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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Explosive première for Pearl Harbor
Fireworks lit up the sky over the USS John C Stennis
Fireworks lit up the sky over the USS John C Stennis
Hollywood stars mixed with war veterans aboard a US Navy aircraft carrier in Hawaii for the $5m (£3.5m) première of Disney's Pearl Harbor.


We didn't have any guns, bombs. Couldn't even find a rock to throw at them.

War veteran Bill Cope
Navy SEAL paratroopers jumped from a Black Hawk helicopter as the 2,000 guests walked the red carpet to the lavish screening onboard the USS John C Stennis.

The film, starring Ben Affleck, Kate Beckinsale and Josh Hartnett, cost $140m (£97m) to make.

Sounds reminiscent of 60 years ago rang out as a huge firework spectacle closed the première screening.

Kate Beckinsale and Ben Affleck
Pearl Harbor co-stars Kate Beckinsale and Ben Affleck
The emotion of the gala event was clearly visible.

George Brown, 80, who was on the USS Oklahoma during the attack, said: "I think the sailors would like that.

"I think this is great. It might bring a lot of people to realise that freedom isn't free. You have to work for it."

Affleck said the film had an important story to tell, though it is now 60 years since the Japanese attack on the US fleet.

Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck: "The film is a tribute to the survivors"
"It's about what a terrible cost it is for people to have to go to war and what a terrible thing it is," he said as he boarded the carrier.

Paratrooper

Hundreds of military personnel cheered and clapped as the celebrities and members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association arrived.

Silence descended as four F-15 fighter jets from the Hawaii Air National Guard flew in a missing man formation, to honour those killed in the attack.

The USS Stennis is moored a few hundred yards from where the attack on 7 December 1941 began.

Pearl Harbour
Pearl Harbor has received mixed early reviews
Also moored nearby is the USS Missouri, on whose deck Japan signed surrender documents in 1945.

The film, directed by Michael Bay, is more of a love story than a war-time epic.

The surprise attack in 1941 by the Japanese on the US Naval base at Pearl Harbor provides the backdrop for a romantic triangle featuring a navy nurse played by Beckinsale and two pilots - Affleck and Hartnett.

Respect

The film-makers insist that meticulous research was carried out to make the three hour epic as true to life as possible - although some stretching of the truth has taken place for the sake of drama.

Ben Affleck says he believes the film respects the memories of the 2,436 Americans killed in the bombing - and that the picture should serve as a tribute to war veterans.

Memories

Ben Affleck
Ben Affleck stars in the recreation of the Japanese raid
Bill and Ruth Cope identified with the love story as they married 10 days before the attack, living through it at Hickam Field, where he was a 2nd lieutenant B-17 bomber pilot in the Army Air Corps.

Mrs Cope said: "I worked that day washing dishes at Hickam, at the hospital.

"The hospital scenes in the movie were realistic. It's a wonderful show."

Mr Cope said the film mirrored the frustration of not being able to fight back as their planes were destroyed.

He added: "Nothing we could do that day.

"We didn't have any guns, bombs. Couldn't even find a rock to throw at them."

The hype surrounding the film and the expensive première has helped boost trade in Walt Disney's shares.

On the eve of the Hawaii screening, shares in the company were up 5% and trading volume in the company doubled.

One market analyst company has said that if the film does prove a success, it could have a potentially positive "psychological impact" on the company.

"While films often do not move stocks, the gloom that has settled upon Disney could lift, allowing Disney's stock to catch up to its peers," said Jill Krutick, of Salomon Smith Barney.

See also:

22 May 01 | Film
Pearl Harbor: Reliving history
20 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Pearl Harbor movie row
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