Saving Private Ryan

Danielle Ni Dhighe puget.irp at
Tue Jan 16 19:29:55 MST 2001

More on Spielberg and his politics...

London Times
7 January 2001

Spielberg 'squashes' film mocking RUC
By John Harlow, Los Angeles

Steven Speilberg has been accused of "squashing" a film set in
Northern Ireland that mocks the British Army and the Royal Ulster

The 53-year-old Hollywood director, who was given an honorary
knighthood in the new year honours, invested millions of dollars in
the politically charged comedy An Everlasting Piece, starring Billy
Connolly and the former Brookside actress Anna Friel.

But when executives at Spielberg's company, DreamWorks, saw the
finished product they "ran scared", according to one of the film's
producers, Jerome O'Connor. The film is due to be released in Britain
later this year.

O'Connor claims Spielberg was eager to stay on the right side of the
British government. "DreamWorks, which controls the film in the US,
planned to show it on 800 screens, but then suddenly cut that back to
eight. It may sound ridiculous to associate this change with
Spielberg getting a knighthood, but what else can a man think?" he

According to O'Connor, Barry Levinson, the film's veteran director,
who won best picture and best director Oscars for Rain Man 12 years
ago, clashed with Spielberg's DreamWorks partner, Jeffrey Katzenberg.

"Katzenberg told Barry to cut the politics out of the film or else he
would screw him over," O'Connor said.

"Barry refused to cut anything from the film, and suddenly we find
DreamWorks is refusing to support it."

Critics have largely welcomed the film as a successful, warm-hearted
comedy reminiscent of Levinson's Good Morning Vietnam. It is set in
Belfast in the 1980s, where two young barbers inherit a toupee
monopoly from a war-maddened character played by Connolly.

A series of farcical incidents traps the pair between the RUC and an
IRA group who want to disguise themselves in wigs. The day is saved
by Friel, who comes up with a scheme to sell the wigs to the army
because soldiers are losing their hair from the stress of serving in
Northern Ireland.

Sources close to Levinson said Spielberg had laughed as he read the
original script to his children when he first received it two years
ago. He still found much of it funny, but was uneasy about scenes
involving the army and the police.

"Steven was surprised that Levinson depicted the RUC as quite so
block-headed and heavy-handed during the 1980s," said one source.

"Also, the scenes depicting young army recruits losing their hair in
big tufts was deeply disturbing. That Everlasting Piece was otherwise
a very funny and generous movie kind of made it worse. And obviously
this film is coming along at a delicate time of the peace process."

DreamWorks appeared to lose faith in the film last year when
producers refused to employ Levinson's favourite composer, Hans
Zimmer, who had just completed work on another DreamWorks film,

Zimmer eventually wrote the music as a favour to Levinson, while the
company paid the Oscar-winning composer the minimum to establish
legal title over the music - $1.

Spielberg is well-known as an Anglophile and has often ex-pressed
admiration for the British Army. He filmed parts of Saving Private
Ryan at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, and recently returned there to
complete work on Band of Brothers, a $150m television miniseries

The two projects have created acting roles for 2,000 British
territorial and regular soldiers. "The Ministry of Defence is co-
operating in the interests of UK plc," said an army spokesman.

Tony Blair intervened personally to ensure that Band of Brothers was
filmed on a former airfield at Hatfield. Much of the filming of
Saving Private Ryan went abroad, a loss that was blamed on
bureaucratic obstacles.

DreamWorks, which released 10 films last year, refused to discuss any
comments by Katzenberg or by Spielberg, whose films have earned more
than $7 billion. However, it denied there had been any conflicts over
An Everlasting Piece.

Diana Loomis, a DreamWorks spokesman, rejected claims that the
company was "squashing" the film. "No one had heard from Mr O'Connor
on this issue. It's had a respectable promotional campaign," she
said. "We remain committed to all our films."

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