IThe_Pacific_Jon_Seda.jpgn recent days, “The Pacific” executive producer Tom Hanks has made some comments about the World War II fight against the Japanese that have generated controversy (click here for BigHollywood.com’s take). If you heard and didn’t like his comments and might be inclined to not watch the miniseries because of that, I’d ask that you set aside those feelings and tune in anyway.

But, let me warn you — it’ll leave a mark.

Here’s my syndicated feature story (watch this space for more on “The Pacific,” from my lunch with consultant Marine Capt. Dale Dye (Ret.) …

The warriors
for the working day of HBO’s ‘The Pacific’

 

“We
are but warriors for the working-day; our gayness and our gilt are all
besmirch’d, with rainy marching in the painful field.” (“Henry V,” Act 4, Scene 3)

Among
the portrayals of World War II, “The Pacific,” a 10-part miniseries premiering
Sunday, March 14, on HBO, and airing successive Sundays through May 16, takes
Shakespeare’s description of the drudgery and misery of war, adds a heaping
portion of sheer horror, and renders an unflinching, shattering portrait of
hell on Earth.

The
production team behind HBO’s 2001 WWII miniseries “Band of Brothers,” led by
executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, shifts its focus from the
fields and towns of Europe to scattered islands and atolls.

Writer
and director Graham Yost worked on “Band” and “The Pacific” and says, “I’ve
seen ‘The Pacific’ maybe half a dozen times all the way through, and there are
certain scenes where I just lose it.”

Filmed
on location in Australia and Los Angeles during 2007 and 2008, “The Pacific” is
based on the true stories of three U.S. Marines: New Jersey-raised sportswriter
Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) and John Basilone (Jon Seda, in photo at top), who boxed and
drove a
Thumbnail image for The_Pacific_Joe_Mazzello.jpg truck; and Alabama doctor’s son Eugene Sledge (Joe Mazzello, at right).

Leckie
and Sledge wrote memoirs that were among the miniseries’ source materials,
along with “Red Blood, Black Sand” by Marine Chuck Tatum.

The
project takes the Marines from Guadalcanal through Cape Gloucester and Peleliu,
across
Iwo Jima and Okinawa, and eventually to V-J Day.

This
past January, during the biannual Television Critics Association Press Tour,
Dale, Mazzello and Seda gathered for a round-table discussion.

Asked
how they think real vets will react, Mazzello says, “We have a lot to live up
to. Speaking for all of us, we appreciate them, and we hope we can be a part of
giving them some sort of closure on it. Just being able to honor them is a
wonderful thing.”

“They’re
the real heroes,” says Seda (who, like Basilone, was a boxer). “For us, it’s
just such a privilege and honor to have had the opportunity to portray these
men. I’ve said this before – I only wish and hope that I had an ounce of the
same courage that these guys had.”

“These
guys were just painters and plumbers and electricians,” Dale says. “These were
just regular guys, car salesmen, who would go and do these things. They’re not
career warriors.

“To
imagine what they were asked to go through is just unfathomable.”

Adds
Seda, “The freedoms that they fought for are slowly fading away.”

To
prepare for filming “The Pacific,” the actors underwent a boot camp with Capt.
Dale Dye, USMC (Ret.), who also advised on “Band of Brothers.”

“When
we found out we were going to boot camp,” Mazzello says, “I’m like, ‘Oh, man,
we’re going to get ripped. We’re going to get huge, down five egg yolks a
morning.’ And it’s like, ‘Wait a minute, I lost 12 pounds in nine days.’

“They
just sucked us dry.”

As
the conversation turns to Capt. Dye, the door opens and out strides Tom Hanks,
who proceeds, using colorful language, to express how the actors’ lives will
now change.

“Are
you having an interview right now?” he finally says. “Oh, sorry, it was an
off-the-record comment. They’re all magnificent guys.”

After
Hanks leaves, Mazzello leans into the recorder and says, “That was Steven
Spielberg. Steven Spielberg.”

“What
do we say after that?’ Seda says.

The_Pacific_James_Badge_Dale.jpgUrged
to continue talking about boot camp, Seda says, “The beauty, the genius, of
Capt. Dale Dye’s boot camp, is it teaches you the camaraderie amongst the men,
and it gave us just enough of an insight as to what these guys went through,
from the good times to the tough times.

“There
are times now where I’ll see a palm tree, and it’ll bring me right back to boot
camp.”

“It’s
got to be tough being in L.A., man,” Dale (at left) quips.

“Just
the other day,” Seda continues, “I found myself thinking about a time at boot
camp, thinking about the guys and stuff that we went through. I can’t imagine
what our vets go through when they see something that brings that back to the
hell they were in, or even just the whole camaraderie that they had.”

As
to what they’d like people to know about “The Pacific,” Mazzello says, “You get
the full spectrum of who these men were before the war, what made them decide
to join, how their experiences were while they were there, and how they came
out, if they did at all.

“You
get a thorough examination of what it’s like to transition from private citizen
to Marine to citizen again. There’s no stone unturned in that regard.”

Says
Seda, “Nobody should miss out on this opportunity to do their part by helping
honoring that generation, just by watching, just by paying attention.”