Here are 10 trivia facts about Saving Private Ryan from 1998, which originally appeared as our Mystery Movie Quiz on our Facebook page. There are hundreds of pieces of behind-the-scenes information about this movie. Please feel free to comment and add more trivia we might have missed.
1. The movie takes place in the past and the present.
The backbone of the movie is the WWII sequences and the scenes at Arlington National Cemetery are in the present. Incidentally, the part of Old Mrs. Ryan was played by Kathleen Byron in her last film. Fans of Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger will recognize her from her brilliant appearances in Stairway To Heaven and Black Narcissus.
2. One real person is depicted in the film.
The story and the names of the soldiers are fictional but some of the events are based on actual war records. However, the one real historic figure was General George C. Marshall, played by veteran actor Harve Presnell.
Reliable sources say Tom Sizemore entered a drug rehab in 1998 after his friend Robert De Niro, along with Sizemore’s mother, showed up during the filming of Witness to the Mob, saying they were driving him to rehab or to jail — Tom chose rehab. After completing the program, he counseled teens involved in substance abuse. Once on board Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg threatened to re-shoot the entire movie with a different actor if Sizemore failed even one drug test.
4. This movie is considered one of the best of its genre.
Since 1998, Saving Private Ryan appears on many critics’ lists as the best war movie ever made. And in 2007, the American Film Institute ranked Saving Private Ryan among their list of The 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.
5. Two stars of TV sitcoms appear in the movie.
6. The film features some of the most chilling sequences ever seen in a movie.
The opening sequence of the Normandy Invasion runs almost 30 minutes. Shooting costs were $11 million and took up to 1000 extras. During initial worldwide showings, theatres were requested to turn up the sound to add to the realism of the material, And to add the final touch, Steven Spielberg requested that no one enter theatres once the movie had begun. Spielberg spared no effort to make viewers feel as if they were in the middle of the battle fighting for their lives and he went on record as saying that even if the film had received an NC-17 rating for its violence, he would have released it uncut anyway.
7. People with missing limbs were used in the filming.
Of the extras used in the Omaha Beach sequence, 20-30 of them were actual amputees issued with prosthetic limbs to simulate soldiers losing their limbs in the attack.
8. A scene in the movie portrays a pivotal moment in history.
The Allied Invasion at Normandy was the turning point of World War II in Europe.
9. The director named his production company after a movie he previously directed.
Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment production company is named for his early movie Amblin’ (1968).
10. The movie didn’t win the Best Picture Oscar, although many thought it should have.
The other Oscar nominees in 1998 were Shakespeare In Love, Life Is Beautiful, The Thin Red Line and Elizabeth. In one of the biggest upsets in Academy history, after Spielberg won the Oscar for Best Director, the winner for Best Picture was announced — it was Shakespeare In Love, not Saving Private Ryan. Although Shakespeare in Love is a fine film, many critics around the world predicted Saving Private Ryan as the Oscar winner.
For even more Oscar snubs through the years, read two very incisive articles on the subject: I Would Not Like To Thank The Academy by Brian Sieck and When The Best Picture Isn’t The “Best Picture” by Gary Cahall.
And now you can watch the official studio trailer for Saving Private Ryan: