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For Spielberg, realism was key

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When Steven Spielberg released Saving Private Ryan in 1998, Hollywood hadn’t made a successful World War II film in two decades.

Yet, it earned $440 million worldwide, won five Academy Awards, and some say, redefined the war film genre. 

How did Spielberg succeed so well where so many others had failed?

By keeping it real. Some consider the first 30 minutes of the movie, which depict the Allies’ D-Day landing at Normandy, the most realistic re-creation of war in movie history.

It was something that Spielberg insisted upon. “My hope,” he said at the time, “is to resensitize audiences to how bad it was for the men who survived, as well as for those who perished.”

The lesson: Truly seek to set apart your work from the competition.

—Adapted from The Cinema of Steven Spielberg: Empire of Light, Nigel Morris, Wallflower Press


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