Behind 'The Pacific' -- Hanks, Spielberg discuss HBO miniseries
'The Pacific,' HBO's 10-part, $195 million miniseries debuts tonight.
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Okinawa was the site of the "most horrible battle that Americans fought in World War II," he said. "There were 8 million artillery rounds fired, one every second."
The estimated death toll, according to several historical accounts, included more than 100,000 Japanese troops, at least 75,000 Okinawans and more than 12,000 U.S. troops.
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Australia stood in for most of the miniseries' locations, including the war zones and U.S. scenes, during about a year of filming in 2007-2008. More than 90 sets were built, with 62,000 tons of earth excavated at a quarry outside of Melbourne to build Iwo Jima and Okinawa battlefields.
There were six writers and six directors on the project, with retired Marine Capt. Dale Dye serving as military adviser as he did on "Band of Brothers."
The actors acknowledge that conditions fell short of actual war but were hellish nonetheless.
"You were not comfortable on that set for one day," said Mazzello, with 110-degree weather that made clothes burn against skin and with an unending supply of flies "trying to get in your nose and eyes."
"They actually CGI'ed out flies because there were too many on our faces," Seda said, using shorthand for computer-generated imagery.
Spielberg and Hanks are intent on honoring both history and those who lived it with their World War II films, helping to narrow what Spielberg calls "the generation gap" between his father's generation and the ones that followed.
There are other ambitions for their latest project. Asked if they expect "The Pacific" to resonate with viewers when it comes to the conflicts America faces today, Hanks responded quickly.
"We want it to resonate completely," he said. "The war in the Pacific was a war of terror and racism, of suicide attacks. Both sides viewed the other side as being subhuman dogs, from a civilization that didn't recognize the advancement of human kind.
"Sound familiar? Sound like something that might be going on?" he asked, referring to the U.S.-Middle Eastern conflict.
He noted that Americans who once bitterly dismissed the Japanese as barbaric now accept them as friends and equals.
"Right now we're facing a different part of the world where they view us and we view them as an aberration of humanity," Hanks said. "There's a possibility that somewhere down the line, 60 years from now, we can look at the people that are trying to kill us and we are killing now as we do the Japanese today."
The two Hollywood A-listers acknowledge that their earliest collaboration, a slight 1986 film comedy in which Hanks starred and that Spielberg produced, gave no hint of their future roles as respected war chroniclers.
"When we first worked together, on 'The Money Pit,' if somebody had come to me and said, 'You two guys are gonna get a job telling historical stories ... more specifically, World War II history,' I would have said, 'You're nuts,'" Hank said, smiling broadly.