'Pearl Harbor' Movie Drops Anchor Here
New Generation to Learn about WWII from film

By Wayne Harada and Catherine E. Toth, Advertiser Staff Writers

Disney filmmakers pledged yesterday to bring the story of “Pearl Harbor” — which starts production here tomorrow — to a new generation of movie-goers, while honoring those who died in World War II.

On the site of the Dec. 7, 1941 attack by the Japanese, the film’s producer, director and stars, along with military officials, paid their respects with traditional pomp — floral offerings, the playing of “Taps,” and a flyover by four P-40 Warhawks.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer said, “It (the war) changed the way we thought. I felt this film was seminal in my career — to get this done and done correctly.”

Richard Cook, chairman of the Walt Disney Motion Picture Group, said “Pearl Harbor” likely will be “the most anticipated movie in the industry” next year.

Gov. Ben Cayetano said the state is cooperating fully with Disney.

“I think what’s most important is that this film gives Disney an opportunity to do something great — for our country,” Cayetano said. He also said the film “can help us educate those generations and the generations to come” about the lessons of war.

Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said the Department of Defense also endorses the project, calling it “a wonderful effort.”

Director Michael Bay said the epic drama, focusing on two fighter pilots and a Navy nurse, “is a true love story … a love triangle.”

In said story, Tennessee crop dusters Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) become Army Air Corps pilots. Rafe volunteers for the American Eagle Squadron during World War II in England, leaving behind his best friend and new love, Navy nurse Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale). Danny and Evelyn are then stationed at Pearl Harbor. After Rafe is reported killed, the two fall in love.

The key players have agreed to defer salaries, banking instead on box office success.

“(We’ve) really taken no money because I think we really like the script, the story seemed important, and it seemed like the right thing to do,” said Affleck, the frequent indie star known for taking roles over money. “You want all the money to be up there to make a movie we can all be proud of. It’s more satisfying for me to be in a movie that means something than for the cash up-front.”

The film’s preproduction budget of $135 million means that most of the money will be spent on production costs to ensure an accurate depiction of the war, according to Cook. A hefty chunk of the budget will support special effects created by Industrial Light and Magic.

According to Bay, the film will boast 180 true digital effects, with historical battle scenes to be recreated at the Baja, Mexico, tank where many of “Titanic’s” sinking scenes were filmed.

Some air attacks will be digitally produced, but extensive filming also will be done on inactive ships at Pearl, meaning war-like smoke, fire, and noise during production.

The attack on Pearl Harbor will involve the largest effects, said Bay.

“Michael wouldn’t commit ’til he felt we could really represent the attack as authentically as possible,” Bruckheimer said.

To ensure authenticity, the filmmakers have conducted research, consulted Pearl Harbor survivors, and even involved the Japanese in script reviews.

“We’re trying to be as accurate as we can, in the context of motion pictures,” Bruckheimer said.

“I have read it, and it’s an excellent script,” said Ralph Lindenmeyer, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the attack. “I knew what happened. I could see the chaos. I tried to impress the movie producers of that angle.”

Some characters were assembled from fragments of history. The two friends are based on two pilot buddies, Welsh and Taylor, who shot down six Zeroes. Beckinsale’s character is a composite of real-life nurses.

Cuba Gooding Jr.’s character, however, was derived from the history books. He plays Dorie Miller, a mess attendant on the USS Virginia who becomes a hero after the attack. Miller was the first African American to receive the Navy Cross.

Affleck and Hartnett were sent to a four-day boot camp with the U.S. Army Rangers. “We thought it was going to be an actor-y kind of boot camp, where they teach you to salute,” Affleck said, laughing. “It wasn’t quite that. It was more like the first 20 minutes of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ but it was extraordinary.”

“I think it was helpful to us, and the movie, for us to play our roles,” he said. “It’s much more helpful to me in my life and as a person. I don’t think I scrubbed a urinal in my entire life.”

“It was a really huge character-building experience,” Hartnett said. “I’m positive I’ll never forget it.”

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