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This story first appeared in a special awards season issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Steven Spielberg’s latest best picture nominee, Bridge of Spies, is a fact-based Cold War-era spy drama, recounting how New York lawyer James Donovan (Tom Hanks) went to East Berlin in 1962 to negotiate the trade of American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers (Austin Stowell) for convicted Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance). The film marks Spielberg’s eighth best picture nomination, but it’s the first for co-producers Marc Platt and Kristie Macosko Krieger. Spies also garnered a supporting actor nom for British thespian Rylance, who managed to upstage Oscar magnet Tom Hanks. Platt, on the heels of his successful rollout of Grease: Live!, talked to THR about awards-season socializing, the joys of working with Spielberg and a very special screening of the movie for Donovan’s family.
This is your first Oscar nomination. Was there an awards event you were excited about attending?
I was most looking forward to the nominees lunch [on Feb. 8]. What a lovely, historical event to have to just mingle and talk in the privacy of a room full of people who have worked hard and are celebrating their movie.
As Bridge of Spies was being made, did you sense Rylance was delivering an Oscar-worthy performance?
You always felt, at any given scene, that there was something truthful and exciting going on. Mark is an actor I’ve known from the theater, since I spent a good part of my professional life at the theater. He’s also someone that Steven Spielberg first saw in the theater; he came up with the idea for Mark to play Abel. Watching him work with Tom Hanks was like watching a master class of acting. I don’t know that I thought in the moment about awards or anything, but it was clear that there was something very special going on.
Likewise, did you have a sense that Bridge of Spies could be a best picture contender?
I think anyone who gets the opportunity to work with Steven probably has that feeling at some moment because he’s so masterful at what he does. One of the many joys that defined Bridge of Spies for me was watching Steven because he finds joy in every detail of the process. Making movies is a long journey. To have it led by someone who’s that much of a joy to work with is infectious.
What moment stands out from the set?
I was sitting with Steven at the monitor watching a scene. We were on take four or five — I can’t recall the specific scene, but it was with Tom and Mark. Steven’s trying to get the right performance. He’s looking for a particular nuance. At take five or six, he ceases looking at the monitor and he literally jumps up. He is jumping for joy and pointing excitedly to the monitor. He says, “Look! Look! Look!” and he’s just so excited because he got the performance and the reading of the scene just the way he wanted or maybe in a way that was surprising to him. And it was like a little kid making a movie for the first time.
What’s been the most memorable thing to happen since the movie premiered?
Probably our proudest moment was when we showed the film to the entire Donovan family. James Donovan died when he was in his 50s, so he died very young. He had three children who have many children and grandchildren of their own. We arranged the screening in New York, and they flew in from everywhere, the entire Donovan clan, about 70 people. To see the pride and the tears, to have the story illuminated for them, was a great pleasure. That certainly was the event Steven was most nervous about because he was hoping he would get the portrayal of Donovan and Abel correct. And they were so happy, so he was happy.
• Studio DreamWorks/Disney
• Release date Oct. 16
• Worldwide box office $164 million
• Director Steven Spielberg
• Cast Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance
• Top awards and noms BAFTA and PGA best pic noms; Globe, SAG and BAFTA noms for Rylance
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