The most revealing Bridge of Spies Trivia Quiz

By: Julie Medina
Image: The Movie DB

About This Quiz

Based on a true story during the Cold War, this historical drama/thriller provides a glimpse into how one man admirably handled prisoner negotiations between Russia, the U.S. and East Germany.

Tom Hanks played a character named James B. Donovan. What is Mr. Donovan’s occupation?

Tom Hanks played a lawyer named James B. Donovan. Donovan represented a Soviet spy during tr​ial to ensure that justice is seen to be done. Star Tom Hanks was 59 when he played James B. Donovan in this movie. The real Donovan was in his 40s when the events of the film took place, and later passed away at age 53.

Who asks James B. Donovan to defend the Soviet spy?

The Brooklyn Bar Association requested that James B. Donovan defend Abel, to show the rest of the world how democracy works since American Justice, itself will be on trial. Donovan is chosen because he is an insurance lawyer with substantial negotiation experience and worked on prosecutions of German war crimes in the Nuremberg trials.

What is the name of the Soviet spy?

In 1957, Rudolf Abel is arrested in Brooklyn by FBI agents as a Soviet spy. The FBI offered to drop charges if Abel cooperates, but he refuses. What’s interesting is that Rudolf Ivanovich Abel states his wife is a musician. Actor Mark Rylance, who plays Abel, has a wife who is a musician.

What catchphrase does Abel always say, when Donovan asks if he’s concerned or worried?

Mark Rylance plays Rudolf Abel as a thoughtful, logical person who saw the bigger picture. David Edelstein from New York cited 'It’s Rylance who keeps Bridge of Spies standing. He gives a teeny, witty, fabulously non-emotive performance, every line musical and slightly ironic — the irony being his forthright refusal to deceive in a world founded on lies."

What is the name of Donovan’s wife?

Donovan’s wife is named Mary, and is played by Amy Ryan. Mary is not pleased that her husband has chosen to represent a Soviet spy. Especially since in the eyes of the public, Donovan is a traitor to his country. Amy Ryan who portrays Mary is an actress of stage and screen, is an Academy Award nominee and two-time Tony Award nominee.

How do we know that Abel is a spy?

By all appearances, Rudolf Abel is a harmless old man. He rides the subway to the Broad Street station and makes his way towards the riverside, seemingly unaware of the Federal agents who are tailing him. He sets up an easel in front of a park bench and begins to paint. Then he retrieves a special nickel under the park bench. He opens it when there are no onlookers and retrieves a message that contains a series of numbers.

Did the hollow nickel exist in real life?

As seen in the film, Soviet agent Rudolf Ivanovich Abel received coded messages from his KGB handlers that were hidden inside a hollow U.S. nickel. The FBI first became aware of Abel's activities in 1953, when a Soviet agent mistakenly used one of the hollow nickels to buy a newspaper. The Brooklyn newsboy who had received the nickel thought it felt too light. He dropped the nickel on the sidewalk, and it popped open, revealing a piece of microfilm with a coded message inside. But FBI cryptologists were unable to crack the code until 1957, when a KGB defector, Reino Häyhänen, gave them the key to deciphering the code, and also gave up Rudolph Abel.

What is the name of the American pilot that got caught and convicted for spying by the Soviets?

Francis Gary Powers often referred to as simply Gary Powers – was an American pilot whose Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) U-2 spy plane was shot down while flying a reconnaissance mission in Soviet Union airspace, causing the 1960 U-2 incident.

What was given to the CIA pilots in case they were captured?

In an interview with the International Spy Museum, the son of Francis Gary Powers, Francis Gary Powers Jr., indicated that his father was not told to commit suicide if shot down, unlike the depiction in the movie. Instead, it was given as an option in case physical torture had been involved, allowing the pilots to use a poison pin if the pilots chose to commit suicide. He also indicated that the Soviets found the pin on a third strip search but Powers warned them not to touch it; the Soviets tried the pin on a dog and the dog died a few moments later.

Who says this? "He's about the most unpopular man in the country, and you're trying to take second place."

When Donovan points out that Abel can't be viewed as a traitor as he is not an American, his wife replies, "Listen to yourself. You're defending him already." Donovan counters "Everyone deserves a defense. Every person matters," However, Mary thinks otherwise, "He's about the most unpopular man in the country," she tells her husband, "and you're trying to take second place."

Who is Frederic Pryor?

In August, 1961, Pryor was arrested and held without charge by the East German police. He had been taking graduate courses in East European studies at the Free University of West Berlin since 1959. On February 10, 1962, Pryor was freed just before American U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers was swapped for Soviet KGB Colonel Vilyam Genrikhovich Fisher (a.k.a. Rudolf Ivanovich Abel).

Why was Pryor trying to cross the wall?

Frederic L. Pryor (Will Rogers) is visiting a professor in East Berlin, whose daughter also happens to be his girlfriend. He has an unfortunate encounter with the East German border guards, who arrest him as he tries to return to West Germany. It is when this American student comes into the story, that the audience first sees the Berlin Wall. Production designer Adam Stockhausen and his department built approximately three hundred yards of the Berlin Wall at different phases of its construction with the same materials and same dimensions as the original.

What takes place in Donovan's home that shows the paranoia that existed about the Soviets at that time?

Donovan's son becomes increasingly wary of a nuclear war after watching a Red Scare video. It was normal to show these video to children during school.

What happens at the Donovan’s house that truly scares the entire family?

The house was shot at and windows shattered and broken. Why? It was a time when anti-Communist propaganda, "Duck and Cover" educational videos, and the media's sensationalist coverage of events like the Rosenberg trial bred fear and hatred across the country… hatred stemming from fear of the unknown. No one was safe, and it was an especially dangerous time to be in the headlines for defending a Russian spy.

Why does Donovan tell the judge that it is in the best interests of the United States that Abel remain alive?

Donovan meets the judge privately before sentencing and argues that Abel not be sentenced to death, as he could serve as "insurance" if a U.S. spy is captured. The judge eventually sentences Abel to 30 years’ imprisonment, which avoids the death penalty. This outrages the public and hate mail is directed towards Donovan's office, and a shot is fired at his home.

What happened after the Judge sentences Abel to 30 years?

For the scene outside the courtroom, the photographers were initially instructed to put their used flashbulbs, which are extremely hot to the touch, in their pockets. One of the background actors on set happened to be the historian of the New York Press Photographers Association. He told executive producer and 1st assistant director Adam Somner that, at the time, photographers would have ejected the bulbs onto the floor. After several takes, noticing the bulbs strewn across the floor, director Steven Spielberg decided to shoot the low-angle view of the principals walking through them.

The sentencing of Abel to 30 years’ imprisonment triggers another action by Donovan, what is it?

The sentencing of Abel causes Donovan appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing evidence presented was tainted by lack of a valid search warrant. According to Tom Hanks in a press release for the movie, when his lawyer character of James B. Donovan makes arguments to the Supreme Court about Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, the actual words used in the dialogue for this movie were the same as the arguments presented to the US Supreme Court. In both the movie and real life, the appeal is denied.

Abel tells Donovan that he reminds him of a man that he describes as "Stoikey Muzhik". How does Abel translate that phrase for Donovan?

Abel and Donovan have a mutual respect for each other due to the fact that each adheres and upholds their own principles. The Russian phrase "stoikiy muzhik" literally translates to "persistent peasant" - "stoikiy" being a term meaning persistent, rigid, or uncompromising, and "muzhik" being a slang term for a Russian peasant. Abel's translation of the phrase as "standing man" is therefore appropriate on a metaphorical level.

How does Donovan find out that there may be a possibility of using Abel for a prisoner exchange?

Someone claiming to be Abel's wife writes to Donovan from East Germany, but it is actually an overture from the Soviets. The Russians may be open to trade Powers for Abel. The CIA recruits Donovan as a private citizen to negotiate a prisoner exchange with the Russians.

What type of plane did the CIA pilots fly in the movie?

Francis Gary Powers had been recruited by the CIA to fly U2 aerial reconnaissance missions to gather intelligence about the Soviet Union. The U-2 was designed to be as light as possible to give it maximum range and altitude capability. So its auxiliary landing gear, or "pogos", were designed to fall away from its wings on takeoff to minimize weight. The plane lands with its nose and tail gear in an inline "bicycle" configuration, and its wingtips are equipped with titanium skid plates to prevent damage.

Who is Agent Hoffman?

Donovan travels to Berlin with Agent Hoffman, his CIA handler, and quickly discovers that the spy business is not glamorous at all. His living conditions are sparse, and the Russians may try to pull the old bait-and-switch to get Abel without giving up Powers. Donovan is left to navigate East Berlin without an escort.

Donovan didn’t want one prisoner in exchange for Abel, we wanted two prisoners. However, each prisoner is held by a different entity. Which is correct?

Through a series of machinations, Donovan ends up negotiating with the East German Attorney General for the release of Frederic Pryor, the American economics student being held by the Stasi. He also negotiates with the Russians to get Powers released.

Donovan meets Wolfgang Vogel, a GDR lawyer, and negotiates a separate deal to exchange Abel for Pryor. Why does Vogel pull out?

Both entities had their own objectives, but Donovan convinces the East German’s that it will look like they have a seat at the table with the two most powerful nations. It’s complicated, but Donovan preservers. Talk about complicated, it took one person FIVE months to get the all bureaucratic allowances from 23 different local and federal agencies. For the full six days of the Glieniecker Bridge and surrounding streets, the production firm had to pay 10,552.13 EUR (~11.428,96 USD) to the local district, the city of Potsdam, and the state of Germany.

When the East German Attorney General is called away on “urgent business” what does Donovan do?

Donovan asked the Attorney General’s assistant to deliver a message. The message was that the Attorney General would be the one who will have to tell the Soviets that the deal fell through.

That evening, the GDR calls and accepts, what’s the glitch?

Donovan got the better of Mr. Ott when he fully explains what happens if the deal doesn’t go through. "So far Abel has been a good soldier, but he thinks he's going home. If we had to tell him he's not going home, that the Soviets don't even want him, that he's never going home - well, I imagine his behavior might change. And who will be held responsible for that?" Mr. Ott, makes it harder to complete the exchange by holding it at another location simultaneously. Donovan knows that if he gives up Abel too soon, the East Germans can easily keep Pryor.

Where does the exchange take place between Abel and Powers?

The name of the film refers to the Glienicke Bridge, which connects Potsdam with Berlin, where the spy exchange took place. The nickname of the Glienicke Bridge in Berlin in Germany is "The Bridge of Spies".

What does Abel give Donovan on the Glienicke Bridge?

On the Glienicke Bridge Abel turns to Donovan and tells him that he has a gift for him - a painting - which catches him off guard. "I'm sorry I didn't think to get you a gift," Donovan says. "This is your gift," Abel replies, as he sets off across the bridge. At the beginning of the film, Rudolf Abel is painting a self-portrait, the scene is based on Norman Rockwell's "Triple Self-portrait". Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are both big collectors of Rockwell's work.

What did Donovan tell his family he was doing while he was negotiating?

Although it sounded like a relaxing getaway, Donovan never relaxed until he got home. As he walks into the house the television details Donovan’s help in the prisoner negotiations. Mary can't believe her ears and can only stand there wide-eyed in front of the TV. Her youngest daughter, Peggy, turns around and says, "I thought Daddy was fishing. For salmon." Mary leaves her children and finds her husband's suitcase in the hallway at the foot of the stairs. She goes up to find him lying face down and fully dressed on their bed, fast asleep. Finally, Donovan can relax.

How is the music used in the film?

When Thomas Newman's music score kicks in after about twenty minutes into the movie, the music is understated and brilliant in its simplicity. As James B. Donovan (Tom Hanks) becomes more involved with the CIA, the score escalates from simple piano to full orchestration, a subtle difference, but one which director Steven Spielberg believed would add some emotional weight to the friendship between Abel and Donovan.

The acting was superb in Bridge of Spies. Who won the nomination for the Best Supporting Actor?

And the Oscar goes to … Mark Rylance. He received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. For this film in particular, it was crucial to find an actor who could play a captured Soviet spy with divergent loyalties and surprising depth who was interesting enough that the audience would be able to feel his humanity and thoughtfulness . . . and someone who could hold his own opposite Tom Hanks, as well. According to Director Steven Spielberg, "Mark is one of the most extraordinary actors working anywhere. I saw him in 'Twelfth Night' and that pretty much cinched it for me."

Which of these nominations were for Bridge of Spies?

The film was nominated for six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Production Design, and Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures - Original Score, and won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Mark Rylance.

What eventually happened to Abel?

The film's closing epilogue and postscript states: "Following his return to Russia, Rudolf Abel was reunited with his wife and daughter. He was never publicly acknowledged by the Soviet Union as a spy.

What eventually hapened to Power?

The film's closing epilogue and postscript states: “Gary Powers [Francis Gary Powers] died in a helicopter crash in 1977, while working for KNBC news. He was posthumously awarded the CIA Director's Medal and USAF POW Medal in 2000 and the Silver Star in 2012.”

What eventually became of the graduate student, Pryor?

The film's closing epilogue and postscript states: “In 1962, Frederic L. Pryor received his Ph.D. in Economics from Yale University. He is currently Professor Emeritus of Economics and Senior Research Scholar at Swarthmore College.”

What eventually happens to Donovan?

According to the closing titles, James Donovan was asked by President Kennedy to undertake further negotiations on behalf of the U.S. In the summer of 1962, he was sent to Cuba to discuss with Fidel Castro the terms of release of 1,113 prisoners held after the Bay of Pigs invasion. When Donovan finished negotiations, he had secured the release of 9,703 men, women and children.

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