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Director Steven Spielberg Made Sure Matt Damon Was Resented By The Saving Private Ryan Cast


To prepare for playing WWII soldiers, Spielberg had his main cast undergo period-appropriate basic training, complete with the grueling hours, bad diet, and physically laborious ropes courses. This, as any soldier might tell you, was massively difficult and not very fun. It’s also so difficult that the people who go through it tend to bond over the shared struggle. Damon, meanwhile, got to relax at home. It seemed a little unfair to the cast, as Damon was playing a soldier. Why wasn’t he struggling and bonding? It turns out, being a little unfair — and preventing friendship — was Spielberg’s modus operandi. Damon said:.

“[Spielberg] made me not go to boot camp so that the other guys would resent me. They all went through this experience, and they all bonded, but because I was the character they were looking for, and they resented this guy that they were risking their lives to go find, Steven purposefully kept me away from them.” 

The Far Out interview pointed to a scene late in “Saving Private Ryan” when the main characters have all located the Private, and he refuses to return home with them, eager to keep fighting. He doesn’t care about the sacrifices they made, and still feels that dying in combat is somehow heroic. In that scene, the rest of the cast stares daggers into Matt Damon, furious that he would suggest anything outside their life-threatening mission. That moment couldn’t have happened without Spielberg’s clever Damon-isolation ploy.

“Saving Private Ryan” was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and ultimate won Oscars for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound, and Best Sound Editing. Its Best Picture loss to “Shakespeare In Love” was considered a minor scandal. Now everyone resents Shakespeare.

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