Saving Private Ryan sees a squad set out to save Matt Damon’s title character but along the way they mistake Nathan Fillion’s Ryan for the real thing.
Nathan Fillion’s first big break was playing “Faux Ryan” in Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan. There had been plenty of great war movies before Saving Private Ryan that dealt with World War 2. Some classic examples include A Bridge Too Far and The Great Escape, but none were able to capture the sheer horror of the conflict like Spielberg’s movie did. From Saving Private Ryan’s shocking opening D-Day sequence to the lonely, painful deaths of many of its main characters, the movie was concerned with stripping the war of any gloss.
Saving Private Ryan concerns Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) and his squad being tasked with finding Matt Damon’s titular private. Ryan’s three brothers were killed in combat, so the squad sets out on a dangerous journey to find and bring him home. Of course, the men question the logic of risking the lives of eight for one solider and they encounter all sorts of horrors along the way. The movie also featured several future stars in its cast, including Paul Giamatti and a young Vin Diesel (Bloodshot) as the first of Miller’s team to die.
Another up and coming actor at the time of Saving Private Ryan’s release was Nathan Fillion, who plays another Ryan who is briefly mistaken for Damon’s character. Fillion is credited as “Minnesota Ryan,” who Miller and the squad find in a French town with the aid of Ted Danson’s Captain. Ryan is ordered to sit with Miller, who explains his brothers were killed and he’s being sent home. Ryan is naturally heartbroken, but it’s quickly discovered his brothers are still in grammar school and Miller’s got the wrong Private James Ryan.
It’s a brief scene but Nathan Fillion manages to hold his own in Saving Private Ryan, and the actor himself has dubbed the character “Faux Ryan.” Following the movie, he landed a leading role on the sitcom Two Guys, A Girl And A Pizza Place, and later scored the part of Mal Reynolds in Firefly, a short-lived sci-fi series that would earn him an instant fanbase. In the years that followed, he starred in Firefly movie spinoff Serenity, long-running TV show Castle and has appeared in various Halo games.
Nathan Fillion fulfilled a lot of fanboy dreams in 2018 – including his own – when he played Nathan Drake in a live-action Uncharted fan film. Saving Private Ryan is where it all started for the actor though, which opened up a lot of doors moving forward.