Midlothian man has unique ties to new Spielberg movie

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. (WRIC) “Bridge of Spies,” directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Tom Hanks, tells the true story of a U.S. pilot shot down during the Cold War. The incident happened thousands of miles away in Russia, but for one Midlothian man, it hit very close to home.

“It’s an honor. We’re excited. The whole family is. We never expected in our wildest dreams that Steven Spielberg would do a story on this, and include dad in it,” said Gary Powers, Jr.

The dad that Powers is talking about is Francis Gary Powers.

The new movie, inspired by the true events, tells the story of the American U2 pilot shot down over Soviet Russia in 1960. Played on screen by Austin Stowell, he survives the crash and is captured by Communist forces. He becomes a pawn in a big stakes game of chess between Soviet Russia and the U.S. that has a spy to trade for the downed pilot.

Powers spent time on set in both New York and California.

“I worked as a technical consultant,” he explained. “I worked with Spielberg and Hanks with photos and recordings of my dad to make sure they better understood my dad.

My father’s reputation will be defined for the foreseeable future by this film. We wanted to make sure our viewpoints got across to the filmmaker.”

Powers owns a very small piece of his Dad’s downed plane. He wasn’t born when the U2 incident happened and he was just 12-years-old when his father died in a traffic chopper crash in 1977. It all heavily influenced Power’s life — he’s an expert on the cold war and created a museum dedicated to that time period.

“As a kid, I was aware my father had been shot down and imprisoned in Russia and traded for a spy,” he explained. “But as a kid, I thought this was normal.”

He and I did talk about the incident. I remember stories he told me about being shot down, about being in prison, about being traded on that bridge.”

Earlier this month, Powers got to see his dad’s story unfold on the big screen at the world premiere in New York City. He says it’s a fitting tribute.

“It’s well done,” He said. “It captures the era, but some of the details may not be 100 percent accurate.”

If you look closely enough, you’ll see Powers in the film — he has a cameo in a scene that takes place on a airport runway.

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