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Michael Bay
Michael Bay, director and co-producer of Pearl Harbor
Photograph courtesy Touchstone Pictures



MICHAEL BAY
 

WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO CRITICIZE THE MOVIE'S HISTORICAL INACCURACIES?

Well, here’s the thing. There were historians who read our script. And they said, “Well, you’re not showing the second wave. You’re not showing that they [the Japanese commanders] denied to do the third wave.”

When you see the movie you don’t get a sense of the first or second wave. You get a sense of the attack. That’s what’s important. And you need to see this through the eyes of people whom the audience connects with.

It’s very much like Titanic. If you didn’t have Leo and Kate and you didn’t have their love story, it would just be a sinking ship. Tora Tora Tora attempted to do this. And they did this at that time on a big scale, but it was more like a docudrama. You weren’t identifying with any one person.

So what we do is we suck the audience in. We lure them into that just idyllic lifestyle. All these men and women of that time talk about this idyllic lifestyle. Nurses were going over to Pearl Harbor. There were 4,000 guys to every nurse. Sometimes they’d have four dates a day.

It is a movie. But you’ll find what I found about Pearl Harbor, because once you attempt to do a movie like this, you try to interview as many people as possible. You try to get as many views from historians as possible. The Pentagon gave us some of the top naval historians and Army Air Corps historians. And they wanted us to keep everything as accurate as possible. But they knew it was also a movie.

And you have a time limit. What you find in the historians is that everyone’s an expert on Pearl Harbor. But then again, no one’s an expert on Pearl Harbor, because there were so many logs that weren’t really kept back then.

I kept asking the naval historian Jack Green, I said “Why does a lot of this stuff kind of differ? Everyone’s got different opinions.” For example, a historian will say, “That didn’t happen,” whereas a survivor, tears in his eyes, said, “It did happen.”

WERE THE NURSES HEROES?

Total heroes. They were young girls who basically had never seen blood. And they were in a brand-new white hospital that turned into a blood bath.

There are horrific nightmares all around the world, but there’s something special about this one. I’m not sure what it is, but the journalists say that this is one of the more seminal events in the past couple of hundred years.

HOW DO YOU TREAT THE JAPANESE?

We totally depict the Japanese as very heroic, very dignified. They had a formality about what they did. We showed that they were scared too. That they were young. They were innocent. They were doing a job for their country. In no way do we treat them as demons. I mean, war is hell, and they were just doing a job, and we showed that they do this brilliant job.

From what I know about [Adm. Isoroku] Yamamoto [who conceived of the Pearl Harbor attack], he was educated at Harvard. He knew about the American industrial might. From what I gather about him, he knew that this would be a devastating blow, but he knew that America would come back. I think, if my memory serves me correctly, he didn’t want to do this at first. And they went through with it.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE THE AUDIENCE WILL TAKE AWAY FROM THE MOVIE?

I hope that they understand what happened and they understand what this meant to America and that we’re not invincible. It’s interesting. The foreign press that have seen clips of this, they say there’s a lot of American flag-waving in a lot of our movies. And they say, “You see, you aren’t invincible. You’re not the perfect country.”

 

 
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