Actors, film execs
A ceremony at the USS Arizona
Memorial signals the start of work
on the Disney film
Affleck 'profoundly touched'By Tim Ryan
Dec. 7, 1941, all over again
HOLLYWOOD heavyweights paid homage yesterday at the USS Arizona Memorial to the servicemen who died at Pearl Harbor nearly 60 years ago with wreaths and a promise to make the movie to end all movies about the attack that plunged the United States into war against the Japanese.
"The events at Pearl Harbor united Americans like no other event in our nation's history," said Jerry Bruckheimer, producer of the $135 million Disney film "Pearl Harbor."
"That American can-do spirit reminds us of what we can do today and in the future. The story of this heroism and sacrifice needs to be passed on to future Americans. I hope this film does that."
The Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941, left 2,235 servicemen and 68 civilians dead.
The Memorial's top deck was packed with dozens of news media representing Hawaii and national publications and television entertainment programs. The late afternoon ceremony signaled the official start of one of the most ambitious films ever attempted.
"Pearl Harbor," with a staff and crew of more than 500 and more than 1,000 extras being used on Oahu alone, will film mostly at four Oahu military bases through May 3. The movie is being directed by Michael Bay.
Three wreaths -- white anthuriums from Touchstone Pictures, red anthuriums from Bruckheimer and white carnations from Bay, all backed by ferns -- teetered in Pearl Harbor's blustery wind and occasional drizzle yesterday.
The ceremony began several minutes late as publicists and aides taped and retaped tiny T's of duct tape behind the ceremonial wreaths where the dignitaries -- the film's actors, executives, military officials and six Pearl Harbor survivors -- would stand facing news photographers.
Gaudy gold letters identifying the wreath giver were taped over white ribbon draped across each floral arrangement.
Attending the ceremony and subsequent news conference at the Arizona Memorial Visitor's Center were Richard Cook, chairman of The Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group; Bruckheimer; Bay; and actors Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale and Cuba Gooding Jr. Representatives from the U.S. Navy -- including Adm. Thomas Fargo, commander in chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet -- and Gov. Ben Cayetano also attended.
Following brief speeches, four vintage P-40 War Hawk aircraft streamed over the memorial. The dignitaries then took flowers from the wreaths to drop into Pearl Harbor's oily water to honor those killed in action.
The Department of Defense has pledged full cooperation to the producers -- as did Cayetano -- in part to educate young Americans about the historic event.
"Pearl Harbor is filled with drama, action, courage and patriotism," Cook said.
Cayetano said that while the production will bolster Hawaii's economy and promote the state, the film's main attribute is education.
"There are too many generations of Americans who don't know the Pearl Harbor story," he said. "This movie will help this generation and generations to come."
Bruckheimer said at the news conference that the film's historical events are all "completely factual" and will explore personal stories and the "extraordinary circumstances" surrounding the attack.
Bruckheimer said he, Bay and the writers have done an enormous amount of research for the film, meeting with historians, military and Pearl Harbor survivors.
The producer and director also have shown the script to Japanese-American organizations, as well as Disney officials in Japan, for accuracy and fairness.
"Pearl Harbor" has about 180 "true digital effects," including several that are "quite massive," Bay said. The attack and sinking of the USS Oklahoma by five torpedoes is just one.
"It sinks in about seven minutes," he said.
Affleck explained why he agreed to do the film and defer his salary until after the picture makes back its budget. All key people on "Pearl Harbor" have deferred their fees.
"The story is important. It resonates. It's the right thing to do," he said. "You don't want the filmmakers to make any sacrifices that affect the quality. You want all the money up there to make the kind of film you can be proud of. My experience is that it is much more satisfying personally and professionally to be in a movie I can be proud of, and that means something more than to cash a big check."
Bay praised the military for its "massive" support, saying "Pearl Harbor" could never be made without it.
"But I'm pretty sure, after this film is finished, they will never do another Pearl Harbor movie here."
Though several dignitaries -- including an admiral, a governor and an award-winning producer and director -- attended yesterday's wreath-laying ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial, actor Ben Affleck was the center of attention.
Affleck, star of "Pearl Harbor," comes across a bit shy and reserved but certainly serious when it comes to his craft.
The actor talked comfortably about a usually forbidden subject in Hollywood: money. Affleck explained why he, as well as all the other key players in the film, have deferred their salaries until after "Pearl Harbor" makes back its massive budget because they believe in the story and want it made without compromise.
Affleck was so passionate about the subject that he seemed a little annoyed when co-star Cuba Gooding Jr., who won an Oscar for his role in "Jerry McGuire" and its slogan "Show me the money!" interrupted to joke about wanting the money up front. Affleck never finished his answer.
Affleck, who is a few inches taller than 6 feet and built rock solid, said he hasn't been "this excited to do a movie in a long time, and nobody is as surprised as I am at that."
"I never thought I'd be doing Michael Bay's next movie for no money," he said.
And when he was offered the role, he expected the script by Randall Wallace, who wrote "Braveheart," to be the "popcorn that was 'Armageddon.'"
"But the story is really uncompromising and honest about what the survivors of the Japanese attack went through," Affleck said. "I really believe that this film will be the definitive piece about the attack."
Affleck researched the Pearl Harbor attack but until yesterday had never been to the Arizona Memorial.
"To see it in person, to read the names of those who died, to stand where so many perished for their country profoundly touched me," he said. "When you usually do a movie, you hope to just entertain people. But today was a major reminder of what my role here is and what this movie should mean."
Affleck said "Pearl Harbor" does not glamorize or give a false impression of war.
"War is something awful and not something to celebrate," he said. "And this is not a movie that says one side is good and the other side is bad for sneak-attacking us.
"The story makes note of economic factors that may have contributed to the Japanese attacking Pearl Harbor."
Affleck and co-star Josh Hartnett spent four days with the U.S. Army Rangers training for their roles.
"We thought we were going to have a kind of actory-OK sort of experience, where we would learn things like how to salute," Affleck said. "But the first day was like the first 20 minutes of 'Full Metal Jacket.'
"It was an extraordinary, incredible experience, truly grueling and difficult."
The actors got up at 5 a.m. and went to bed at 11 p.m. In between there were "lots and lots of push-ups" and menial duties.
"I had never scrubbed a urinal in my entire life," Affleck said, "never knew how to. I do now."