Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Bridge of Spies, is based on the diplomatic relations between the U.S. and U.S.S.R. following the 1960 incident in which an American spy plane was shot down over Russian territory and its pilot, Francis Gary Powers, captured. Spielberg has a connection with the incident, as he revealed in a recent interview.

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As it transpires, Spielberg’s father had seen the remains of the captured U2 spy plane whilst on a foreign exchange in Russia. Spielberg’s father, Arnold Spielberg, was an engineer for General Electric which had arranged the exchange in an attempt to improve relations between the U.S. and U.S.S.R.

The remains of the U2 plane had been on display for the Russian people to see and, out of curiosity, Arnold had also gone along to see the plane. Arnold was standing in the queue, along with some fellow Americans on the exchange, when he was pulled out of the crowd by a member of the Russian military and, as an American citizen, verbally attacked. As Spielberg explained, this is one of the reasons why he never forgot the U2 spy plane incident.

“My dad stood in line because they were putting his [Gary Powers’] flight suit, helmet and the remains of the U2 [spy plane] for everyone in Russia to stand in line - in the same way they stand in line for Lenin’s tomb - to see what America did. That’s exactly what happened to my dad,” Spielberg said in the interview.

“He was about an hour away from getting to the front of the line, it was a very slow moving line, and a couple of Russian military approached my dad: asked for his passport, and his friends’ passports, saw they were Americans and then crooked a finger and got them to the head of the line. It wasn’t really to convenience them because, after they got to the head of the line, the Russian colonel or whatever his ranking pointed to the U2 then pointed to my dad and his friends and said, in broken English, ‘Look what your country is doing to us’. He repeated that several times. He was terribly angry then he handed them back their passports.”

“That was the end of it, I never forgot that story and, because of that, I never forgot what happened to Francis Gary Powers.” 

Spielberg has directed Bridge of Spies which stars Tom Hanks as U.S. lawyer James Donovan. Donovan was required to arrange the exchange of Francis Powers (Austin Stowell), held captive by the Russians, with a Russian spy Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) who was being held in the U.S. A few years before, Donovan had represented Abel when he was on trial in the U.S. 

Bridge of Spies is out in U.S. cinemas from Friday (16th October) and in the U.K. from 27th November.

Read More: Tom Hanks On Working With The Coen Bros & Steven Spielberg On Bridge Of Spies: ‘It’s Like A Lottery Win’.

Tom HanksTom Hanks and Steven Spielberg on the set of Bridge of Spies.