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Why Tom Hanks almost turned down one of his best movies

Tom Hanks almost turned down his role in Saving Private Ryan, which went on to become one of Steven Spielberg's best movies and a seminal war movie.

Tom Hanks in The Green Mile

Tom Hanks almost turned down his part in Steven Spielberg war movie Saving Private Ryan, because he thought it might jeopardise his friendship with the director. Saving Private Ryan is often regarded as one of Spielberg’s best movies, and one of the greatest depictions of war put to the screen.

Hanks’ performance is a big part of that, as he acts as the story’s emotional centre, and his character Captain Miller is depicted as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s one of the actor’s strongest movies, even among tough competition.

But back around the release of the dramatic action movie, Hanks explained that choosing to accept the role wasn’t necessarily straightforward. Speaking on the topic to DeseretNews, he said, “It was fascinating to see how Steven works – to be there when the light goes off in his head, and then he comes up with something new that just amazes you. He’s an ultra-, super-genius – so creative in ways you could never imagine.”

He continued: “I’ve seen friendships that ended because of a bad moviemaking experience, and I was really reluctant to do it because of that. 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.”

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However, once Hanks saw the script and spoke to Spielberg again, the decision became one that was essentially made for him, and he couldn’t turn it down. “We would have regretted not making this film. This was really important for both of us,” he said.

So how did the movie impact their relationship, then? Hanks explained, “We’re still speaking. There were a couple of tense moments when we might have questioned each other’s judgment, but we got through it.”

Since then, Hanks and Spielberg have returned to work with each other on numerous occasions, with Catch me if you Can, The Terminal, The Post, Bridge of Spies, and they also worked together on the World War 2 drama series Band of Brothers: one of the best TV series of all time.

For more movie magic, check out our guide to every major new movie in 2023, as well as our picks for the best science fiction movies.