'History geeks' Spielberg and Hanks take Cold War thriller back to Berlin

Tom Hanks (far right) in Bridge Of Spies.
Tom Hanks (far right) in Bridge Of Spies.TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

BERLIN (AFP) - Self-described "history geek" Steven Spielberg said Friday that his phenomenal box office clout allowed him to keep swinging from gritty passion projects to fantasy blockbusters and back again.

As he presented his Cold War thriller Bridge Of Spies starring Tom Hanks in Berlin, where the movie was partially set and filmed, Spielberg called himself an "eclectic" filmmaker.

The 68-year-old director, whose movies have pulled in more than US$9 billion (S$12 billion) in global ticket sales, said his standing in the industry meant he could take risks on projects that might not appeal to the lucrative teenage market.

"The great thing about being successful in the movie business is that at some point, it lets you put the noose around your own neck," he told reporters with a laugh ahead of the European premiere of Bridge Of Spies.

"Some of them have paid off, some of them haven't. But don't worry - the fantasy is coming back next summer," when his adaptation of Roald Dahl's beloved children's book The BFG is due out.

Spielberg said his films at their heart were always personal, from fantasies such as E.T. and Jurassic Park to historical dramas such as Schindler's List and Munich.

"Film has always been the greatest way for me to unburden myself of my demons and to therefore cast my demons on you," he said.

Bridge Of Spies tells the true story of the unassuming Brooklyn insurance lawyer who secured the release of a captured American pilot from the Soviet Union in exchange for an undercover Russian agent.

The location of the film's title is the Glienicke Bridge, which during the Cold War linked West Berlin with East German territory, making it the ideal location for dozens of spy swops.

"It's a very special thrill to be able to recreate history at the place where it took place," Hanks said of the work on-location.

"Driving out to that very historic district... the lights of the West were behind us and on the other side of the bridge it was essentially dark - it looked very much like it did in the era of the GDR. It's the type of place I would have gone to as a tourist to hang out."

Spielberg has directed Hanks in several films including the World War II drama Saving Private Ryan and collaborated with him on two historical miniseries.

"I've always been a history lover - Tom and I discovered about each other when we first met that we were history geeks and we'd always be sharing documentaries and books and biographies," Spielberg said.

Bridge Of Spies was filmed before fighting broke out in Ukraine but Spielberg said it resonated now amid one of the worst rifts between Russia and the West since the dark days depicted in the movie.

"I don't think there's a Cold War going on today that's even comparable to the division of Berlin," he said.

"But there's a little bit of a frost in the air."

When asked whether he saw parallels between the cloak-and-dagger intrigue while the Berlin Wall was still standing and the spying scandals exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, Hanks said a healthy dose of suspicion was still advisable.

"I believe that Verizon and Google know more about my background than the National Security Agency does. They keep track of everything that I do on my phone and on my computer, so my secrets are theirs," he said.

"I think in some ways, Snowden just said 'Hey, here's what's going on' and some people view that as an act of treason and other people view it as an act of honesty.

"I don't really care. I think I have more distrust in the servers that are in the employ of Google than I have of anybody else."