Windtalkers is a character-driven, emotional action drama set in the
Pacific during World War II - a somewhat different setting than John Woo's other
American action films. This time, Woo's stage is the 1944 Battle of Saipan,
recreated onscreen in stunning detail. At the heart of the lightning-paced
combat, the story centers on the incredible friendship that develops between
Marines in battle and the complex relationship between the legendary Navajo
American code talkers and their designated Marine guards.
The theme of friendship and the film's complex characterizations are what
drew Woo and his longtime producing partner Terence Chang to the project.
"I fell in love with the story the minute I heard it," Woo says.
"It's so emotional, a celebration of the human spirit. I had been looking
for something different from a generic action film, something our company could
develop." The pair felt they'd found the perfect material in Windtalkers.
Windtalkers presented Woo with the opportunity to revisit ideas
similar to those in his celebrated Hong Kong films like The Killer (Woo
and Chang's first collaboration in 1989) and Hard-Boiled. "John is
basically known in the West as an action director, but some of his best films in
Hong Kong are largely based on the theme of friendship among men," Chang
says. "He's obviously very good with action, but he's also incredible with
actors and drama and telling a story in a way that really affects an
The idea for Windtalkers began with producers Alison Rosenzweig and
Tracie Graham. About ten years ago, Rosenzweig was first told about the code
talkers by her brother Seth, a World War II aficionado. He had long been
fascinated by their heroic contribution to the war in the Pacific and encouraged
her to develop a movie about this relatively unknown chapter in American and
Marine history. "I was absolutely compelled," she says, "but at
first I felt their story would make a great documentary and wasn't necessarily
material for a feature."
Eight years later, while looking for projects to develop, Rosenzweig shared
her knowledge of the code talkers with producing partner Graham. "I was
immediately enthralled," says Graham, "but equally perplexed as to how
to turn the story of the code talkers into a feature narrative."
Determined, the two producers delved into history books, eventually stumbling
upon the dramatic key they'd been seeking.
"I read that during the war code talkers were assigned Marine guards for
protection," says Rosenzweig. "They were to protect the code talker
and his code from falling into the hands of the Japanese." According to
Rosenzweig, her reading revealed that if a code talker was in danger of being
captured, the Marine guard was to prevent the code from being compromised at all
costs. After thorough research, Marine Corps historians were unable to locate
any evidence that such orders ever took place - it would be illegal for a Marine
to be ordered to kill a fellow Marine. But the notion that a serviceman might
have had to kill one of his own, someone he'd fought alongside and with whom
he'd become friends, resonated with the producers. Intrigued by the emotional
implications of such orders, Rosenzweig and Graham realized they had their
It was also fascinating to them that the code talkers were virtually unknown
until fairly recently. "The existence of the code talkers was not
declassified until 1969," says Graham. "Even though the code talkers
were invaluable in winning World War II, the U.S. military wanted their
accomplishments to remain secret, precisely because they'd been so successful.
They were the military's secret weapon in the war, and they felt they might need
To pen the screenp
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