‘Bridge Of Spies’: 7 Facts About The Real Story Behind The Film

Bridge of Spies is a gripping Cold War spy story that was directed by Steven Spielberg. The movie is based on a true story of James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks), who is the defense lawyer for an accused Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel (played by Mark Rylance).

The story is powerful and full of intrigue and tension. There are also some really fun facts about Bridge of Spies.

1. SheKnows reports that Steven Spielberg has a personal connection to Bridge of Spies. His father, Arnold Spielberg, visited Russia shortly after Francis Gary Powers was shot down, and he had to wait in line to get into the country while the Soviets set up a display of Powers’ flight suit, helmet, and the remains of his U-2.

Steven Spielberg explained, “[Soviet officials] got them to the head of the line, not to convenience them, because after they got to the head of the line this Russian pointed to the U-2 and then pointed to my dad and his friends and said, ‘Look what your country is doing to us,’ which he repeated angrily several times before handing back their passports.”

2. In Bridge of Spies, Donovan’s son, Roger (Noah Schnapp) was preparing for the possibility of a nuclear bomb attack, but in reality, historians agree that educational films to prepare children for a nuclear bomb were propaganda. Here is an example of such a film from the early 1950s.

3. Fandango reports that Steven Spielberg didn’t know about the Bridge of Spies story until just two years ago.

“I knew about Gary Powers because that was big news, and it was national news when he was shot down, and taken prisoner in the Soviet Union. But I knew nothing about how he got out of the Soviet Union. I knew nothing about Rudolf Abel; I knew nothing about James B. Donovan. And that all came to me as all good stories come to us – in a surprise package.”

4. The Bridge of Spies story was almost made into a movie in the 1960s, but MGM decided it wasn’t the right time to tell the story.

“It was 1965, and the Bay of Pigs had happened. The Cuban Missile Crisis had been averted, like a year and a half before, and the tensions were too taut between the Soviet Union and the United States of America for MGM to get into the politics of the story.”

5. Spielberg believes the story still holds a lot of relevance today.

“The whole idea that spying has reached a technological apogee of almost – it’s almost open season for anybody that knows how to operate an operating system, and can get into somebody else’s operating systems. The cyber hacking that’s going on today is just like the spying that went on then.”

6. When Tom Hanks was researching Donovan for his role in Bridge of Spies, he ran across a quote that accurately summed up what the movie is about.

“I came across a piece on YouTube in which the real Donovan, when he was defending Abel, was interviewed at the courthouse. And he literally stated the reason why he took the case, and the reason why he carried it all the way to the extremes of the Supreme Court. He says, ‘You can’t accuse this man of treason. He’s not a traitor. He’s actually a patriot to his cause. Only an American can be a traitor, only an American can commit treason against their own country. He’s just a man doing his job, in the same way we have men doing their jobs over here.'”

7. In real life, Donovan and Abel didn’t reunite, although Donovan went to Russia to try to find Abel. Spielberg explains.

“At one point, toward the end of Donovan’s life, he went to Russia with the hope of meeting Abel again, and wasn’t able to find him and get into contact with him. I think there was a little help – there was some obfuscation going on at the time, but he was hoping to have one more moment with him, but never had that moment.”

[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]