WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO DO A FILM THAT IS BASED ON A REAL EVENT? HOW DID YOU APPROACH IT?
Pearl Harbor is hallowed ground. Its a seminal event in American history. Its something that a lot of us are connected to through our parents or grandparents--people who were affected by Pearl Harbor or lived through Pearl Harbor or didnt live through Pearl Harbor.
Whenever we went over there and scouted locations, you could see the bullet holes and plaques still there and the Arizona memorial and the stories. When you meet the survivors, you see the kind of turmoil and trouble and how it changed their lives and how they still remember and what a tight-knit organization they still are. And how this event bonded them and how the country came out of the ashes and survived an attack that could have destroyed the American way and the American values, because the Japanese were very close to doing that.
HOW DID YOU FIND OUT ABOUT DORIE MILLER--CUBA GOODING, JR.'S CHARACTER--AND WHEN DID YOU FIRST HEAR ABOUT HIM?
I think Dorie Miller jumps out of the research more than any other character other than [Adm. Husband] Kimmel and [Lt. Gen. Walter] Short, who were the two commanders at Pearl Harbor.
Dorie is the first African American to win the Navy Cross. A ship is named after him. He later died in the Philippines. Hes a great heroic character.
He was a prize fighter, he was a cooks helper. You know, the Navy was very segregated at the time, and he became a hero, which is a wonderful story.
WHAT WOULD YOU WANT PEOPLE TO WALK AWAY WITH FROM THE FILM?
Well, what I think it will do is spark peoples interest to research what happened at Pearl Harbor, so they can again find out the truth and the nuances that we couldnt put in a two-hour-plus movie.
I think it creates interest in a fascinating subject. Hopefully kids who dont know about it will get interested and want to read more about.
We do tell the story of Pearl Harbor, of course, but we do it in a very short, abridged version, the CliffsNotes version. But it is there, and I think kids will get into it. I think a lot of them will look at it and say, Did that really happen? And it did. It happened.
DID YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THE DOOLITTLE RAID BEFOREHAND?
When I was a kid--I think I was 10 or 12--I wrote a report on Jimmy Doolittle. So that was exciting for me to be able to put him on the screen, because I know a lot about him from my little book report I did on Jimmy Doolittle.
WHAT DOES PEARL HARBOR MEAN TO YOU?
You know, whats interesting about Pearl Harbor, what we did is we had a little ceremony before the movie started. It was all the actors. It was Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale and Josh Hartnett and [director] Michael Bay, myself, a bunch of Disney executives, [Disney's chairman of motion pictures] Dick Cook. We had a little ceremony there, and you went inside the Arizona Memorial and saw those names on the wall and one of the survivors plays Taps. I dont think there was a dry eye in the house.
We threw roses in the water and said a little prayer, and Will Fargo was there. He was Head of the Pacific Fleet. Its a very emotional, patriotic sense that you get. And hopefully we captured that in movie--that same kind of emotion, the patriotism, the heroism, the courage and the bravery that these men rose to as well as the sacrifices that they made.
Its a fascinating, fascinating experience to sit through this movie. Ive seen it with one audience now, and and youre riveted there. I mean nobody moves for the two-plus hours that this picture is on the screen.