Saving Private Ryan took 59 days to make, the first 25 of which were spent filming the 23-minute, $12 million opening sequence—shot at Curracloe, on the southeastern coast of Ireland—depicting Allied forces storming the beach at Normandy.
Roughly 400 crew members, 1,000 Irish Army reservists and dozens of extras—including amputees playing soldiers who had limbs blown off on D-Day—came together to make it happen.
“We had to build a lot of service roads from scratch just to take in the trucks with all the hardware, and we had to construct the battlements, bunkers and attack vantage points. It was the biggest logistical plan of the entire movie,” associate producer Mark Huffam told the Irish Independent in 2006. “We wired off about a kilometer of beach in total for the scene. Steven just has a way of making these things work. He’ll always find a way.”
Spielberg also shot underwater—using a camera on a crane set on a 40-foot flatbed trailer backed into the water—to give an idea of just how many soldiers were cut down before they even made it ashore.
“The first day of shooting the D-Day sequences, I was in the back of the landing craft, and that ramp went down and I saw the first 1-2-3-4 rows of guys just getting blown to bits,” Hanks told Roger Ebert in 1998. “In my head, of course, I knew it was special effects, but I still wasn’t prepared for how tactile it was. The air literally went pink and the noise was deafening and there’s bits and pieces of stuff falling all on top of you and it was horrifying.”