For Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay, the making of "Pearl Harbor" was a dedicated pursuit. Sometimes an uphill battle, the duo was determined against all odds to make the film, and despite the immenseness of the production and the complicated logistics involved in such an undertaking, Disney Studios moved forward on the project.
Both producer and director are history buffs, both are fascinated by true stories and everyday heroes. With the help and creativity of Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter Randall Wallace, they were able to fashion a fictional story about ordinary people living through real-life extraordinary
circumstances. The filmmakers are quick to point out that this film is not a documentary, but rather a tribute to those men and women who have gone before us.
"Pearl Harbor is certainly a seminal event in history," says Bruckheimer. "It stands out as one of America's worst tragedies, but it also reminds us that we can rise from the ashes and go on to triumph.
"This film is a departure for us," he explains. "Although
it's a story of friendship and romance, overall it is a serious piece about the heart of the men and women, military and civilian, who lived through this period. Pearl Harbor galvanized the American people. We were not prepared for war. Boys became men overnight and nothing would ever be the same again. The Japanese as well were fighting for the survival of their homeland," Bruckheimer further clarifies. "You cannot
forget there was an oil embargo against Japan and they felt they had to do something drastic. As is the case with many military expeditions, the Japanese soldiers did not know where they were headed until their mission was well underway. Taking all this into consideration, we wanted to create an entertaining movie, but moreover we wanted to capture the essence of that time in hopes of honoring those brave people."
"As a dramatist, I was not interested in writing this story if it was going to be about the inner workings of Washington politics," adds screenwriter Randall Wallace, whose initial exposure to Pearl Harbor was largely through hearing his parents discuss the attack and how it affected their lives. "I don't really believe that's where history happens. I believe the fate of the world lies in the hands of each individual. Tolstoy said that one man throwing his rifle down, running back through the army screaming, 'We are lost, we've been betrayed,' will panic the group. But one man picking up the battle flag, running toward the enemy screaming, 'Rally!' can rally an entire regiment. I see heroism as something real and tangible. I wanted to write about that."
Many of the Pearl Harbor survivors who visited the set have never spoken about their experiences. Some who came brought along their children and grandchildren. Very quietly these survivors would begin to share their stories with the crew Extras, many of whom were young enlisted men themselves would gather round. Dressed in tattered military uniforms or
skivvies or covered head to foot in oil, they would form a circle around the older men to listen.
"We'd watch adult children dumbfounded as their fathers spoke," remembers Bruckheimer. "They'd recount their tragic memories. On more than one occasion you would hear people whisper that through the years their father had refused to speak of his experience or that they simply never knew what their parent had gone through. There were a lot of tears
from both generations."
"Everyone reads about Pearl Harbor in history books, but we don't really study it in depth," says Bay. "I think the thing that really got me hooked into wanting to make this movie was when I met with a large group of Pearl Harbor survivors down in San Diego. When you look into these 80-year-old guys' eyes and they bare their souls and tell you what it was all
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