About The Characters
"We try to show the essence of what happened there," Bay reiterates. "We follow the lives of four people — Rafe, Danny, Evelyn and
Dorie — through this event. It's not just a movie about Pearl Harbor, it's
really about the essence of a volunteer. How you put your heart in for your country. As Jimmy Doolittle says in a speech when he's talking about the raid on Tokyo, 'I don't know if we're going to win this mission, but we are going to win this war.' And the person he's talking to asks 'How do you know?' And Doolittle says, 'Because of them,' indicating his men. 'Because there's nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.' That's really what this movie is about for me.
"In a moment's notice we will give our lives for our country," Bay adds, summing up the sentiment of the soldiers he met. "That's how these men thought, from the biggest flying ace to the guy swabbing the deck. Your country first, your family second, your work third. Those were pretty unshakable values."
"Pearl Harbor" is an epic love story set in the days when nations made the devastating leap from peace to world war. The story follows two daring young pilots, Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett), who grew up like brothers and first learned to fly in the daring and dangerous aviation practice of crop-dusting; now they both have become pilots in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
The filmmakers wanted these characters to embody a global sense of responsibility and a personal desire to do the right thing. "There was a spirit among the people who fought in World War II that if they weren't there, getting the job done, somebody else was going to have to do it, therefore they chose to be there," says Wallace. "That spirit cannot be ignored."
"Danny and Rafe are amalgams of many people," says actor Ben Affleck. "My character, for example, is representative of everything that could happen to someone in the war. He enlists in the United States Army Air Corps and then joins Britain's Royal Air Force, as many pilots from neutral countries did. He and Danny get up in planes and shoot down several
Japanese aircraft during the attack just like two real flyers, Welch and Taylor, did. Lieutenants George Welch and Kenneth Taylor were credited with shooting down six of the 29 Japanese aircraft lost in the attack. While Welch and Taylor did not take part in the subsequent Doolittle raid, Rafe and Danny do. There's nothing dishonest in that — it's all for the sake of the narrative."
To prepare for his role Affleck not only spent a week in Army Ranger boot camp with his fellow actors, but he also took the time to reread his history. He spent countless hours with various historians, technical advisors and military personnel working with the production and spoke with many veterans from the period. Among his chief concerns was the desire to create a plausible and universally appealing film.
"I wouldn't have taken the role if I thought the film was jingoistic propaganda," Affleck says. "We tried to be fair and honest. The Japanese are presented as honorable people with a certain point of view. They felt threatened by the United States and did what they felt they had to do at the time. We have a great responsibility to honor all the parties involved."
"Ben's ability to adapt himself to the character and to create a real person from the page is amazing," says Bruckheimer. "He's also a wonderful writer which is invaluable because he comes to the set with so much creativity and shares it with everyone. He's very generous with his ideas and takes great care with the entire project. I was especially impressed with Ben's devotion to the veterans who came to visit the set. We were all humbled in their presence, but Ben went out of his way to spend time with everyone he could.
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