“Bridge of Spies” star Austin Stowell actually locked himself in a prison cell to help him get into character as Francis Gary Powers, an American CIA pilot whose plane was infamously shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960.
“I actually had asked if they would leave me in there for the shooting day,” the actor said during a video interview with TheWrap’s Greg Gilman.
Stowell said he spent the entire two days of filming locked in the cell, which helped him connect to the character’s experience. “We shot that in a real Stasi prison. They put me in there, they locked the door. I can’t hear anything outside — it was pretty easy to get into character,” he said.
One of biggest scenes in the film is Powers’ plane getting shot out of the sky, and according to Stowell it was not an easy scene to shoot. “That was all real,” he joked. “I want to let everybody know that was for real. And we did not only one take. We crashed like, I don’t know, 20 planes.”
In reality, the scene was shot in front of a giant green screen with a mechanical cockpit that mimicked the motions of a crashing plane. Though his life was never in danger, Stowell said it was still challenging.
“They had built this cockpit on a mechanical arm that could go up, down, vibrate, twist. And they had fans hanging from the ceiling. And then I was hanging from the ceiling,” he said. “We shot that for three days and 70-mile-an-hour fans hanging from the ceiling, so it was intense.”
But the actor explained that everything he went through during production was in service of telling Powers’ story.
“I’m playing a real guy who went through an incredible struggle and sacrificed a lot for his country,” he said. “So I want to do honor to him and pay respect to the sacrifice he made.”