This is gonna be big…

Posted on Mar 31, 2000

Wow…this movie will be big. Just read this from

The Real Thing

Now this will be something to see. The actual live bombardment (with ‘real’ explosives) of roughly fifteen Naval vessels moored at Pearl Harbor, to be captured by movie cameras within the next few weeks.

The movie, of course, is Pearl Harbor, Disney’s super-sized – $135 million-and-counting – World War II epic drama. Filming is beginning this week under producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay in and around Pearl Harbor. (April 8 is the official start date.) Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett will play the two male leads, with Kate Beckinsale reportedly playing their mutual love interest.

The ships to be destroyed along ‘Battleship Row’ are moored at the ‘middle loch’ on the rear side of Ford Island, which is located in the middle of Pearl Harbor.

A director friend told me Wednesday that Bay and Bruckheimer will be using actual naval vessels and real explosives. The U.S. Navy has been bombing and sinking its own vessels for years as part of military maneuvers (“sink X’s” or “exercises,” in naval jargon), but this level of realism is rare for a Hollywood movie shoot.

U.S. Navy spokesperson Lt. Melissa Sherman, currently in Hawaii, says she’s aware of the plan to use live vessels in the simulation of the Pearl Harbor attack. She declined to say how many vessels would be used, or what kind. However, she adds, “They’re not going to sink anything.”

The 11-year-old boy in me is thrilled. Real explosions! Real flying shrapnel! Stunt men leaping into a flaming sea! Something to see, all right · only I won’t see it. Not unless Bay and Bruckheimer change their tune about press coverage.

The general policy is to keep reporters and cameras at arm’s length, according to Pearl Harbor’s unit publicist Gabriela Gutentag. I called Gutentag a few weeks ago to ask about visiting Hawaii to watch filming of the Japanese bombardment, which Bruckheimer had told me earlier would probably be the most exciting thing to see.

The spectacle, Bruckheimer confided, would include Japanese bomber planes swooping down over the harbor, with scores of extras running around and simulated bomb explosions going off willy-nilly. When I mentioned this to Gutentag, she replied there would be a “closed set” policy during filming of this footage.

Given the scale of the action, I said to her, how “closed” do they expect the shooting of this sequence to be? An industrious photographer or video-shooter with a private plane at his or her disposal would be able to easily capture this.

The “live” bombing of the ships is said to be part of Bay’s effort to knock our collective socks off. Word is he’s trying to go the old-fashioned way as much as possible, with actual props and real explosives, instead of relying mainly on the computer-generated trickery that has become commonplace in the making of big-scale action films.

I think this is terrific. I’ve said time and again that CGI always looks like CGI, and that there’s no substitute for organic realism. Think how much better Jim Cameron’s depiction of the Titanic taking to sea would have looked if he’d been able to pay for a real vessel, instead of using that digitally animated version of the ship that looked · digitally animated.

Just you wait. Access Hollywood or Entertainment Tonight will work something out with Bruckheimer and Gutentag, and we’ll be seeing at least some of this carnage on one of their shows before too long. I’ll be watching from my desk in Los Angeles while eating a tuna-fish sandwich.