CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Greg Watanabe, left, Tamlyn Tomita and Lane Nishikawa looked at photo albums yesterday and talked about a new movie about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Saga of 442nd
to hit big screen
DreamWorks Studio helps
local director Lane Nishikawa
Friday, Nov. 21, 2003
>> Universal Pictures is involved with Lane Nishikawa's film "Only The Brave." Negotiations for use of Universal's production services are continuing. A Page A1 article yesterday incorrectly reported that DreamWorks was involved.
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The Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, the most decorated unit of its size, will be featured in a motion picture by a Hawaii-born award-winning filmmaker and starring several well-known actors.
What: "Forgotten Valor" and "When We Were Warriors," by filmmaker Lane Nishikawa, in a benefit showing for his upcoming production of "Only the Brave"; actor Tamlyn Tomita will be master of ceremonies.
When: 6:30 p.m. tomorrow
Where: Farrington High School auditorium, 1564 N. King St.
Admission: 100th/442 Regimental Combat Team and all Americans of Japanese Ancestry veterans, spouses and one guest free; for all others there is a suggested donation of $10.
"Only the Brave," by screenwriter and director Lane Nishikawa, starring Tamlyn Tomita, George Takei, Yuji Okumoto and Greg Watanabe, follows the 100th Battalion and 442nd breaking through German forces in southern France to save more than 200 soldiers of the "Lost Battalion" (Texas 141st Regiment, 36th Infantry Division) but suffering some 800 casualties.
The film, with a $750,000 budget, plans to begin 18 days of production in late January, including 14 days in Los Angeles at Universal Pictures' back lot and the nearby Angeles National Forest, then four days in Hawaii. The film could be ready for theatrical release in April, Nishikawa said.
"There are very few things that you do in life that make you realize that all your previous hard work -- preparation, research, learning -- was for this one moment," said Nishikawa. "That's what 'Only the Brave' is for me."
Nishikawa, who was born in Wahiawa and now lives in Oakland, Calif., won the Hawaii International Film Festival award for Best Short Feature last year with "Forgotten Valor."
One major result of the HIFF award is that the studio DreamWorks is allowing the filmmaker to use without charge its back lot and sound stages at Universal Pictures for filming, post-production, film equipment and actors' trailers -- a savings of several hundred thousand dollars, he said.
But Nishikawa and his three co-producers are still about 25 percent short of the filming budget, so there is a fund-raiser and showing of two of his earlier films Friday night at Farrington High School.
"Only the Brave" opens with the 100th/442nd combat team advancing on a French town bordering the Vosges Forest, well fortified with a German company and numerous snipers, left behind to slow the progress of the American troops. Within hours the town is secured with few casualties. Before the regiment can regroup, word reaches it about the battalion from the 141st.
Their orders are to break through and secure the "Lost Battalion."
For four days the Japanese-American regiment faces entrenched Nazi forces.
Finally, the 100th/442nd combat team charges through German lines and reaches its objective, but at a tremendous cost.
Nishikawa and the National Japanese American Historical Society has sent out some 6,000 requests for donations. The film production already has received $100,000 from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Fund, and Nishikawa is hoping for matching support from corporations and foundations.
The filmmaker is passionate about telling this story before the number of surviving veterans dwindles further.
"When I attended the 60th anniversary of the 442 this year, there were about 1,800 attending," Nishikawa said. "Five years ago there were 3,000.
"It's not that they're all passing away, but many are getting more fragile and unable to get out as much. My goal is to create something while they're still here, and they can go to a theater to see their legacy and feel proud."
Tomita made her screen debut in "The Karate Kid, Part II" and has since appeared in numerous feature films, television and theater projects. She is perhaps best known for her role as Waverly in Wayne Wang's "The Joy Luck Club" and as Kana, a Hawaii plantation worker in the early 1900s, in Kayo Hatta's "Picture Bride."
She also starred in "Come See the Paradise," a film exploring the lives of a Japanese-American family and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.
In "Only the Brave," Tomita plays a soldier's wife, Mary Takata, who "exemplifies the stereotypical nisei (second-generation Japanese) woman who is left behind at home and is stoic in the face of likely loss of her husband," she says.
It is a different role for Tomita, who is more often seen in films as an aggressive, assertive woman.
"This is so very hard for me," she says, laughing. "I always have to open my mouth and say what I feel. But that's my generation."
Most of the actors will earn far less than their normal fees but agreed that Nishikawa's script made them want to be in it.
Veteran actor George Takei is best known for his role as Hikaru Sulu on "Star Trek." Yuji Okumoto has appeared in numerous films, including "Pearl Harbor," "The Truman Show," "Contact," "Aloha Summer" and "The Karate Kid, Part II."
"I -- well, we -- have a responsibility to take these kinds of roles," Tomita said. "Otherwise these stories would never get told."