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VIN DIESEL: Saving Private Ryan

Vin Diesel, who plays Italian-American Private Caparzo in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan, tells PAUL FISCHER how the cast went through hell in boot camp to become soldiers for the film.

While the shooting of Saving Private Ryan was emotionally gruelling, the rehearsal process was even tougher, and looking back on it, Vin Diesel learnt a lot; he remembers questioning that whole process. "The boot camp replaced the traditional rehearsal period, so I questioned all that, because I thought it was too much. I was CONVINCED that Spielberg didn't consider that this was going to be so hard. We all wanted to leave, and it got to a point where were beaten up, we didn't want to do it any more, but Tom Hanks convinced us to stay and carry it out."

"We were no longer thinking as actors"

Then things eventually changed. "The truth was, that as a result, I ended up understanding the character better than I could ever had imagined, because by the end of boot camp, we no longer wanted to be referred to as actors – we wanted to be SOLDIERS. We were no longer thinking as actors and felt confident about our actions."

It's that sense of realism, Diesel says, that has "made its way into the film, and I hope lessons will be learnt by those who see it."

One might have thought that a part in a film like Saving Private Ryan would have meant countless auditions, but not so for Vin Diesel. "Spielberg saw the first film I ever directed, this $3000 short film. He called my agents and told them he wants to write in a brand new role for me in Saving Private Ryan. So it was like one of those Hollywood fairy tales that you never believed. It was amazing."

Unlike many of his co-stars, he agreed to do the film without having an inkling of what his character was. When he was finally confronted with the Caparzo character, Diesel admitted that "it was appropriate. He reminded me a little of a part of me, in terms of his family, his attitude towards kids and his sympathetic nature."

"it takes an experience that you CAN relate to"

There's no doubt that shooting Saving Private Ryan was a tough experience on so many levels. Diesel reinforces the fact that Private Ryan "wasn't a kid-in-a-candy shop film, it was harsh. And the more you delved into the characters, the scarier it became." Diesel has always been drawn to films that, he says, have some kind of purpose, films that do not contain violence for violence's sake. "What's so brilliant about Private Ryan, is that it takes an experience that you CAN relate to, in the last five minutes, sums it up and makes it relevant to your life and makes you accountable."

Vin Diesel has been actor since aged seven, and a critically acclaimed director. Though Saving Private Ryan has garnered the young actor plenty of attention of late, he concedes that the competition out there makes it tough if you want to make it as an actor these days. "It's sure not easy."

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