On Sunday night the New York Film Festival premiered Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s latest collaboration, the Cold War drama Bridge of Spies. The film marks the fourth time Spielberg has directed Hanks in a movie (the first time being 1998’s Saving Private Ryan). Turns out the duo has a lot to say about each other! When an audience member asked what still surprises one about the other at a panel following the screening, they couldn’t help but gush a little bit.
Spielberg: Well, for me, everything that Tom does is a surprise to me because I don’t recognize him. [Audience laughs.] I know Tom so well, but I don’t recognize the character he plays … And I’m always amazed by that … It was kind of remarkable to see. It’s been in every experience I’ve had with Tom because each character he plays in all four movies that we did together is totally different.
Hanks: Well, I’d say, speaking on behalf of all the actors in the movie, you don’t ever want to find yourself making your last Steven Spielberg movie. You know, you really want to please the man. [Audience laughs.] Steven does this incredible thing when he casts you. He empowers you with the scene. He wants you to come in with ideas that are beyond the page, beyond the text, and even, I think, beyond the purview of your own character.
Hanks: And when you do that, Steven becomes giddy. Because [launches into Spielberg impression] “I can’t believe you went over there, that means I can get a shot like this and then turn around get the whole thing! You got to come over here, look at this! Look what Joe did by beating up this newspaper right here!” [Audience laughs.] He does that. And for anybody to be in a movie at all, that’s a wonderful thing to hear from the boss. But to hear it from Steven, to think that, oh, man, I’m really glad I showed up on time, I’m really glad I knew the lines, and I’m really glad I had an idea that he never saw.
Well, don’t stop now.
Spielberg: Tom, I also find that, you know, that where I put the camera doesn’t as much depend on my reading the script 100 times. Where I put the camera depends on what the actors intend to do, or what they bring to it. […] I try to hire actors that already come with 1,000 ideas. It does create a kind of combustible moment where their ideas suggest where the camera should go.
“No, you’re the best.”
Hanks: Steven got us to say things in so many different permutations and so many different ways. […] And that’s what Steven gets out of you, because even though the camera’s out doing a bunch of stuff that’s fantastic, he’s getting great stuff out of you.
Whew. Smoke break?