Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies – a dramatic historical thriller written by Matt Charman and Ethan & Joel Coen – stars Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Amy Ryan, and Alan Alda. The supporting cast includes Austin Stowell, Domenick Lombardozzi, Michael Gaton, Sebastian Koch, and Burghart Klaußner.
This is Tom Hanks’ fourth film collaboration with Spielberg (their first in over ten years). Bridge of Spies allows Spielberg to finally do a genuine spy thriller…
“I’ve always wanted to make a spy movie. This is not James Bond. Only James Bond can be James Bond. I’ve always been fascinated with the entertainment value of the James Bond spy series of movies, as well as the serious John le Carre spy novels, especially the Martin Ritt movie The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. Also spy pictures like The Quiller Memorandum and The Ipcress File, and Torn Curtain by Hitchcock in the ‘60s.”
Photo: © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox
Click here for a photo gallery.
The story is based on James B. Donovan’s book “Strangers on a Bridge: The Case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers” (1964) and Gilles Whittell’s book “Bridge of Spies: A True Story of the Cold War” (2010).
The film follows Brooklyn lawyer James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) who has to cope with the Cold War’s repercussions when he is given a mission to negotiate the release of Francis Gary Powers, a pilot whose U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union. Donovan is determined to get the situation solved, declaring “The next mistake our countries make could be the last one.”
In the official video for the film, Spielberg talks about how significant the U-2 incident was to him. His father Arnold, an electrical engineer, was on an exchange visit to Russia in 1960 when the U-2 spy plane crisis occurred.“The Russians were putting the pilot Gary Powers’ helmet and his flight suit and the remains of the U-2 plane on show for everyone in Russia to see. A military man saw my father’s American passport and took him to the head of the queue and repeated really angrily to the crowd, ‘look what your country is doing to us.’”
Read this fascinating account of historical facts vs. cinematic fiction.
Matt Charman writes the script and pitches it to DreamWorks. Steven Spielberg quickly decides to direct and has Joel & Ethan Coen revise Charman’s original script. On March 3, 2015, co-producer Marc Platt reveals the title to be Bridge of Spies.
Principal photography begins under the working title of St. James Place on September 8, 2014, in Brooklyn, New York City. Filming continues in DUMBO, Astoria, and Manhattan. In order to match the style of the 1950s, Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński chooses to film on 35 mm film using anamorphic lenses in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1.
Further shooting is done at Babelsberg Studios in Berlin and Potsdam, Germany, and lasts there through the end of November. Filming in Berlin begins at the former Tempelhof Airport, for scenes that actually took place there, such as Donovan’s descending from a historic C-54 Skymaster. Another scene includes the prisoner exchange filmed on the Glienicke Bridge (also known as the “Bridge of Spies”) where the historical exchange actually took place in 1962.
The Glienicke Bridge is located near Wannsee, where the Wannsee
Conference with Adolf Eichmann and the other architects of the Holocaust
took place – a fact that chills Spielberg twice as much during the winter shoot. The bridge is closed to traffic for filming over the last weekend of November. German Chancellor Angela Merkel visits the set to watch the filming of these scenes.
To film crucial Berlin Wall sequences, the production team travels to Wrolcaw, Poland where parts of the Berlin Wall and surrounding areas are reconstructed – supervised by production designer Adam Stockhausen who has won an Academy Award for his contributions to Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone who has collaborated with Anderson and Stockhausen on Moonrise Kingdom (2012) immerses herself in Cold War fashion. Janusz Kamiński can finally work in his home country again, after he experienced his first collaboration with Spielberg on Schindler’s List (1993).
Production wraps in Beale Air Force Base, near Marysville, California. Francis Gary Powers, Jr., founder of The Cold War Museum and the pilot’s son, is brought on as a technical consultant and has a cameo in the film.
The film’s score is composed by Thomas Newman. It is the first time a Steven Spielberg film is not scored by John Williams since The Color Purple (1985). Newman replaces him due to Williams’ commitment to compose the music for J.J. Abram’s Star Wars – The Force Awakens (2015) and a temporary health issue.
The first poster for Bridge of Spies is released on June 4, 2015, with the first trailer appearing online the following day. In European film posters, the US flag is replaced by an abstract illustration of the Glienicke Bridge in the style of the 60s famous poster and title designer Saul Bass.
Bridge of Spies is produced by Steven Spielberg, Marc Platt, and Kristie Macosko Krieger and distributed by Touchstone Pictures in North America, with 20th Century Fox covering the remaining territories.
The film has its world premiere on October 4, 2015, at the 53rd New York Film Festival. Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg, Amy Ryan, Mark Rylance, and Sebastian Koch attend in person. After the screening, Bridge of Spies gets the crowd to its feet for a standing ovation and opens to universal acclaim by critics and audiences.
Variety’s Kristopher Tapley praises Spielberg’s sturdy craftsmanship, Tom Hanks’ and Mark Rylance’s strong performances and the film’s story that he describes as “thematically potent, dealing in notions of idealism particularly
meaningful in the face of today’s perceived Constitutional slippery
The European premiere takes place in the Berlin Zoo Palast on November 13, 2015. Steven Spielberg, Kate Capshaw, Tom Hanks, Amy Ryan and Sebastian Koch attend the premiere.
Following the event, Steven Spielberg intends to travel to Paris to attend the French premiere of his film. However, the terrorist attacks in Paris put an end to these plans: 20th Century Fox cancels the premiere which was scheduled for November 15.
Bridge of Spies grosses more than $162 million worldwide (against a budget of $40 million).
For more behind-the-scenes information on the making of the film, jump to our Bridge of Spies Special.