‘Bridge of Spies’ Star Austin Stowell Talks Favorite Spielberg Films & More!

By October 16, 2015

Steven Spielberg’s ‘Bridge of Spies’ is one of the best ensemble films of the year, and I mean that in the purest sense of the phrase. In his love letter to spy and courtroom films, Spielberg uses every actor and tool he can to its fullest potential, and it might be one of his more cohesive films of the past few years.

I recently spoke with one of the film’s stars Austin Stowell too, who plays Francis Gary Powers in the film, the American spy pilot shot down and imprisoned by the Russians. We talked about his favorite Spielberg movies, filming the movie’s intense plane crash scene, and more.

Check out the full interview below:

One of my favorite things about this film is the way Spielberg uses silence and lack of dialogue throughout the film.

“It’s a pretty ballsy move. It takes some courage to go out there and to have these long shots of speech, in a world of us all sitting here and baring ourselves in our phone, and kids not having the vocabulary to carry on more than a 2-minute conversation anymore these days, to have the courage to go out there and put out a smart, sophisticated kind of movie like ‘Bridge of Spies’ is a bold move and I think it’s paid off in spades.”

I couldn’t agree more. When you’re working with a legendary filmmaker like Steven Spielberg and an actor like Tom Hanks, did you ever have to stop yourself from really freaking out?

“[Laughs] Yeah, you try and keep it cool. You’re sort of like, ‘I want to come to work tomorrow or I’d like to be invited back to work tomorrow,’ so you try and keep the geeking out at the door, and try and remember that you’re all there for a job. So that’s what I tried to focus on, that I was portraying a guy who had struggled for three years and gone through a major event – it was horrifying. To be halfway around the world, to be away from your friends and your family and all the comforts of life, and to be put into a box that’s a quarter of the size of this room, is… it’s crazy. It’s unbelievably horrifying.”

I love the way Spielberg directed those sequences in the Russian prison too, when you think its over and the light turns back on. Was there any specific moment though when you were really struck by who you were working with? 

“There’s a moment in the film, and the memory I’ll probably keep with me as the most fond experience was when, during the courtroom scene – I had been in that witness box all day. All day. For a scene where I say nothing, another scene where silence is fantastically used, the sentence being handed down from the Russian court and then having the translator, was extremely eerie. And I would just sit there and take it all day long, you know that room was massive, and you got 400 extras, and I was just emotionally and physically drained at the end of the day. I was tired going back and forth to New York, and I had gotten lost in the reality of what Powers went through, and I had a moment. You know all of a sudden I’m down on the side of the witness stand, just my head buried in my arms, and all of a sudden – the big guy comes up over the top and he says, ‘Thank you. You’re telling Powers’ story.’ And just to get that kind of encouragement from him is very gratifying to the utmost degree.”

I love that sequence in Bridge of Spies too when you’re being shot out of the plane and you’re hanging onto the seat belt. What was shooting that scene like?

“It was nuts man. So I’m hanging the rafters in Templehof airport, we were using one of the hangars there, and built a three-way green screen so they could shoot from any direction. So I had two wires holding me up from the ceiling, and then one from the back, so they could pull me, and then we’re having the plane move and it was on a hydraulic arm, so it could vibrate, it could twist, it could do whatever we wanted it to. Then there were four stuntmen in the back who would just run back and forth pulling me this way, that way, and then with the thing spinning around and 70mph winds pointing at me from above, and all the while not being able to hear anything expect for Steven laughing. He was having an absolute blast watching me get my butt kicked.”

Its all really well done and it looked actually real too considering all of it was on green screen.

“Well a lot of it, it really is. You know people are like, ‘Oh, you really did that?” No, obviously I wasn’t 70,000 feet in the air, we didn’t crash a plane, but we did all of that stuff. You know he had cameras on the rafters that were pointing down with a wide angle lens, so it looks even farther, we’re talking about 150 feet in the air looking down, so it really gives it that depth. All of that stuff with me spinning around, I was actually doing that. It was as wild man.”

What’s your favorite film of his?

“Jaws. Without a doubt. That’s it man, and it’s also because it speaks personally to me because I’m from that part of the country, I watched that movie as a kid, it was part of my family, and we all watched it. It’s been in my blood for a long time, but ‘Catch Me If You Can’ is way up there too. I love that movie. I really do.”

Oh it’s so good, and one of Spielberg’s more underrated films. I always think of that scene in the warehouse when Leo is printing all the checks and they’re flying into the air, whenever I think of that movie.

“Yeah! That’s so weird, that’s one of the scenes I think about too. When I think about ‘Catch Me If You Can’ I think of seeing Leonard DiCaprio popping up from the machines, with all the checks flying in the air. It’s a mad scientist in his laboratory.”

Last question, what movie for the rest of the year are you most looking forward to?

“You know what I haven’t seen is ‘Straight Outta Compton’.”

It’s great.

“I’ve really gotta see that. But I just saw ‘The Martian’ and I just saw ‘Everest’ – both were fantastic. ‘Sicario’ was f*cking amazing. I’m friends with Molly Smith (producer), and I called her up afterwards and I told her, “I’m so proud to f*cking know you, you are incredible, and I want to make movies together. How do we make it happen?’ [Laughs]”

Bridge of Spies is in theatres now.

Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

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Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable