent PBS miniseries Wolf Hall (2015), the opportunity to work with director Steven Spielberg was incredibly humbling. And while Rudolf Ivanovich Abel was a divisive figure, his selfless patriotism earns the respect and admiration of James Donovan, which Rylance found tremendously appealing. Rylance also found the story moving and incredibly entertaining, and he appreciated the fact that it had the potential to really cause people to think. Rylance said: "This is a film about a man who does the right thing at the right time in the right place, and it's an important story."
Amy Ryan, who plays Mary Donovan, was especially thrilled to have the opportunity to work with star Tom Hanks, who plays her husband James B. Donovan in the film. Ryan found Hanks generous, both in spirit and energy. Ryan said: "I was very impressed with the amount of enthusiasm he was able to bring to each scene, and he's had so much experience as an actor that I tried to listen and observe as much as I could," she says. "In addition to all the technical sides of knowing where the camera is going to be and where the lights are, he is still able to inhabit the scene so fully and truthfully . . . that is an amazing skill." And for Hanks, the feeling was mutual. He said: "Working with Amy was amazing . . . I was always thinking that it looked as if she was hardly doing anything, and yet she was doing everything all at the same time."
On 9th November 2014, thousands of people gathered in Potsdamer Platz to commemorate the date when the East German Government rescinded travel restrictions between East Germany and West Germany. For the cast and crew filming the following day on the set of the Friedrichstrasse Station created by production designer Adam Stockhausen's team, it was a vivid reminder of the conditions of violence, surveillance and deprivation under which the East Germans lived.
When shooting exteriors, the period costumes worn by extras helped reinforce the sense that these scenes, despite a vibrant immediacy in the present, were happening in the somewhat distant, yet recognizable, past. Some scenes featured over three hundred extras, everything from spectators and reporters in court, to subway passengers and pedestrians on the streets, and on cold days, required dressing them not only in clothing, but with appropriate accessories, like hats, scarves, gloves, and overcoats as well.
The film's costume designer, Kasia Walicka-Maimone, said: "We needed to effectively represent the period and the colors of the period, so [production designer] Adam [Stockhausen] and I mapped out the balance of colors to figure out how everything was going to match. We absorb as much of the vocabulary from that time period as we can, choose whatever is needed for the particular frame of the film, and then construct those realities so they are strong enough to resonate the period, while not overwhelming the story."
Equally key was ensuring all the wardrobe colors were authentic for the specific time period. Scenes set in New York featured clothing that was much more color-driven, representing the successful, commercial world of America in the 1950s, with women wearing predominantly green, maroon and yellow, and men, brown, gray and navy. In Berlin, colors were scarce and muted when used, as most everything was black and/or dull gray to reflect the city's dismal atmosphere at the time.
Debut American Hollywood produced screenplay of screenwriter Matt Charman. Bridge of Spies (2015) was Charman's only second produced theatrical feature film screenplay after his first, Suite Française (2014), a UK-French-Canadian-Belgian international co-production, which was a World War II romantic-drama. On both pictures, Charman acted as a co-screenwriter.
Second cinema movie collaboration of actor Tom Hanks with The Coen Brothers - Joel Coen and Ethan Coen. The first had been the remake The Ladykillers (2004) around eleven years earlier which the Coen brothers both co-wrote and both co-directed, the film being based on the original film of The Ladykillers (1955). However, for Bridge of Spies (2015), the Coen Brothers did not direct, but performed screenwriting duties only, the movie being directed by Steven Spielberg. Bridge of Spies (2015) was actually first released in 2015 which was the 60th Anniversary year of the original The Ladykillers (1955) movie.
Director Steven Spielberg also puts a tremendous amount of focus on the narrative. While some directors are focused on the feelings of the actors or the beauty of the images, he's more concerned about where the audience's imagination is. Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger said: "What's great about Steven is that he truly loves being on set. In the mornings when we get to work I'll say, 'Is there anything else you'd rather be doing in the world right now?' and he says, 'No,' and it's true. He knows he is incredibly lucky to do what he does."
The fevered years of the Cold War, a war that involved information, not combat, was a war where words were the ultimate weapon. It was a time when anti-Communist propaganda, "Duck and Cover" educational videos, and the media's sensationalist coverage of events like the Rosenberg trial bred fear and hatred across the country . . . . hatred stemming from fear of the unknown. No one was safe, and it was an especially dangerous time to be in the headlines for defending a Russian spy...A dramatic thriller set against the backdrop of a series of historic events, "Bridge of Spies" is the story of James B. Donovan played by Tom Hanks, an insurance claims lawyer from Brooklyn who 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.
Once a finished screenplay was in hand, plans to make the film quickly accelerated. A stellar production team was soon in place, including: two-time Academy Award winner Janusz Kaminski as director of photography; Oscar winner Adam Stockhausen as production designer; Kasia Walicka-Maimone as costume designer; three time Academy Award winner Michael Kahn A.C.E. as editor; and twelve time Oscar nominee Thomas Newman as music composer. Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger said: "Steven loves authenticity and we assembled an amazing group of artists to work with him . . . some of whom we had worked with before, and some who were new to us."
Director Steven Spielberg said of the James B. Donovan character who is played by Tom Hanks: "James Donovan was what you would call a stand-up kind of guy, someone who stands up for what he believes in, which, in his case, is justice for all, regardless of what side of the Iron Curtain you are on. He was only interested in the letter of the law. And Tom's own morality and his own sense of equality and fairness, and the fact that he does such good things in the world by wisely using his celebrity, made him the perfect fit."
Producer Marc Platt said of star Tom Hanks: "Tom is a history buff. You can tell this from some of the great miniseries and films he's produced and acted in. But he also has a particular interest in this period. The Cold War and East/West Berlin politics is something he knows a good deal about."
Actress Amy Ryan signed on as James B. Donovan's (Tom Hanks) supportive but strong-willed wife, Mary Donovan. In discussing what attracted her to the project, Ryan said: "Most screenplays take ten or fifteen pages before you get a sense of who the characters really are, but we find out that James Donovan is a fast-talking lawyer in the first few pages. Plus, I liked the fact that this woman, Mary Donovan, wasn't just a 'Yes dear, of course dear' kind of wife. She had things of substance to say and really good, strong, smart opinions about the world in which her husband was stepping foot into, and I found that genuinely appealing."
Actress Amy Ryan's biggest challenge was making her character, Mary Donovan, a woman in the midst of extremely-trying circumstances, believable. Producer Marc Platt said: "Amy's portrayal of Mary has us rooting for her, but we also feel her conflict over wanting to protect her family. Her husband's involvement with the case brings the family some danger and causes friends to sort of drop away, and you feel the tug-of-war within her to want to protect and love her husband and do what he thinks is right, and yet to protect her family at the same time, and you love her for that conflict."
With the story's protagonists in place, the filmmakers set out to cast the supporting roles integral to James B. Donovan's story, consulting with New York-based casting director Ellen Lewis. Director Steven Spielberg said: "There have been many times when I wanted to use Ellen but she was working with [director Martin] Scorsese, and this was an opportunity where Marty wasn't working and Ellen was available, which was great because I wanted to use predominantly stage actors."
Theater actor Scott Shepherd, who received Obie Awards for his performances in "Gatz" and "Poor Theater", and has appeared on-screen in Side Effects (2013), was cast as Hoffman, the shrewd CIA operations officer. The CIA was looking for a private citizen like James B. Donovan to negotiate the swap in East Berlin so it wouldn't be governments talking, and it is Hoffman who secures Donovan's participation in the dangerous mission. But the two men soon go head-to-head as Shepherd expects Donovan to value national security over attorney-client privilege.
The movie's opening prologue reads: "1957. The height of the cold war. The United States [of America] and the Soviet Union fear each other's nuclear capabilities - and intentions. Both sides deploy spies - and hunt for them." The following title card then is added to this text: "Inspired by true events."
Thomas Newman replaced John Williams as the film's music score composer. Regular Steven Spielberg scorist Williams was originally attached to score the film but apparently had to withdraw due to health reasons.
When James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) accepts the assignment, CIA agent Hoffman (Scott Shepherd) stresses that he will be on his own. Neither the U.S. nor the Soviet government can have any involvement in the operation . . . the German Democratic Republic (GDR) will broker the exchange directly with him. Hanks said: "Donovan had given a vociferous, authentic and passion-filled defense for this Soviet spy who was arrested, which was then tabbed by the other side to help facilitate an exchange that would get one spy back to the Soviet Union and another one back to the U.S."
Director Steven Spielberg recommended actor Austin Stowell for the role of Francis Gary Powers after watching his dailies from Public Morals (2015), a period cop television drama executive produced by Spielberg, in which Stowell had a starring role, and which premiered in the same year as Bridge of Spies (2015). Stowell, had been most recently seen in the highly-acclaimed film Whiplash (2014), and plays Francis Gary Powers in Bridge of Spies (2015), the young Air Force pilot who joins the CIA to fly covert missions in a U-2 spy plane and is subsequently shot down over the Soviet Union. There, he is imprisoned and subjected to solitary confinement and sleep deprivation, eventually suffering the humiliation of a very public Moscow show trial.
Russian actor Michael Gor, who played the Bond villain Vladimir Popov in the earlier James Bond spy movie Die Another Day (2002), signed on as the enigmatic Ivan Schischkin, a Soviet official who calls himself an assistant secretary in the Soviet East Embassy in East Berlin but who is, in fact, a high-level KGB operative with whom Donovan must negotiate. The young American actor Will Rogers, came on board as Frederic L. Pryor, an American student arrested in East Berlin, whom James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) learns about while he is in East Berlin to negotiate the of release of Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) and insists must also be part of the exchange.
The movie's "Bridge of Spies" title shares its name with a non-fiction book by Giles Whittell of the same name which was first published in 2010. It is entitled "Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War".
While the cast and crew were being assembled, the filmmakers were simultaneously deciding where to shoot the film, hoping to use many of the very places where the events in the story actually took place. After scouting locations in the U.S. and Europe, they settled on New York City; Berlin, Germany; and Wroclaw, Poland.
Structurally the story is a study in shifting moods and environments, opening in Brooklyn in 1957 with the action eventually moving to East Berlin. Because of this, the production utilized two different crews for principal photography. There was one crew to film scenes in and around New York and a different crew for Poland and Germany, each with its own pre-production schedule, and each tasked with effectively creating their own cinematic universe that needed to remain faithful to period details.
Principal photography on "Bridge of Spies" kicked off in September 2014 in Manhattan, and over the next month the production made the most of the city's diverse architectural styles and its geographically-adjacent boroughs. Cameras manned by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski first rolled in lower Manhattan at Wall Street, filming exteriors of James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) on the steps of the Federal Courthouse at Foley Square.
In midtown Manhattan, the offices of the New York Bar Association, located in a classical historical landmark at 44th Street, provided the ideal setting for James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks)'s law firm, "Watters, Cowan & Donovan", instilling a sense of old-world money and prestige.
Multiple shoots in Brooklyn in New York were conducted, on locations in Flatbush and Brooklyn Heights, as the borough still features a number of period buildings, suitable for the Cold War period of the picture.
It was in Ditmas Park, a residential area made up of quaint homes situated on peaceful, tree-lined streets, that production designer Adam Stockhausen found the ideal location for the Donovans' home: a beautiful, freestanding Victorian home full of charm and period detail with a front porch and small backyard, which helped convey James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks)'s strong connection to his neighborhood.
Second movie starring Tom Hanks and directed by Steven Spielberg to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Motion Picture. The first was Saving Private Ryan (1998). Neither film won the Best Picture Oscar. Bridge of Spies (2015) features an actress, who plays the wife of Hanks, and who also has the surname of Ryan [See: Amy Ryan].
On the film, costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone was responsible for effectively conveying the time period of the story through the visual design of the clothing and accessories, but her biggest challenge on any film is to be a good listener. She explained: "With each project we have to come up with new ways to understand what the story is telling us, to really grasp the color of the period and represent it in a subtle way that helps to portray the story and not overpower it."
The picture was costume designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone's first film with director Steven Spielberg, and she was thrilled to find they spoke the same language and shared a similar visual understanding of the story. Working closely with production designer Adam Stockhausen, she immersed herself in the worlds in which the characters existed, hoping to find a glimpse into the truth about them. Fortunately, she had a great deal of freedom when creating the looks which would define each character, because they weren't playing iconic people anyone would actually recognize.
Kasia Walicka-Maimone, the film's costume designer, said: "Our job was to deliver a sense of reality in those scenes. We discussed every single extra that needed to be dressed because in order to represent a crowd effectively, you need to have a good mix of people. When having to present a crowd which represents the humanity and the streets of New York, the collaboration starts with the extras casting director, because it's much easier to dress people when they have great faces."
In The Terminal (2004), an earlier film prior to Bridge of Spies (2015) that star Tom Hanks made with director Steven Spielberg, Hanks portrayed an Eastern European like character, from a region which is the reverse of the West. In The Terminal (2004), Hanks played Viktor Navorski, a visitor to the USA from the fictional country of Krakozhia . In Bridge of Spies (2015), Hanks portrays James B. Donovan, an American lawyer from the West (the USA). In The Terminal (2004), though Viktor comes from the fictional country of Krakozhia, the language he speaks in the movie is Bulgarian. The written material shown, such as the Fodor's guide and the magazine page with the jazz greats, is in bad Russian, whilst the label on the Planters Peanuts can is neither in Bulgarian nor in Russian. Viktor's driving license is issued in Homel, Republic of Belarus, and has a woman's name on it - Gulnara Gulina - and is written in Cyrillic. It was a real license provided by a real Gulnara Gulina, a woman from Belarus, who was working in the American film industry, although the license, issued in 1995, was already invalid at the time of filming. The filmmakers just added Viktor Navorski's name in English and his photo.
During filming, director Steven Spielberg would run the dailies with editor Michael Kahn and his team and give them his scene selects. And because the director prefers to edit during principal photography, coming in before call time, during lunch and after wrap, Kahn was able to assemble a cut of the film relatively quickly. Kahn said: "It's great to be able to show him things while he's on the set and to get his feedback while we're cutting."
In this film, James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) tries to introduce himself to some German officers. In Catch Me If You Can (2002), also directed by Steven Spielberg, Carl Hanratty (also played by Tom Hanks) tries to introduce himself to some French officers.
Director Steven Spielberg's intuition of how to combine the camera and visual storytelling with text and subtext and character is prodigious according to producer Kristie Macosko Krieger. She said: "Every director is a visual storyteller, but what sets Steven apart is that he is literally taking in everything that's going on around him. He allows every other department to be at their best at all times because he trusts them, so there is a sense of calmness on the set because every person on the crew has the confidence to do what they do so well." Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger added of cinematographer Janusz Kaminski: "Watching Janusz work is phenomenal. He sees things that none of us can see, and he sees it in the light and he sees it where the camera is and it just seems so instinctual to him."
For cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who hoped to visually convey the reality of the Cold War on-screen, the director of photography needed to come up with creative ways to revive the period while not going overboard, as he knew that too much imagery would look fake. Director Steven Spielberg explained: "We didn't have the budget to put blue screen and show miles and miles of digital period buildings out the window, so we had the windows frosted over. Then Janusz brought all the light, one source, a single source, from the glass, and it gave that first meeting between Donovan [James B. Donovan played by Tom Hanks] and Abel [Rudolf Ivanovich Abel played by Mark Rylance] a real coldness. As a warmth began to develop, or at least the opportunity for a relationship began to occur to us (and to them), you could interpret that cool light as being sort of a wall between them that would slowly come down over the course of their story."
The contributions of producers Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger were quite substantial according to star Tom Hanks who explained: "Kristie knows everything in and out, back and forth. She knows the script better than I do and she knows the subtext of every discussion she's ever had with [director] Steven [Spielberg]. Kristie realizes we've got eighty-two billion working parts, and she can break down every one of those. No matter what is going on with Kristie at that exact moment, you can come up to her and have a fully-realized conversation about the topic at hand. She can tell you exactly what the status is of anything." Hanks added: "Marc knows the place that the movie holds in the Zeitgeist of films. He takes into account the history, the period and the casting choices and views it as a single-celled creature. A lot of times producers are beholden to the director because without the director their film doesn't get made. But I think Steven is beholden to Kristie and Marc because, without them, he doesn't have the freedom to think about the work purely in cinematic terms."
Actor Mark Rylance, who plays Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, said of director Steven Spielberg: "Steven is a very fatherly figure. I didn't realize how important and how much time he puts into his family until we worked together. I don't know how he finds the time with all the things he's doing, but he's really quite a family man and has maintained that, which is quite extraordinary for such a busy person."
In addition to being an amazingly-proficient filmmaker, director Steven Spielberg is genuinely concerned about his actors and has a profound respect for their craft, constantly looking for ways to create a story on-screen in the easiest and most natural way possible. Actor Tom Hanks said: "Steven and I have a pretty good shorthand. I would come in with an enthusiastic idea for how to go about the scene and Steven would say, 'That's great, because what I want to do is play it all the way from back here, and if you're moving around like that, that's where the eye is going to go'."
Actor Mark Rylance was amazed by the amount of preparation involved with each setup on this movie comparing it with a Renaissance workshop. Rylance said: "Steven comes in and you see him take in everything all around him. He is in total command of the big picture and everything going through the frame, the sets, the background actors, all the movements. Watching him, I imagined Leonardo Da Vinci at work. He was like a painter, but working with moving pictures."
In the story in the film, people judge Rudolf Ivanovich Abel (Mark Rylance) for who they think he is and what they think he is doing, but James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) sees something different in him. And Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) is being judged as someone who let himself fall into enemy hands, yet Donovan sees him as a pilot who did his best, who didn't give any secrets away but who held the line. Producer Kristie Macosko Krieger said: "There is this wonderful moment at the end of the film when people on the subway who had misjudged Donovan earlier are looking at him anew because they realize what he's accomplished and that they were wrong to judge this guy and this situation. It's a fantastic moment for his character." Navigating the unfamiliar waters of high-stakes international intrigue, James B. Donovan rose to the occasion with a modesty befitting the heroic acts that he performs, becoming an unsung civilian hero, and, in the process, the inspiration for an incredibly powerful story and film.
During an interview about this movie with Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg said that when the cop in the movie told Tom Hanks' character that he was in the third wave at Omaha Beach on D-Day, Spielberg told Tom to say to the cop that he was in the first wave, a reference to his role in "Saving Private Ryan".
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In the closing titles, it is explained that James B. Donovan was also influential in the Bay of Pigs negotiations, shortly after the events of the film. Donovan was asked to obtain freedom for detained Cubans and Americans imprisoned during the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961. Over the course of several trips to the island, Donovan gained the confidence of Cuban Leader Fidel Castro. He eventually secured the release of more than 1,100 survivors of the invasion, as well as another 8,500 political prisoners.
The film's closing epilogue and postscript states: "Following his return to Russia, Rudolf Abel [Rudolf Ivanovich Abel] was reunited with his wife and daughter. He was never publicly acknowledged by the Soviet Union as a spy. Gary Powers [Francis Gary Powers] died in a helicopter crash in 1977, while working for KNBC news. He was posthumously awarded the CIA Director's Medal and USAF POW Medal in 2000 and the Silver Star in 2012. In 1962, Frederic L. Pryor received his Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Economics and Senior Research Scholar at Swarthmore College. Following the successful conclusion of the Powers-Abel exchange, James Donovan was asked by President Kennedy [John F. Kennedy] to undertake further negotiations on behalf of the U.S. In the summer of 1962, he was sent to Cuba to discuss with Fidel Castro the terms of release of 1,113 prisoners held after the Bay of Pigs invasion. When Donovan finished negotiations, he had secured the release of 9,703 men, women and children."