‘Bridge of Spies’ puts Alan Alda back in service to his country

Alan Alda is back to serve his country. The star, who once played army doctor “Hawkeye” Pierce in “M*A*S*H,” is …

Alan Alda is back to serve his country.

The star, who once played army doctor “Hawkeye” Pierce in “M*A*S*H,” is back in the new Steven Spielberg film, “Bridge of Spies,” as an attorney working with the U.S. government during the Cold War.

In the film, opening Friday, Tom Hanks plays James Donovan, who was critical in securing CIA U-2 spy-plane pilot Francis G. Powers in a negotiation with the Russians in exchange for Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) in this historical drama. Alda plays Thomas Watters Jr., Donovan’s boss, who complicates things for Hanks’ character, who has to defend Abel in trial for being a Soviet spy.

amNewYork spoke with Alda about the film.

What do you think the reaction would have been had this happened today?

I think we’re going through it today. At Guantánamo we’re holding people — some of them without charges. That’s not in our system. … You can watch this movie and come out of the theater and think these are today’s issues and here you get a chance to act it out in a time that no longer affects you.

And the timing of the film’s release fits in with what’s happening today between Russia and the United States.

I know they’re heading for more potential conflict. I mean the stuff in Syria is very dangerous.

How did Donovan’s job as an insurance lawyer influence his character?

He was presented with a case with the spies that maybe he was better qualified to untangle than anybody else would be. There are probably Hollywood agents who should be sent to negotiate international deals.

Do you know any agents like that?

My own agent would be terrific.

What was it like working with Spielberg?

He’s so knowledgeable and experienced about making movies that he can be creative on the spot. He can invent the shot as he goes along and be affable and not distracted by anybody, he’s totally there when you talk to him. Everybody respects him so much that you know if he asks for something it’s got to be the best way to go.

Some of the most powerful scenes are in Berlin, like when they’re constructing the Berlin Wall. How did you guys manage those sets?

I was wondering how they got so many bombed-out buildings. And then I read in the notes that they went to Poland, there was a small town that looked as if it had been bombed because of economic destitution.

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