Saving Private Ryan Cast & Character Guide - VRGyani News and Media

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Monday, September 27, 2021

Saving Private Ryan Cast & Character Guide

Saving Private Ryan is a World War II classic, and one of the pinnacle achievements of Steven Spielberg’s incredible career. Praised by veterans for its realism, much of the film’s narrative was inspired by actual stories of heroism. Spielberg dedicated the film to his father Arnold, who had enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1941 and served as a communications officer and radio operator for the 490th Bomb Squadron. After taking home Best Picture and Best Director five years prior for Schindler’s List, Spielberg won his second Academy Award for Best Director. The film famously lost Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love in a shocking upset.

Saving Private Ryan follows a dangerous mission to rescue the young Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon), whose three brothers were killed in the storming of Omaha Beach that the film had so realistically depicted. The U.S. Department of War feels obliged to spare Ryan’s parents more tragedy, and assigns Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) to find their last surviving son. Miller is joined by a brave squad that accompanies his critical mission. Here is your guide to the heroes of Saving Private Ryan, and the talented ensemble that portrays them.

Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks)

Coming off of back-to-back Best Actor wins for Philadelphia and Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks received his fourth lead actor Oscar nomination for his hardened portrayal of Captain John Miller. Miller leads a daring breakout squad during the Normandy Invasion, and is distinguished by Allied command for his quick thinking amidst the chaotic bloodbath of the battlefield. Miller is initially skeptical about the justifications of his assigned mission, but bravely fulfills his duty regardless. Miller is impressed by Ryan’s willingness to stay with the squad in order to defend his post at a critical bridge as German artillery approaches. He tells Ryan to earn his survival, a message Ryan carries with him for the rest of his life.

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Technical Sergeant Mike Horvath (Tom Sizemore)

Tom Sizemore appeared frequently in beloved ‘90s classics, including Born on the Fourth of July, Natural Born Killers, Heat, and True Romance. He co-stars as Sergeant Mike Horvath, a friend of Miller’s since the war’s earliest days who helps him during his daring maneuvers on D-Day. The generally closed-off Miller is open to talking to Horvath, and names him his second-in-command in the search for Ryan. Horvath supports Ryan’s decision to stay at the bridge, arguing that they will all be sent home if they protect the critical post. He protects Upham during the young Corporal’s first battle, but Horvath is tragically killed when he’s shot through the chest.

Corporal Timothy Upham (Jeremy Davies)

Best known as Daniel Faraday on Lost, Jeremy Davies also leads an eclectic film career that includes Rescue Dawn, Spanking the Monkey, Solaris, and Dogville. Davies co-stars as Corporal Timothy Upham, who Miller recruits because he’s fluent in both French and German, despite having never fought in combat. Upham eagerly joins Miller’s teams, though the other soldiers tease him for reading aloud a book about the “bonds of brotherhood” that soldiers form (Davies would later co-star on HBO’s Band of Brothers). Often terrified of combat, Upham freezes up during the squad’s skirmish with German paratroopers. Similarly shell-shocked during the bridge battle, Upham makes his first kill when he executes the squad’s German prisoner, who he had nicknamed “Steamboat Willie.”

Private First Class Richard Reiben (Edward Burns)

Known for his roles in both action thrillers and romantic-comedies, Edward Burns’s filmography includes Man on a Ledge, The Holiday, 27 Dresses, Life or Something Like It, and 15 Minutes. Burns co-stars as the cigar-smoking Private First Class Richard Reiben, who first appears alongside Miller and Horvath during the D-Day invasion. His uncompromising will makes him a candidate for Miller’s team, though throughout the journey Reiben entertains his squadmates with stories of his past romantic encounters. Reiben spars with Miller when he refuses to kill the Germans that kill one of their team members, and takes Ryan aside ahead of the final battle to explain to him what the squad has endured to find him. Forcefully commanding Ryan to survive, Reiben gives his life during the climax.

Private Stanley "Fish" Mellish (Adam Goldberg)

A frequent character actor in films like A Beautiful Mind, Dazed and Confused, Zodiac, and Babe: Pig in the City, Adam Goldberg has recently appeared in television series like Fargo and The Jim Gaffigan Show. Goldberg’s Private Stanley Mellish, nicknamed “Fish,” is a Jewish gunner characterized by his thick New York accent. Mellish survives heavy gunfire during the Normandy Invasion and is gifted a Hitler’s Youth blade from his best friend Caparzo. Despite being good-natured and adding the most humor out of any of Saving Private Ryan’s characters, the death of his best friend hits Mellish hard. He subsequently works valiantly to protect Upham during the bridge conflict, surviving critical injury. Mellish ultimately loses his life after he’s impaled by a bayonet.

Private First Class Adrian Caparzo (Vin Diesel)

Vin Diesel was cast in one of his earliest roles in Saving Private Ryan after Spielberg saw Diesel’s directorial debut Strays, which he also starred in. Diesel’s Private First Class Adrian Caparzo gives Mellish his nickname “Fish,” and is selected by Miller after he helps breach the sea wall during D-Day. Although Caparzo is one of the most battle-hardened members of the team, he’s also compassionate. He attempts to save a young girl the squad encounters during their venture into enemy territory, telling his squadmates that the child reminds him of his niece. Caparzo’s shocking death as he attempts to protect the girl is among the most heartbreaking sequences in the entire film.

Private Daniel Jackson (Barry Pepper)

Barry Pepper has been part of many classic films, including The Green Mile, 25th Hour, Flags of Our Fathers, and True Grit. He won the Emmy for Best Actor in a Limited Series for playing Robert Kennedy in The Kennedys. Pepper’s character Private Daniel Jackson is an ace sniper, and is the first to volunteer for Miller’s team. Jackson is signified by his strong religious beliefs, praying before he takes each shot. He carries a rosary bead and often quotes scripture, to the dismay of some of his squadmates. Jackson ambitiously claims he could take out Adolf Hitler himself, but his confidence is justified. He’s able to relay directions to the squad during the final battle and takes out over a dozen Germans, but his life is claimed by an exploding Tiger Tank shell.

T/4 Medic Irwin Wade (Giovanni Ribisi)

A beloved character actor whose extensive filmography includes Avatar, Lost in Translation, Lost Highway, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, and Selma among many others, Giovanni Ribisi finally landed a lead role with the recent Amazon series Sneaky Pete. Ribisi appears as the medical officer Irwin Wade, who diligently works to save dying men both during and after the storming of Omaha. Wade takes human life seriously, and scolds the squad when they make dark jokes while searching through the dog tags of fallen soldiers. Wade faces his own death after attempting to neutralize a machine gun, and reflects on memories of his mother as he passes away.

Private James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon)

Spielberg specifically cast Matt Damon as the young Private Ryan because he wanted an unknown for the part. He didn’t predict that Damon would become a breakout star and win an Oscar for Good Will Hunting while Saving Private Ryan was filming. Spielberg specifically denied Damon’s request to join the rest of the cast in boot camp training so that the squad’s bitterness towards Ryan would feel realistic. Ryan is heartbroken when Miller informs him of his brothers’ passing, but knows of his post's strategic importance and refuses to leave. He shares a touching last moment with Miller as the Captain dies, telling Ryan to “earn this.” The older Ryan, who appears in the film’s opening and closing moments, is portrayed by Harrison Young.

Saving Private Ryan’s extensive cast also includes Paul Giamatti as Sergeant William Hill, Bryan Cranston as Colonel Mac, Ted Danson as Captain Fred Hamill, and Dennis Farina as Lieutenant Colonel Walter Anderson. Future Firefly star Nathan Fillion appears for a memorable scene as Private Frederick Ryan, who is mistaken for Ryan and falsely informed that it was his brothers that were killed.

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