Few wartime movies hold a candle to Saving Private Ryan.

Grossing close to US $500 million worldwide and winning five Academy Awards, Spielberg's film was an undeniable hit both commercially and critically.

A moving and epic war drama, the film is set during the Invasion of Normandy during World War II. When the US War Department realise a mother is set to receive three letters all on the same day informing her that three of her four sons have been killed in action, a specialist team is sent to save her fourth son, Private Ryan.

This cult classic comes with some equally insane facts so without further ado here's everything you might not know about the film.



During filming, Tom Sizemore was battling a heavy drug addiction but Spielberg still wanted him in the movie. To keep him sober, Spielberg gave him an ultimatum for motivation.

He would drug test Sizemore every day and if he failed the test once he would be fired and they would reshoot the whole movie without him regardless of how much they'd filmed. He stayed clean and will forever be a part of one of the greatest war movies.

Sizemore has continued to struggle with substance abuse problems since the film and spent time in prison after failing numerous drug tests while on probation.

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks go back to the war times of Saving Private Ryan..
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks go back to the war times of Saving Private Ryan..


Spielberg reportedly only cast Damon as the movie's main character because he wanted a relatively unknown actor to play Private Ryan. All he was looking for was someone with an All-American look and Damon had that.

Spielberg probably didn't anticipate how well 1997's film Good Will Hunting was going to do which went on to win three Academy Awards and catapult Damon to instant stardom.

He told Roger Ebert back in 1998, "Who knew he was gonna go off and become a movie star overnight and win the Academy Award for screenplay? And not be the anonymous actor I had in mind?"


While recording the voiceover for the German version of the movie, one of the actors had to drop out after being unable to deal with the emotional realism of the film.

He was a German veteran of the Normandy invasion and unsurprisingly did not want to relive the occasion and was eventually replaced.

Philly, a newspaper from Philadelphia also reported a spike in calls to the Department of Veteran Affairs hotline after the movie was released.

One US veteran from Omaha Beach told of his experience saying the sequence produced "one hell of a tightening in my chest, and I couldn't breathe and I shed a lot of tears ... It felt like I was right there again. It was so damned real," Frank Davis told Philly.

Post-traumatic stress disorder counsellors also reported a spike in visits after the film's release.


Before Tom Hanks was cast as the titular character of Captain John Miller, Spielberg considered a number of different actors for the role. Mel Gibson and Harrison Ford were both considered for the role of Capt. John Miller, before Steven Spielberg decided on casting Tom Hanks.

Spielberg and Hanks are also the best of friends with last year's film Bridge of Spies being their eighth collaboration.

Gushing to ET about their bromance last year and how their duo is a match made in heaven Spielberg said, "I think I just took everything that I've known in my friendship with Tom that served us so well on Saving Private Ryan. It's just been a breeze working with him."


If it seemed like Matt Damon's character Private Ryan was resented by the rest of the soldiers, that's because he was. On and off the screen.

Before filming started all of the principal actors were made to participate in several days of gruelling army training to make their portrayal of WWII soldiers seem more realistic.

Damon was deliberately excluded from the training so he would not have the opportunity to bond with the other actors.

Marine veteran Captain Dale Dye led the ten day bootcamp saying "we intentionally did not include Matt Damon who plays the actual Pvt. Ryan in our field training, as we did not want the Rangers to bond with him. They resent him in the story and we wanted to preserve that feeling."

Spielberg also made the actors do the rigorous training because "I wanted them to respect what it was like to be a soldier".


Involving more than 15,000 extras, tonnes of explosives, thousands of litres of fake blood and costing more than $12 million, the Omaha Beach scene was beyond epic.

Empire Magazine called it the greatest battle scene of all time which recounted the landing on the beaches of Normandy for the D-Day invasion that resulted in the deaths of close to 20, 000 soldiers.

Actor Tom Hanks leads his men towards the beach during scene from Saving Private Ryan.
Actor Tom Hanks leads his men towards the beach during scene from Saving Private Ryan.

France didn't allow the 20 minute sequence to be shot at the real Normandy site because of its historical significance so Spielberg instead went to Ireland to film.

The extras included 30 amputees from the Irish Army Reserve that were given prosthetic limbs to simulate soldiers having their limbs blown off.

Spielberg hit back at critics that called the gruesome beach sequence too much claiming he did not want the "audience to be spectators" but rather " demand them to be participants with those kids who had never seen combat before in real life, and get to the top of Omaha Beach together."


Billy Bob and his phobias are well-publicised. One of them is a fear of antiques while another might've cost him a role in Saving Private Ryan.

Thornton was originally offered the part of Sgt. Horvath (eventually played by Tom Sizemore) but turned it down because of the Omaha beach scene due to his phobia of water.

Most of his fears are home-related but Thornton insists that most of them have "been greatly exaggerated".

He opened up on Oprah's Master Class back in 2014 about his fears saying "to get into the fears that I have, I'm not sure we have time ... I have fears and phobias yes but I think they've been overblown in the media."