Steven Spielberg gave his sound team a gift by opening Bridge of Spies with a Hitchcock-inspired chase through the New York subway with no dialogue and a sense of mystery surrounding Soviet spy Mark Rylance (nominated Best Supporting Actor).
Oscar-winning re-recording mixers Andy Nelson (dialogue and music) and Gary Rydstrom (sound effects) teamed up once again for a movie in which ambience plays an important sonic role. It’s the late 1950s and there’s a stark contrast between booming New York and chilly East Berlin.
Down on the platform Steven wanted to create a few different languages of people passing by to sense that multicultural influence in New York, and the distraction of someone’s line or a giggle or a laugh as they walk past them,” explained Nelson, who’s nominated with Rydstrom this year for both Bridge of Spies and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. “It makes you move your head around. And, of course, in the midst of this crowd, the agents are losing their prey. It was about creating the normal distraction on a subway train and not many people speaking.”
“What was interesting was the Wall was being built brick by brick, by hand,” Rydstrom emphasized. “There are trucks and cranes that have a nice idling engine sound, but the important sound isn’t the equipment or the bricks — it’s the people. That was surprising to me because what do you do if you’re standing there and they’re building a wall between you and someone you love? So that’s where the specially loop group comes in handy, especially those that speak German, to do very specific tasks for the crowd on either side of the Wall. The voices become the key sound for the building of the Wall scene.”
Skywalker Sound’s Rydstrom added that we’re drawn to Rylance because of his great physical presence. “He’s a character you want to know more about. So the image of him painting himself in this room in New York City is really great. He does all these specific things like putting microfilm inside a coin and getting the coin from under a park bench, splitting a coin in two. They are tiny little sounds that are incredibly precise. We get to have our little intellectual spy things.”
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