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Tuesday, 22 May, 2001, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Pearl Harbor: Reliving history
War veteran Hank Potter arriving for the première
War veteran Hank Potter arrives for the première
World War II blockbuster Pearl Harbor, which had its action-packed première on a US aircraft carrier on Monday, was always likely to stir strong feelings.

The screening took place in the bay where 2,300 Americans lost their lives and 18 warships were destroyed on what President Roosevelt called a "date which will live in infamy" almost 60 years ago.

The attack by Japanese war planes drew the United States into WWII, and makers of the film have been keen to avoid controversy.


America needed to win this one - people needed to walk out happy

Michael Bay
Director
It has not attracted as much criticism for rewriting history as some American films in the past.

But director Michael Bay has said it is "not a history lesson" and a bit of Hollywood romanticising has clearly taken place.

Historical accuracy

Wreckage of the USS Arizona, sunk by Japanese raids
The USS Arizona was sunk by Japanese raids in 1941
It even has a relatively happy ending. Bay has been quoted as saying that his film could not end with a "downer".

"America needed to win this one," he said. "People needed to walk out happy."

Stars Ben Affleck, Cuba Gooding Jr and Kate Beckinsdale have been trying to play down any historical consternation, laying a wreath above the wreckage of the USS Arizona.

The Arizona was sunk and 80% of its 1,500-man crew killed in the surprise attack of 7 December 1941.

Producers worked with a number of survivors to improve accuracy.

And the fact that Japan is portrayed as the enemy has not deterred studio bosses from predicting it will also be a big hit at Japanese cinemas.

"We're confident that the film can appeal to a wide audience, from the young to the old,'' said Yoko Kishi, spokeswoman for the distributor Buenavista International Japan.

"It's entertainment, a love story."

Script changes

Poster for Pearl Harbor in Japan
The film is promoted as a "love story" in Japan
Film-makers sent the script to Tokyo for consultation, and it was returned with "a couple of little notes, but they were minor," Bay said.

He also had to run it past US military chiefs in return for being allowed to use their equipment.

The Naval Historical Center's Jack Green spent eight weeks on set and persuaded him to rethink the role of Lt Col Doolittle, played by Alec Baldwin.

"Doolittle was rewritten and made a little bit more of the real hero he was," Green said.

A closing speech about how the Americans bounced back from the attack will be cut for Japanese and German versions, the Sun newspaper has reported.

Sensitive subject

Other groups have also spoken out about the handling of such a sensitive subject.

Japanese Americans have complained that it could stir could stir anti-Asian sentiment in the US.

USS John C Stennis, where the première was held
USS John C Stennis, where the première was held
"Most Americans have difficulties distinguishing between Asian Americans and Asian nationals," according to Floyd Mori, president of the Japanese American Citizens League.

"We are loyal, patriotic citizens of this great nation. Thousands of Japanese Americans volunteered for military service."

The US Senate ethics committee recently vetoed a plan to put war veterans on a special edition of the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? TV quiz show as part of the film's promotion.

And one navy veteran said it focused too much on the army, while navy heroes were not given enough prominence.

Some survivors have been infuriated by the fact that a Japanese flag flew over an American aircraft carrier for the purposes of filming.

The USS Lexington was turned into the Japanese ship the Agaki, which helped launch the attack, with 200 extras in Japanese uniforms and seven restored Japanese Zero fighter planes on its deck.

"I just didn't think it was very appropriate, for the sake of making a little money, that they flew a Japanese flag over that ship," said 78-year-old Harry Ogg.

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20 Apr 00 | Entertainment
Pearl Harbor movie row
10 May 01 | TV and Radio
Charity Millionaire blocked by Senate
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