Production is currently underway on Steven Spielberg’s next directorial effort, a film that is set during the peak of the Cold War in the 1960s. The project doesn’t have an official title just yet (its reported working title is St. James Place), but it reunites the Oscar-winning director with his frequent leading man, Tom Hanks, for a historical thriller that lies in what is, somewhat surprisingly, newfound storytelling territory for the filmmaker: spy cinema.
Spielberg’s new movie, as it were, is based on a real incident in the ’60s where U.S. pilot Francis Gary Powers – as played by Austin Stowell (Whiplash) in this film – was shot down and captured after flying over Soviet airspace in a U-2 spy plane. Hanks is portraying the U.S. attorney James Donovan, who was thereafter recruited by the CIA to negotiate with Soviet Union officials for Powers’ release.
Noteworthy supporting cast members include Oscar-nominees Amy Ryan and Alan Alda, as well as stage/screen actor, Mark Rylance (who is also going to be playing the title character in Spielberg’s planned 2016 release, The BFG), while the screenplay – based on the pitch by newcomer Matt Charman – was penned by Oscar-winners Joel and Ethan Coen, a.k.a. the Coen Brothers. Spielberg, for his part, told EW he feels this is very much a Cold War story worth exploring on the big screen.
“This is one of the more astonishing stories about the Cold War I’d ever heard. James Donovan is a hero to me, and Tom made him so completely accessible.”
The director also said that “I’ve always wanted to make a spy movie, and this is that and then some.” Spielberg, of course, knows his way around various forms of historical genre fare – like WWII movies (Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan) and American slavery dramas (Amistad, Lincoln) – but 1970s-set black box operatives thriller Munich (also inspired by real events) is the closest he’s come to a spy movie before now. And by comparison, his Cold War film sounds as though it will be more of a slow-burn affair (a la Cold War-era dramas such as Thirteen Days and The Good Shepard).
Check out Hanks and Spielberg on the set of their new film, in the image below:
The Coens don’t have as strong a track record when they’re not directing their own scripts – as evidenced by the lukewarm early response to the upcoming Coen-scripted historical drama, Unbroken – but with Spielberg at the helm and Hanks starring, this Cold War spy movie screenplay of theirs is in pretty reliable hands.
Spielberg also tends to address very topical issues with his historical films, so it should be all the more interesting to see what parallels his new project draw to the troubles in today’s world. No doubt, you can already begin to imagine some possibilities, based on recent events that involves tension between different countries…
Spielberg’s Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller (final title TBA) opens in U.S. theaters on October 16th, 2015.
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