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14 things you might not know about the film Pearl Harbor

Pearl Harbor was a critical flop but a box office hit (Picture: Touchstone)

It’s 80 years since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in Hawaii – the event which led to the US becoming involved in the Second World War, and which cost the lives of 2,400 Americans.

The tragic events later formed the basis of the 2001 movie starring Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale – a romantic blockbuster played out against the backdrop of the attack, which had been tipped to be the new Titanic.

However Pearl Harbor the movie failed to make quite the same impact and bombed hard with critics, going on to receive nine nominations at the notorious Golden Raspberry Awards (which reward the year’s worst films and performances).

It didn’t do quite so badly at the box office, though, grossing around $450 million (£339 million), and briefly elevating star Josh Hartnett to leading man status.

Here are 14 things you never knew about the film.

The Pearl Harbor cast could have been entirely different

In an alternate universe, Charlize Theron took Kate Beckinsale’s role of Lieutenant Evelyn Johnson, Ben Affleck turned down the lead role of Captain Rafe McCawley, and Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow both showed up in Pearl Harbor too.

Other castings that could have been include Ashton Kutcher in place of Josh Hartnett, and Kevin Costner playing Major James Doolittle instead of Alec Baldwin.

Celine Dion nearly sang the Pearl Harbor theme tune

Just three years after My Heart Will Go On, Celine Dion was perhaps wise to turn down the job of performing Pearl Harbor’s theme tune, There You’ll Be.

The anthemic ballad, penned by legendary songwriter Diane Warren, was later given to country star Faith Hill instead, and went on to reach the Top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic, and receive nominations at the Grammys, Golden Globes, and the Oscars.

Pearl Harbor is set in Hawaii but it wasn’t all filmed there

Although much of the film was shot in Hawaii, Rosarito Beach in the Mexican state of Baja California was used as the set for the scale model work.

The same location had previously been used by director James Cameron, who built an oceanfront movie studio there, including a water tank large enough to sink the Titanic replica in, several years previously.

Michael Bay quit Pearl Harbor production several times

Pearl Harbor cost a whopping $140 million (£105 million) to make, a figure which proved to be the cause of many arguments on the set.

Director Michael Bay reportedly quit the production several times in frustration over budget constraints, and even took a $4million pay cut in order to satisfy them.

The film cost more than the real Pearl Harbour

Sticking with the suitably epic budget, Pearl Harbor the film incredibly ended up costing more than the damage caused in Pearl Harbour the real thing.

Alongside the money spent on the actual production, the movie was then given a monster marketing budget, leaving studio executives on tenterhooks until the first-week box-office figure revealed that they hadn’t in fact wasted their money.

The Pearl Harbor stars actually flew the planes

The film’s big action pieces weren’t all CGI and stuntmen.

Affleck, Hartnett, and Baldwin were all filmed flying the planes for real in the Doolittle Raid scene, having all taken basic flight training in preparation, although their co-pilots, of course, dealt with the take-off and landing.

There’s a version of Pearl Harbor out there one minute and nine seconds longer

If the film’s mammoth running time of three hours and three minutes wasn’t quite long enough for you, there is a director’s cut out there featuring an extra 69 seconds.

The differences will only be recognized by those who know the film word-by-word and frame-by-frame, with most of the extra running time spent on extra gore shots.

Ben Affleck’s grandfather refused to see Pearl Harbor

Ben Affleck’s grandfather avoided the film for personal reasons (Picture: Touchstone)

Ben Affleck’s role may have been the biggest of his career at the time, but his own grandfather refused to see how he fared.

But it wasn’t the scathing reviews that put him off, but the fact that he’d already experienced the tragedy first hand and didn’t want to relive it in ‘any way, shape or form.’

Pearl Harbor won an Oscar – and was nominated for more

Alongside Faith Hill’s theme song, Pearl Harbor also received three other nominations at the 2002 Academy Awards.

Of course, they were all in the technical categories, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound, and Best Sound Editing, with victory coming in the latter for George Watters II and Christopher Boyes.

Pearl Harbor holds an unwanted awards record

Pearl Harbor is the only film in history to receive both an Oscar and a nomination for Worst Picture at the Golden Raspberry Awards.

Thankfully for Bay and co, the gross-out comedy Freddy Got Fingered was released in the same year and picked up the unwanted trophy instead.

There were five on-set accidents during Pearl Harbor

Considering the huge scale of the production, it’s a miracle that only five notable accidents occurred during filming.

Ankles both sprained and broken, a cut head, broken collarbone and a broken finger – the latter of which remarkably was the only injury which resulted from a minor plane crash – all gave the on-set medical team something to do throughout the 109-day shoot.

Pearl Harbor contains 177 mistakes

Pearl Harbor is renowned for the amount of artistic license filmmakers took over its lengthy running time.

But the exact figure of historical inaccuracies, continuity errors, and just general goofs is perhaps less well-known – according to the Movie Mistakes website, it stands at a whopping 177.

One Pearl Harbor scene’s historical error is 31 years off

You can perhaps forgive the filmmakers for being a year or two out when it comes to anachronisms.

But not so much when they’re 32 years out, as is the case when a pack of Marlboro Light cigarettes – which only hit shelves in 1972 – can be seen in a sailor’s pocket.

The Pearl Harbor movie caused a mass panic in Orange County

The scenes filmed at Marine Corps Air Station Tustin base in California were perhaps a little too authentic for the residents of Orange County.

With the base no longer in use, the sight and sound of numerous fighter planes flying overhead caused some to believe that a full-scale war had broken out for real.


Credit: Original article published here.

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