“He was in the Air Force during World War 2”: You Can Thank Steven Spielberg’s Dad For Empire of the Sun and Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg's father Arnold Spielberg was in the Air Force during World War II, which was a big inspiration in his works

Steven Spielberg, Empire of the Sun and Saving Private Ryan
Credits: Wikimedia Commons / Elena Ternovaja

SUMMARY

  • Steven Spielberg's films in Hollywood were mostly based on two recurring themes - science fiction and World War 2.
  • He revealed that his father Arnold Spielberg was a WW2 veteran and told him stories from the war.
  • Spielberg's father introduced him to John Wayne's movies and they would watch war movies together when he was growing up.
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Steven Spielberg has an impressive portfolio of works in Hollywood. If fans get a closer look at his films, they can notice a pattern in them. Spielberg’s films are either great science fiction films or they’re set in the World War II period. The Jaws director once revealed the reason behind the recurring theme of World War 2 in his films.

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Christian Bale as James Graham in Steven Spielberg's Empire of the Sun | Amblin Entertainment
Christian Bale as James Graham in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun | Amblin Entertainment

Fans should thank his father, Arnold Spielberg, a WWII veteran, who served as an inspiration for Spielberg’s projects like Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. Arnold Spielberg was also an Electrical Engineer, who made significant contributions to his real-time data acquisition.

Steven Spielberg’s Dad Inspired Him To Make Great War Films

President Barack Obama visits with Steven Spielberg and his father Arnold Spielberg in Los Angeles (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza | Wikimedia Commons)
Former President Barack Obama visits with Steven Spielberg and his father Arnold Spielberg in Los Angeles (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza | Wikimedia Commons)

Steven Spielberg has made some of the greatest works based on World War 2. Be it the harrowing Holocaust story in Schindler’s List, the rescue operation in Saving Private Ryan, or a young Christian Bale’s plight as a POW in Empire of the Sun. Spielberg opened up about the WW2 influences in his films during an interview with the Indian magazine, The Economic Times.

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The Bridge of Spies director shared that his father served as the biggest inspiration for these war movies. Spielberg was born to Arnold Spielberg, an electrical engineer, and Leah Adler, a restaurateur. His paternal grandparents were Jews from Ukraine. According to Steven Spielberg’s biography by Joseph McBride, his father had lost many relatives in the Holocaust.

During the interview, he shared that his father was in the Air Force during the Second World War. Arnold Spielberg told his son war stories and also introduced him to classic John Wayne films. The father and son used to watch war movies together when he was growing up. Eventually, Spielberg got fascinated with WW2 and history in general due to his father. He shared with The Economic Times:

My dad is 96 years old and he was in the Air Force during WW2. He had a tremendous influence on that part of my life. He told me war stories and he directed my attention to Hollywood and the movies made starring John Wayne.

My dad and I used to watch all war movies together when I was growing up in New Jersey and Arizona. I guess it was my dad who got me fascinated with not just WW2, but to history in general. I wasn’t a good student, but I was a good history student.

When asked if he had discussed film scripts with his father, Spielberg shared that he talked to his father about the scripts that he was exploring it he thought it would interest him. Arnold Spielberg passed away in 2020 at the age of 103.

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Steven Spielberg Made His Actors Go Through Some of the WW2 Soldiers’ Experiences

Tom Hanks in a still from Saving Private Ryan | Amblin Entertainment
Tom Hanks in a still from Saving Private Ryan | Amblin Entertainment

During his film project Saving Private Ryan and his series Band of Brothers, Steven Spielberg insisted that the group of lead actors attend a BootCamp under Captain Dale Dye. The BootCamp simulated the environment of an actual World War 2 military camp, with no phones, no books, and no real-life names.

Saving Private Ryan actors almost caused a mutiny and threatened to quit the film after the challenging training camp. Captain Dye told Yahoo! that it was Tom Hanks who stepped in and settled the issue. He reportedly told his fellow actors, “You owe it to these people you’re representing on film to get this right.”

Band of Brothers actors also had a very similar experience, with many of them thinking that they were never going to last in the BootCamp. According to The Telegraph, they underwent orienteering training, tactical maneuvers, firearms drills, and mock fire-fights in the camp. Actor Scott Grimes shared, “Some guys cried themselves to sleep.”

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However, the boot camp worked out for the movie in the end as the actors formed a bond like the real-life paratroopers. Saving Private Ryan is available for streaming on Fubo while Band of Brothers is available on Max.

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Written by Hashim Asraff

Articles Published: 1456

Hashim, Entertainment Writer. With over 1000 published articles on FandomWire, he covers a wide range of topics from celebrity life to comic book movies. He holds a Masters degree in Sociology and his expertise proves invaluable in handling sensitive news. His passion for crime investigation thrillers has turned him into a detective, exploring the darkest corners of the internet during his research.