As Oscar season approaches, one D-day vet says that Steven Spielberg's 'Saving Private Ryan' isn't entirely realistic
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Credit: Timothy White

With Terrence Malick’s Guadalcanal drama “The Thin Red Line” opening Wednesday, the WWII battle for Oscar gold officially begins. But one vet-turned-author says that “Saving Private Ryan” isn’t as realistic as some would have you believe. “Like everyone else, I think the first 30 minutes of ‘Saving Private Ryan’ are the most fantastic war footage ever filmed,” says author Max Evans, whose book “The Hi-Lo Country” is now a feature film starring Woody Harrelson and Patricia Arquette (opening Dec. 30). “But after the first 30 minutes, it just didn’t ring true, which I don’t understand.”

According to Evans, who fought on Omaha Beach, Steven Spielberg fell down on the job in portraying one important physical detail of the deadly landing. “Right off of that beach were solid fortresses,” Evans tells EW Online. “After a couple of days of fighting and moving in you’ve got forts on this side, forts on that side, forts in front of you and forts behind you. Yet these guys are walking along in this beautiful little park talking out loud. I couldn’t understand why they are doing this.”

In reality, says Evans, “you whispered or mostly made signals, because they (the enemy soldiers) hear one word, they’re gonna put a bullet in you. Even the people who were wounded didn’t cry out much. So it felt kind of strange there, these people walking across the park, making philosophical talk. It’s just not true.”

Evans, who wrote briefly about the war in his book “Bluefeather Fellini,” recalls battle horrors (such as accidentally grabbing for a severed leg as a floatation device) that might stir the interest of studio execs, but he has no interest in adding to the currently hot genre. “I didn’t want to write about it, and I don’t like to talk about it,” he says, “but I guess you can’t help talking about it a little these days.”

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