Pearl Harbor : Production Notes

Pearl Harbor (2001) - Movie PosterFor 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."

Pearl Harbor (2001)"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. "

Pearl Harbor (2001)"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. "

Pearl Harbor (2001)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."

Pearl Harbor (2001)"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 about, for me that was a story that had to be told. When I heard their stories and learned what happened during the attack, I realized what it meant when people said America's innocence was lost. Every one of those men and women was heroic. "

For Wallace, who accompanied Bay to San Diego, these personal anecdotes were more than entertaining stories, they were a sort of special history lesson. "Pearl Harbor was no longer an abstraction. It was no longer a story of ideas; it was a story of flesh and blood. Life can come at you in a massive, unexpected way and Pearl Harbor was an event of indescribable proportions. That's why stories about love, sacrifice and heroism are so important to us. They bring the world back to those internal, personal ideals that are eternal to us all."

Pearl Harbor - Movie Poster"The great thing about making movies like this is that it affords us the ability to become involved in incredibly interesting subject matter," says Bruckheimer. "You research the subject, you talk to survivors, you read, you listen to old radio broadcasts and watch other films and documentaries. You educate yourself. And then you do your best to come up with a screenplay that's romantic, entertaining, humorous and yet has depth and pathos, and shows the tragedy that so many families went through. We tried to encompass all of that in 'Pearl Harbor. ' We tried to be accurate, but it's certainly not meant to be a history lesson. "

When Wallace was asked to come up with a story surrounding the events of December 7, 1941, he not only had to decide where to frame the story but he also had to create specific characters that the audience would care about.

"The fundamental question was, where does the story of Pearl Harbor really begin?" explains Wallace. "I chose the war in Europe, specifically the Battle of Britain, because I wanted the story to encompass the idea that people were already fighting, but America was trying to stay out of it. The thought was 'It's not our problem,' but all that changed in a couple of hours in December."

"Once the attack happens, what completes the story? In my reading I became excited about Doolittle's Raid, an event much less famous than Pearl Harbor, but powerfully connected with it. The courage and determination demonstrated in that action struck me as the essential response of Americans to the attack made upon their spirits at Pearl Harbor."

Pearl Harbor (2001)"But even more important than the plot was the characters," Wallace continues. "I wanted to write about the kind of people who said, 'A fight's coming, and I'm not going to wait for it to come to me. ' I wanted to write about the heroism suddenly required of a nurse who has never seen a battlefield injury before, who suddenly has thousands of dying men on her hands. So I invented characters and a story, and went in and told it to Jerry, Michael and the studio, and suddenly I had a deal. We all got excited, and started bouncing ideas off each other. "

Wallace's method of putting together his first draft is, for some, rather unorthodox. "I sometimes offend people when I tell them this, but it's true," he says. "I do in-depth research after I've written my first draft. The reason I work this way is that I want to know why I should tell a story before I decide how to tell a story, and the why is about people. If you know why someone goes to war, if you know whom they love and how they love, you know about them. Then you can find out whether they flew P-40s or whether they wore leather helmets and goggles. But if you become too fascinated by superficial details, you miss the essence of the truth. "

"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."

"There is always a new wave of actors who are going to be the superstars of tomorrow, and Ben is one of them," Bruckheimer concludes. "This is Ben's time. You want to watch him on screen, you want to be him, and that's what being a movie star is all about. "

Bay, who previously directed Affleck in Armageddon (1998), is simple in his praise. "This is his best performance ever. He has tremendous potential, he is charismatic and I just think it's his best performance. "

Rafe's best friend, Danny Walker, is portrayed by a relative newcomer, Josh Hartnett. A favorite of the crew, Hartnett was a warm, welcome presence on set. He seemed to personify the ideal of the young soldier of the 1940s. "Josh is quiet but strong," says Bruckheimer. "He's a throwback to the old Hollywood legends, a cross between Gary Cooper and Montgomery Clift. I don't know if it's because he's from Minnesota and the heartland, but he possesses this ability to make you feel like everything's going to be all right when he walks into the room. He has a substantial role and we knew he could handle the burden. He's very professional for someone so young."

"It's strange to think that at my age I would have been one of the older pilots in my squadron," says 22-year-old Hartnett. "My great uncle fought in D-Day and he was a ranking officer at 19. Most of these guys were younger than I am now. I wouldn't know where to begin to deal with what they went through. You can still feel the emotion from those men when you meet them; it's one of those moments you never forget. "

"What makes Danny's character exciting is that he already has a personal sense of what war is before the fight begins," says Wallace. "He has watched his father, who was in World War I, suffer because of it and he wants no part of that hell. Danny has seen the living dead. "

Rafe falls in love with Evelyn Johnson (Kate Beckinsale]), a beautiful and courageous nurse serving in the U. S. Navy. But their love has only just begun to bloom when their personal destiny - and that of a world on the brink of war - intervenes.

British actress Kate Beckinsale took on the role of Evelyn by delving into history books not only about Pearl Harbor, but also about the often-overlooked contributions of nurses. She also spent time with military nurses and was even able to practice a few procedures.

"When we were in Hawaii I was allowed to give some shots to people, not with drugs, just saline," Beckinsale reports. "So in the inoculation scene, there were some poor naked volunteer bottoms that I pierced. By the end of the scene I'd become really confident, but then the last one leapt into the air. They were really very brave," she laughs.

On a more serious note, Beckinsale was ever mindful of the horrible position the nurses and doctors were in during the time of the attack. "Their resources were so limited. They had to make do with whatever was at hand to take care of truckloads upon truckloads of injured and dying delivered to the hospital doorstep. Even painkillers were rationed. It must have been a horrific experience for everyone. "

Both Bruckheimer and Bay wanted an actress with a certain charm and glamour for the role. "The thing I like about Kate is her universal appeal," says Bay. "Women really like her, and it's so important that women like your female lead. Kate has a great innocence about her, but she also has great strength. I think that's what appeals to both men and women. She also has an incredible look for the period. "

When Rafe meets Evelyn he is immediately smitten, but Evelyn is not so certain about his intentions. "He's kind of cheeky with her," Beckinsale says of Affleck's character. "He's very determined and at first she's not having it. From the books I read, nurses had to build up a fairly thick skin because there was always a great group of men in their underwear with jokes flying around, so they did have to fend off the boys a little bit. But Rafe is very persistent and quite charming and has a good sense of humor so she lets him woo her."

Bold and idealistic, Rafe joins the Eagle Squadron, a group of Americans, Canadians, Australians, Swedes and others from neutral countries who volunteer to fight alongside English pilots during the Battle of Britain. Leaving his new love and his best friend behind, with the promise that he will return, he heads off for the deadly skies above the English Channel, while both Evelyn and Danny are transferred to Hawaii's idyllic paradise - Pearl Harbor.

"Danny doesn't have it as easy as Rafe," Hartnett explains. "He has to make his own way in life, but Rafe does influence his decisions. The two of them protect each other and depend on one another, so when Rafe decides to join the Eagle Squadron and never tells Danny, the bond and the sense of loyalty between them is broken."

Evelyn is equally dismayed with Rafe's decision to put himself in harm's way. "She is totally devastated when he leaves," says Beckinsale. "He is the love of her life."

"My film professor at Wesleyan, Jeanine Basinger, always told me that in a woman's life there is always that one love," says Bay. "A love you wish you could have had and for some reason you had to let them go. That idea really stuck with me and that's what this relationship is all about, that one great love. "

Before December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor is heaven. Although Danny and Evelyn don't initially take advantage of being stationed in such a tranquil spot, their comrades and friends make the best of it. Here, Rafe and Danny's pal, Red (Ewen Bremner) finds a nurse of his own, Betty (James King). Billy (William Lee Scott), another pilot from their training days in New York, and several nurses including Barbara (Catherine Kellner) and Sandra (Jennifer Garner) are also transferred out west. There, they meet Earl (Tom Sizemore), an airplane mechanic extraordinaire and Gooz (Mike Shannon), a flying surf hound, among the new squadron.

Stationed on the USS West Virginia docked at Ford Island is seaman third class, mess attendant Doris Miller (Cuba Gooding Jr.). A controversial figure, Miller posthumously received the Navy Cross for shooting down two Japanese aircraft after saving the life of his captain during the attack. He was one of the first African-Americans honored by the United States government for his valor. In an ironic tragedy, Miller was killed in another battle during World War II when the ship on which he was serving sank.

"I play one of the few real life characters in the movie," says Gooding, who is used to taking on the challenge of portraying real life heroes. "As a cook, Dorie was not allowed to handle weaponry so he never had any formal training on the big 50-caliber anti aircraft machine guns he used, but he jumped on it and did it anyway. "

Pearl HarborAfter the attack Miller did not immediately come forward to acknowledge his heroics because the machine guns, which required water to function properly, had burned out. Like many of the service men who lost or accidentally misused equipment during the melee, Miller was concerned he would be admonished for destroying military property.

"Whether or not he shot down one or two planes, or no planes at all, he was a brave and honorable man who risked his life for his fellow sailors and his country, as did so many others," says Bruckheimer.

"Dorie Miller could really be any person in that attack," suggests Bay. "Historians, writers, even Navy documents cannot really agree on much of the exact history of this event. People's memories dim and change shape as the years go by. Everyone has a different opinion. All we can do is listen to the historians and survivors and come to our own conclusions. Dorie Miller's story is just one of those. As far as I can see, he had a real part in changing the course of how blacks in the military were viewed after what he did."

Danny, Evelyn, Dorie and the other residents of Pearl Harbor carry on their placid lives, unaware of the overwhelming forces moving toward them; the stupendous attack upon Pearl Harbor by the combined air and naval forces of Imperial Japan will soon shatter their world and alter history.

On November 26, 1941, 20 submarines and five midget subs followed by a combined fleet of two battleships, three cruisers, 11 destroyers, six carriers, eight tankers, three submarines and 423 planes left Tankan Bay in Japan.

Heading east on a northerly route so as not to be discovered, they sailed for the United States and its westernmost outpost, the Hawaiian Islands. During the trip Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto sent a coded message to Vice Admiral Chuichi Nagumo: Niitaka yama nobore, Climb Mount Nikita, which meant the mission was on.

On December 2 Nagumo was directed to open a top secret envelope which contained the directive stating that Japan would, in several days, declare war on the United States, Britain and Holland.

Pearl Harbor (2001)At 6:45 a. m. on December 7 (December 8, Japanese time), the first wave of aircraft took off from the deck of the Japanese command ship, the Akagi. Led by Commander Mitsuo Fuchida, 183 bombers flew southeast for less than an hour until they reached the northernmost shores of Oahu at Kahuku Point.

The first wave split into three groups. Fuchida with 89 Kates (one of three types of aircraft used by the Japanese fleet) headed southwest around the island, heading directly for Ford Island and Battleship Row. The second and third attack groups split again, making their way over the Waialua Valley, towards Schofield Barracks, Wheeler Field, Ewa Marine Air Corps Station, Hickam Field, Bellows Field and Kaneohe Bay.

Pearl Harbor (2001)A second wave of 168 aircraft reached Oahu just after 8:40 a. m. for further strafing runs on the American air bases. Eventually more than 350 Japanese Zeros, Kates and Vals would fill the sky, raining bombs and machine gun fire, leaving the United States Pacific Fleet and much of the island in a state of destruction.

It is a tale of heroism on an epic scale as well as on a level of powerful personal intimacy. But the cataclysm of December 7 is not the end.

America's response to the staggering emotional defeat at Pearl Harbor and subsequent defeats in the Pacific is to create one of the most daring and unexpected military events in history: the bombing of Tokyo through a suicide mission led by aviation legend Jimmy Doolittle (Alec Baldwin). When Colonel Doolittle picks Rafe and Danny to be his key leaders on the heroic raid, their lives and their love for Evelyn are once more at the center of this tale of passion and spectacular courage.

Pearl Harbor (2001)Randall Wallace was convinced that the Doolittle Raid should bookend his cinematic story. "Many people who know about Pearl Harbor and the broader aspects of World War II do not know about the Doolittle Raid, although it was a turning point in the morale of Americans," he explains. "The raid over Tokyo was as unexpected by the Japanese as Pearl Harbor was. It took a tremendous amount of courage because the leaders of the raid did their planning and preparations with the knowledge that the odds were greatly against them. Had Doolittle and his men been overly concerned about their personal fate, they would never have made the attempt. But there was something more important to them than their individual survival. That's the definition of courage."

Joining the production late in the game, Alec Baldwin proved to be a casting coup for the filmmakers. "We were lucky to get Alec," says Bruckheimer. "He's someone I've always wanted to work with but just couldn't find the right role at the right time. He's perfect for this part. He has the bearing of an officer, the authority and the strength. I think it was also important that we found an actor of his caliber to do justice to someone like Jimmy Doolittle."

"We didn't know that much about Doolittle when we started," the producer admits. "But then we were contacted by his historian and several family members and friends. They helped to shape and define the man for us. He was one of the great heroes of his day, long before World War II. He was a record-breaking aviator, and like the sports stars of today, he was a household name. He was also a role model who took his position seriously. His men are as devoted to him today as they were 60 years ago. "

Pearl Harbor (2001)The Doolittle Raid was originally devised by a submarine captain brainstorming for ideas to turn the tide of the war. Why not place Army bombers on the deck of an aircraft carrier so as to get them close enough to Japan to launch a surprise attack on an industrial Tokyo and her surrounding areas?

The pilots could then beat a hasty retreat to the easternmost borders of China. Unlikely as it sounded, the United States Commanding General, Lt. General Henry Arnold, was an enthusiastic supporter of the plan and hand picked then-Lt. Colonel Jimmy Doolittle to lead the mission.

Pearl Harbor (2001)If the probability of success was not remote enough, on April 18, 1942 Doolittle and his men were forced to take off from the deck of the USS Hornet, 670 miles from the coast of Japan, more than 150 miles farther out than the original plan advised. Japanese fishing boats, which also acted as surveillance monitors, spotted the Hornet and her escorts.

Facing high seas and 40-knot winds, Doolittle was the first pilot to take off. With 16 B-25s crowded on deck, his was the shortest take-off, a sight as yet never seen by the Navy men who cheered him and his crew on.

Fifteen of the sixteen bombers made it to China, four crash landing and 11 bailing out. One plane was able to make it to the USSR where the Soviets impounded the B-25 and incarcerated her crew. Every aircraft was lost. Eight crewmen were captured and became Japanese prisoners of war, two drowned while trying to swim ashore after crashing into the ocean and one man died parachuting from his aircraft.

Although a devastated Doolittle thought his mission a complete failure, it was, in fact, a resounding success that gave the United States and her allies renewed hope.

Doolittle was elevated to Brigadier General, leapfrogging over the rank of colonel. President Roosevelt personally presented him with the Medal of Honor. Ever self-effacing, Doolittle was proud yet embarrassed by all the fuss. He was not only a much-admired commander and combat leader but he was also an innovative and skilled airman who simply loved to fly.

Today, so many years after his death in 1993 at the age of 96, he still engenders immense respect from the men who were part of that near-impossible mission.

Baldwin acted as a guardian of the Doolittle legacy. "Sometimes films strain to mythologize characters and make them more heroic than they really are," he says. "But you couldn't possibly do that with Doolittle. We couldn't have made him more heroic. He was probably one of the most valiant, dauntless and courageous men I've ever encountered. He is on par with Lindbergh and MacArthur."

"When I was preparing for the role, speaking to many people in the military and told them that I was playing Doolittle, they all told me how lucky I was" Baldwin adds. "They were excited for me. That says a great deal about the man. "

Pearl HarborMichael Bay recalls a day on board the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi, Texas just before they would shoot the scene recreating the take-off of the B-25 bombers. "I was always telling the younger actors to use the pilots that were standing around to help them prepare for the scene because we had some of the best pilots and some great old aircraft at our disposal.

Next thing I knew, I find Alec Baldwin sitting up in the cockpit going over all this lingo and air terminology. He was just sitting there, boning up on the basics. You should have heard the litany of terms he started reeling off. He sounded like the consummate pilot. He'd been talking to the vets and stunt pilots and basically given himself a crash course in piloting a B-25. That's the work of a great actor. "

Another great actor to join the ranks of the film is the familiar face of veteran thespian Jon Voight. His face, however, might not be so recognizable hidden beneath the mask of make-up he wears when he dons his role as President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Special effects make-up artists Will Huff and Fionagh Cush from the Stan Winston Studios transformed Voight over a 6-hour period each morning.

Bruckheimer, who has worked with Voight before, insists that audiences will not be able to recognize the actor. "Jon makes you believe he is Roosevelt so that you aren't even thinking about the actor beneath the make-up," he says.

"He looks and sounds just like Roosevelt, he really nailed the part. It's funny that so many people cannot quite place the face; even some of the crew were unaware of who he was."

"Jon actually called and asked to play Roosevelt," says Bruckheimer "He's an armchair historian and knows more about the man than any of us. That type of preparation is invaluable."

"I've never seen an actor care so much about three days' work," says Bay. "I'd also never seen an actor get a round of applause from all the other actors in the room - seven times they cheered him after he did the scene in the presidential office with his cabinet. That's pretty amazing. "

Voight's older brother, Barry, who teaches at Penn State University, recommended that Jon read the Pulitzer Prize-winning book No Ordinary Time. "After reading this book and others that Barry recommended, I was encouraged to seek out the role of FDR," the actor says. "I really wanted it to be portrayed properly. The remarkable thing about FDR for me was how he sustained being under such enormous pressure. How does one live in an atmosphere of tremendous strain for a continuous period of time? And that's what the Presidency of the United States is, if the person in that seat is taking clear responsibility. It takes character and energy. How did this guy do it? He didn't have wings, he couldn't stand and yet he carried everybody. I was very moved by that."

"Roosevelt suffered every moment of drama throughout his presidency, especially Pearl Harbor," continues Voight. "It was a devastating blow to him but he was able to rebound. FDR was a righteous man, tremendously clever with his abilities, his personality and influence and eloquence. He was negotiating with Japan for peace in the Pacific when the attack happened. He felt he had personally failed the American people and the men in the service. "

The moment when Roosevelt is informed about the attack is portrayed with dramatic license in the film. "It actually happened in his bedroom," says Voight. "But we did it in another area of the White House. We've recreated the metaphor of truth. The alarm of the response that went off in Washington is represented in the way Michael shot this piece. I only hope that my interpretation of that moment is equally as appropriate. "

Commander in Chief of The Imperial Japanese Navy, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is played by Academy Award®-nominated actor Mako. Mako, who was born and raised in Japan until he was 15 years old, was only in second grade when the navy's combined fleet attacked Pearl Harbor. "I remember going to school in the morning. I think it was Monday, and feeling there was a strange atmosphere. Everybody was talking in whispers: We started a war with America. I remember thinking, 'War? What does that mean?' I had seen footage of the war with China, all the destruction. I realized that's what war meant. It was as if I got hit in the solar plexus and couldn't breathe. A kind of fear and panic overtook my body. "

On SetMako was pleased with the global vision the film presents. "Historically, Hollywood pictures about World War II depict the Japanese as the evil side," he explains. "That's too much to cope with. Every war is started for a reason, usually economic, and in that sense this picture depicts the Japanese side in a fair light. There is no evil blackness about any of the characters. "

Although Mako is not a history buff, he was aware of Yamamoto's background. Educated at Harvard, Yamamoto had served as a naval attaché to various Japanese embassies, including the United States. When Japan first considered war with America, Yamamoto objected and was very vocal about his position against a strike.

"He was well learned in terms of Western culture," notes Mako. "So many from the military, admirals and generals, became ministers in the cabinet and steam-rolled the politics of that time. They had no perception of Western culture or attitudes and didn't understand Western resources. In that sense Yamamoto was up against the wall and outnumbered. Since it was inevitable that they were going to war, he did his job with the utmost. "

World-renowned actor Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa plays Commander Minoru Genda. Tagawa was born in Japan but raised in the United States. His father was a local boy from Hawaii who joined the military just before the end of World War II and became a career soldier and whose children were raised on Army posts throughout the world. Tagawa's mother's family fought for Japan; sadly none of her relatives who served in the Japanese Navy and Army survived. With such a background, Tagawa's viewpoint is somewhat unique.

"This film does justice to both sides," the actor notes. "It honors both the Japanese and the Americans. I especially like how Michael takes the time to create an emotional tone without dialogue. It expresses so much and that's critical for the Japanese because they have that same emotional makeup. It's not about talking, it's about doing and feeling. I think Michael paid attention to that aspect of the culture."

"The sense of respect and honor in the military really comes through," Tagawa continues. "That particular time in Japanese history was very unusual. It may have been the first time that a character like mine, a lieutenant commander, actually worked directly with an admiral. The structure of the Japanese military was incredibly rigid, but Yamamoto was a renegade, he was not so much about the rules. He was ahead of his time. In the same way, Genda was a samurai; he knew it was important that his pilots make it back after the attack. He also came up with the idea of putting wooden fins on the torpedoes so that when they dropped, rather than submerging 70-90 feet, they would only go to a depth of 45 feet, which is what caused such destruction. The Americans were not prepared. Genda was a brilliant strategist."

"Pearl Harbor is such a sensitive issue for my parents' generation," Tagawa sums up. "It's not something you want to make an issue of again, other than to pay homage to everyone who fought and died. In doing some of these big scenes, it's important to convey the strong feelings each of those guys had for their country, albeit different sides. I hope it will be a great tribute. "

Poster Pearl Harbour (2001)The Japanese military of the time spoke in a very specific dialect using a military vocabulary all its own. Many of the Japanese actors who were fluent in colloquial Japanese were unfamiliar with the formal dialogue. Mike Sogawa acted as the Japanese dialogue coach and sometime translator during the filming. The production not only employed a specialist with regard to dialogue, but also a special costumer who also works as a freelance technical advisor. Dick Lamott is an in-house historian who worked on Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)."

After seeing many World War II films, most of the movie-going public does not realize how different the military was run after Pearl Harbor. Everything changed after the attack, from the uniforms and equipment to simple everyday procedures. "As Admiral Yamamoto said, they awakened a sleeping giant," says Bruckheimer. "The United States was already an industrial giant, but entering into a war of this magnitude forced us to become an even greater industrial powerhouse. We were not ready for war when Pearl Harbor happened. Right after that we out-built every other country. We built more tanks, more planes, more supplies and that's how we won the war."