ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

It's been 16 years since Steven Spielberg redefined a genre with his seminal war movie, Saving Private Ryan.

As well as boasting a gritty documentary style and an unflinching look at the horrors of war, the film also featured a huge cast with some equally impressive names.

Indeed, the cast is so big it's often easy to forget that some major stars were hidden among the carnage. Let's take a look at what the main players have been doing since appearing in Saving Private Ryan and - as a added bonus - some of the big named stars you may have forgot were in the film.

Tom Hanks - Captain Miller

Of course, the main star of Saving Private Ryan was none other than acting powerhouse, Tom Hanks. Having appeared in various comedies and romantic flicks throughout the 1980s and '90s, Saving Private Ryan cemented his raising reputation as a legendary actor - capping a decade that saw him winning two Oscars. He was also nominated for his role as Captain Miller.

Of course, since Saving Private Ryan he has moved onto many more projects. However, most notably he also moved into producing, teaming up with Spielberg to deliver the thematically similar war mini-series Band of Brothers and The Pacific.

Tom Sizemore - Tech Sergeant Horvath

The other Tom in Saving Private Ryan has had slightly less success following the release of the film. Saving Private Ryan looked like it could have raised the Heat actor to bigger and better things, and indeed, he did continue the war-vibe with Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down shortly thereafter.

However, soon after this, Sizemore engaged in a bizarre journey into homemade sex tapes, while continuing drug problems also plagued his career. He's certainly appeared in a lot of films since, but nothing which really earns mentioning.

Ed Burns - Private Reiben

Saving Private Ryan certainly marked the highpoint of Burn's early career - and quite possibly, his entire career. Following Saving Private Ryan, Burns appeared in various supporting roles in films such as Ash Wednesday, Looking For Kitty, and The Holiday, although he did secure a leading role in crime thriller, Confidence.

More recently, he has made a move to television, starring in a reoccurring role as himself in Entourage, and as Bugsy Siegel in Mob City. However, it should be noted that he also wrote and directed much of his lesser known post-Ryan fair, including The Groomsmen and Newlyweds.

Barry Pepper - Private Jackson

After portraying the scripture quoting sniper, it looked like Barry Pepper's career would explode after Saving Private Ryan. He's certainly appeared in a lot of projects - including We Were Soldiers, 25th Hour, and Flags of Our Fathers, however these are almost entirely supporting roles.

It's possible his career could have been dampened by this major role in sci-fi scientology super-flop, Battlefield Earth. Despite this, Pepper has still pulled his weight in recent critically acclaimed fair, most notably True Grit.

Adam Goldberg - Private Mellish

Goldberg's post-Ryan career reads much like that of Burns and Pepper. He grabbed supporting roles in some larger movies, such as Edtv, How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days, and Deja Vu, but it is in television where his career seems to have progressed most.

Goldberg was a regular in the short-lived Friends spin-off, Joey, as well as in Entourage, The Unusuals, and NYC 22. Most recently you may have seen him as a hitman in the televisual Coen-brothers companion series, Fargo.

Vin Diesel - Private Caparzo

Sometimes it's easy to forget that international superstar Vin Diesel appeared in Saving Private Ryan. Indeed, it was his first major role of any note, and personally, I think it might have been some the best acting we've seen from the guy.

Since Saving Private Ryan, Diesel clearly became an action leading man, headlining franchises such as The Fast and the Furious, xXx, and The Chronicles of Riddick. At some point, he also found the time to garner 88 million followers on Facebook.

Giovanni Ribisi - T-4 Medic Wade

Ribisi perhaps provided a career-best performance as T-4 Medic Wade in Saving Private Ryan, with his lengthy death scene providing an intimate emotional gut-punch in a movie full of death and destruction.

Like many of his co-stars, Ribisi has continued to act as a reliable supporting man, gaining roles in Gone in 60 Seconds, Cold Mountain, Lost in Translation, and Public Enemies. However, he also proved he's got some comic chops having appeared in Friends, My Name is Earl, Ted, and A Million Ways to Die in the West.

Jeremy Davies - Corporal Upham

Davies was a rising indie darling in 1998, having appeared in Sundance winner Spanking the Monkey several years earlier. He put some of his ability to use to portray the sympathetic - and out of his depth - Corporal Upham in Saving Private Ryan.

Since then, he appeared in several relatively unknown movies in the early 2000s, with Dogville perhaps being his best known. However, in 2008 he made the move to television, appearing as Daniel Faraday in Lost, which was followed up by reoccurring roles in Justified and Hannibal.

Matt Damon - Private Ryan

Another success story, Matt Damon was already a raising star prior to appearing in Saving Private Ryan. He had just come hot off of an Oscar win for penning Good Will Hunting, while he also earned a nomination for his acting in that project.

Like Vin Diesel, Damon has become a sought after leading man - although he tends to select slightly more critically loved projects. He will soon return to the Bourne franchise after headlining three of its most popular movies, while he also provided a career best performance (in my opinion) in Oscar winner, The Departed.

And Now, The Big Names You Forgot Were in Saving Private Ryan!

Ted Danson - Captain Hamill

That's right, the Cheers, Curb Your Enthusiasm and Three Men and a Baby star, Ted Danson, presented a change of tone by appearing as Captain Hamill in Saving Private Ryan.

The silver-haired, square jawed veteran appeared in several scenes, the most notable of which features him mowing down a room of Germans with a submachine gun. I bet you never thought you'd see Sam Malone do that.

Paul Giamatti - Staff Sergeant Hill

In that exact same scene, we also see another well known face - Paul Giamatti. Saving Private Ryan actually occurred relatively early in Giamatti's career, perhaps explaining why no one seems to remember he's actually in it. However, considering his subsequent success, you won't make that mistake when you watch Saving Private Ryan again.

Nathan Fillion - 'Minnesota Ryan'

Yep, Firefly's Captain Mal Reynolds also grabbed a small - but standout - role in Saving Private Ryan. A young, fresh faced Fillion played 'Minnesota Ryan' - the soldier whose brothers are mistakenly said to have been killed after he is confused for the Private Ryan of the film's title.

Bryan Cranston - 'War Department Colonel'

You'll have to scroll a long way down the Saving Private Ryan cast list - but eventually you arrive at a familiar name.

Now, Cranston certainly wasn't an unknown face in 1998, but it was before he became known to a new generation in Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad. His role in Saving Private Ryan is minor and he doesn't appear in any of the war scenes. Instead, he has a small part as 'War Department Colonel' in one of the few scenes set outside of France.


Who was your favorite member of the Saving Private Ryan squad?


Latest from our Creators