17 Surprising Facts You Probably Didn't Know About 'Saving Private Ryan'

Saving Private Ryan is not your typical war film. Director Steven Spielberg fills the movie with so much realistic imagery that some of America's most grizzled veterans experienced PTSD after watching the 1998 movie. It’s graphic, intense, and it doesn’t give way to sentimentality.

So, then, let's not waste time rattling off Saving Private Ryan wiki information or basic Saving Private Ryan trivia. No one needs to go over the nearly $500 million the film grossed worldwide or its 11 Academy Award nominations. Instead, find out about why the rest of the cast had real hatred toward Matt Damon and how the film employed actual amputees as extras. Take a deep dive into some truly interesting facts that you may not have known about the Academy Award-winning film.

Photo: DreamWorks Pictures

  • Spielberg Shot The Film In Chronological Order Because He Wanted It To Be A Demoralizing Experience

    By the end of Saving Private Ryan, the cast looks completely physically and mentally drained, and it's not just because they're really good actors. Before Ryan, Spielberg hadn't shot a film in order since E.T. (1982). He explained that he filmed in that unconventional style for E.T. because he wanted the child actors, many of whom had never appeared in a movie before, to understand exactly where they were going in the story. 

    For Saving Private Ryan, he decided to once again film the movie in order. Unfortunately, he had no idea just how traumatic it would be for the cast. "I didn't realize how devastating that was going to be for the whole cast to actually start off with Omaha Beach and survive that as a film team, and then move into the hedgerows, move into the next town, as we all began to get whittled down by the storytelling."

  • Tom Sizemore Was Required To Take A Drug Test Every Day

    Steven Spielberg wanted Tom Sizemore to play the role of Sergeant Horvath so much that he granted the actor the part despite Sizemore's well-known meth addiction. In order to keep him clean, Sizemore was required to take a drug test every single day. If he ever failed, even if it was on the very last day of shooting, the director told Sizemore he would remove him from the film, and reshoot all of his scenes with another actor.

    Sizemore made it through the brutal 58 day shoot that was Saving Private Ryan. Unfortunately, he has since had an up and down battle with drugs as seen on Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.

  • The Cast Went Through A Brutal Boot Camp

    Spielberg required the principle cast of the film to participate in a seven-day boot camp in order to get a true taste for the hardship of military life. Despite what you might think, the actors were not given preferential treatment. The boot camp leader, Captain Dale Dye (a military advisor and Marine veteran of the Vietnam War), pushed the actors to the limits of their physical endurance.

    Their days were filled with push ups, constantly getting screamed at, six mile runs, and scarce food supplies. This left many of the actors vomiting from exhaustion, shivering from the cold, and on the edge of a mental breakdown. Dye's company Warriors Incorporated also worked on Platoon, Outbreak, and Forrest Gump, in an effort to remove "the phoniness" from war movies. 

    The actors who took part in the boot camp included: Tom Hanks, Tom Sizemore, Edward Burns, Jeremy Davies, Vin Diesel, Barry Pepper, Adam Goldberg and Giovanni Ribisi. Ed Burns, who called boot camp the worst experience of his life, described the training environment. "We get there, we set up our tents, and it starts raining and it doesn't stop raining for seven days. It is 30 degrees at night and you are in a soaking wet tent, a soaking wet uniform, with a soaking wet blanket wrapped around you."

  • (Almost) All Of The Actors Voted To Leave Boot Camp

    The actors wanted to leave boot camp. They felt that if they continued with the rigorous training, they would not be healthy enough for actual filming. They wanted to check into a nice hotel and maybe get some room service, instead of suffering in the elements, rain-soaked, exhausted, and starving. They took a vote, and all the actors voted to leave boot camp. Well, except for Tom Hanks. Once Hanks voted against leaving, all the other actors fell into place.

    "I loved it!" said the two-time Oscar winner. "They all wanted to quit and I said, 'No'.' The actual boot camp was very cold and it was very miserable and it was very humiliating. It was exhausting, we didn't get much sleep. We worried about getting sick and we worried about getting hurt, but we were never worried about those being the six most worthwhile days that we could have."

    Vin Diesel immediately gained a ton of respect for Hanks. "We were all exhausted, we all wanted to leave and here was this guy who was a superstar, who doesn't have to be here, voting to stay. That's when we adopted him as our captain. He said, 'Guys, 20 years from now, you'll look back on this and wished to God you had finished it.' To this day, we are all extremely grateful that we did."

  • The Cast Really Did Resent Matt Damon

    The entire principal cast were required to take part in six days of rigorous army training. That is, everyone except for Matt Damon. In the film, the solders resent Damon's titular character, Private Ryan, for making them go behind enemy lines to save him. In order to bring that resentment to the big screen, Damon was intentionally left out of training (he did later train with other paratroopers in his "unit").

    "I wasn't invited to the boot camp," Damon explains. "It was a great ploy on Steven's part because what it did, since the film is about these eight guys who are looking for one guy, they are risking their lives for this one guy and a resentment breeds among them for this one guy. The boot camp couldn't help but foster a kernel of resentment, because while they are sleeping face down in the rain they were well aware that I was at home in bed. So, by the time I show up on set and flippantly ask, 'Hey, guys how was boot camp?', that resentment is right there. It created that separation."

  • The Government Set Up A Toll-Free Hotline For Veterans Who Needed Assistance After Watching The Movie

    Saving Private Ryan was so graphic and realistic that the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs set up a toll-free hotline to assist veterans who suffered from PTSD and experienced flashbacks after watching the movie. "Counselors at VA medical facilities have been asked to prepare to assist veterans who experience emotional trauma as a result of the movie," said a spokesman for the VA in Washington, D.C. "VA similarly assisted veterans following the movie Platoon, which had profound impact on veterans exposed to combat."