Tom Hanks Feared His Friendship With Steven Spielberg Would Be Ruined Because of ‘Saving Private Ryan’

Tom Hanks is known for starring in many iconic movies. One of his most notable projects was the Oscar-winning Saving Private Ryan, directed by Steven Spielberg. But Hanks almost turned down the movie, as a part of him feared his friendship with Spielberg wouldn’t survive it.

Tom Hanks almost didn’t work with Steven Spielberg on ‘Saving Private Ryan’ because of their friendship

Tom Hanks smiling while speaking on stage.
Tom Hanks | Rich Fury/Getty Images

The Forrest Gump star almost turned down the opportunity to work with Spielberg out of concern for their friendship. The concern wasn’t unfounded, however. Rather, it came from what Hanks had seen in the past.

“I’ve seen friendships that ended because of a bad moviemaking experience, and I was really reluctant to do it because of that,” Hanks said in an interview with Deseret News. “Sometimes I’m just astounded that I know this great guy and that I’m friends with him. So it hasn’t been worth it to risk our friendship until now.”

But even after Hanks signed on, there was still the anxiety of ruining each other’s friendship when they filmed.

“The first movie was fraught with, ‘I don’t want to say anything that Tom’s not going to like. I want to keep his friendship. I like this guy and his family. God, don’t let me do anything that’s going to screw that up,”’ Spielberg told Today.

But fortunately, that kind of tension didn’t last long.

“I sort of said, ‘Look, you know … you can’t offend me. You’re the boss. Tell me what you like, and if you don’t like my ideas say: That’s nice, but we’re going to do something different,'” Hanks said. “He’s the director of the film, you see. My job is to do what the director of the film wants.”

Tom Hanks still surprises Steven Spielberg when they work together

After Saving Private Ryan, the two went on to collaborate on even more films. Bridge of Spies was the last project that saw Hanks and Spielberg teaming up. Speaking at the New York Film Festival, Spielberg and Hanks discussed how they still surprised each other after all these years.

“Well, for me, everything that Tom does is a surprise to me because I don’t recognize him. I know Tom so well, but I don’t recognize the character he plays … And I’m always amazed by that … It was kind of remarkable to see. It’s been in every experience I’ve had with Tom because each character he plays in all four movies that we did together is totally different,” Spielberg said according to Vulture.

Meanwhile, Hanks also took the time to praise the director, complimenting him on how he treats actors.

“Well, I’d say, speaking on behalf of all the actors in the movie, you don’t ever want to find yourself making your last Steven Spielberg movie. You know, you really want to please the man,” Hanks added. “Steven does this incredible thing when he casts you. He empowers you with the scene. He wants you to come in with ideas that are beyond the page, beyond the text, and even, I think, beyond the purview of your own character.”

Tom Hanks had to convince the other actors to stay in Steven Spielberg’s Bootcamp in ‘Saving Private Ryan’


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The Schindler’s List director did what he could to bring out authentic performances from his actors and honor the story he was telling. This included putting his actors through the kind of boot camp that real soldiers would endure. Eventually, their time at the camp had become so intense that one of the actors second-guessed staying. It was up to Hanks to reel everyone back in.

“I think the other guys were expecting more of a traditional actor rehearsal theory — you know, where you walk around with your books and go, ‘You know, I don’t know if I should say that line right here.’ . . . There was a day where everybody wanted to leave. We had quite a few discussions about why I didn’t think we should,” Hanks said in an interview with Buffalo News.

But Hanks asserted that the training helped the actors immerse themselves deeper into their roles.

“By the time we were done, we were exhausted and miserable and achy and tired and hungry and we wanted to go home. And we were playing guys who were tired and exhausted and achy and hungry and wanted to go home,” he continued. “It was the perfect stint. From the first day of shooting, we didn’t need the costumes, we didn’t need the prop guys, we didn’t need the weaponeers. We put everything on because we’d put it on and taken it off a few hundred times before then. We were ready to go before the camera crew was. We were sleeping in the grass while the camera was setting up.”