10 Things You Didn’t Know About Pearl HarborPublished on March 17, 2016. Updated May 10, 2019
Incredibly, it has already been 15 years since Pearl Harbor first premiered on the big screen, yet the film is still loved by fans worldwide. Michael Bay and crew took on the difficult task of portraying one of the most significant events of World War II and turning it into a romantic drama. As a result it was received poorly by critics but was loved by general audiences, and remains an iconic film of the 2000s. With a star studded cast that included three Oscar winners and five Oscar nominees and of course Josh Hartnett in his prime, many have seen it, but there is still lots of things not widely known about the film. Check out 10 things you didn’t know about Pearl Harbor!
The filming for Pearl Harbor was completed in only 109 days, just one day over schedule and it took over 3000 members who completed 200 hours of material, and 3906 set-ups.
9. Offensive Scenes
As to be expected when portraying such a major moment in wartime history, the film caused quite a bit of uproar, especially with Japanese viewers. They were offended by the scenes that show the Japanese army meeting outside as this is considered to be uncivilized and barbaric in Japan. There was also a huge backlash for the scene that showed Japanese planes bombing a hospital because that never happened. Japanese pilots were given orders to never attack civilian targets. Meanwhile Ben Affleck’s own grandfather refused to see the film but explained it was because it was bad enough living it and he had no interest in reliving the war in “any way, shape, or form.”
The film was a huge undertaking and there was a lot of tension around budgets for the duration of filming. The production budget for the film at the time was the largest ever given to a movie before filming started at $140 million and Michael Bay ended up quitting the project four times over disputes about the budget. As well, Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay both agreed to give up $4 million in salary in return for a cut of the profits in order to get the budget down when shooting while the film’s main stars also took a cut in salary in order to help on the budget. In the end it is estimated that the total amount of money spent in both production and promotion equaled the amount of damage caused in the real attack.
7. Set Accidents
Even though the set was large and some of the stunts were dangerous there were only five injuries during filming. There was a broken ankle, sprained ankle, broken collarbone, a cut head and the worst accident was when they were filming the scene were Rafe (Affleck) and Danny (Hartnett) ended up getting off the ground and are chased by three Japanese planes. One of the planes ended up clipping a tree and crashing and although the pilot suffered a broken finger and was a little dazed, he was otherwise unhurt.
6. Lost Roles
Pearl Harbor ended up having one of the most star studded casts of the 2000’s with the likes of Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, Kate Beckinsale, Alec Baldwin, Jennifer Garner, Jon Voight and Cuba Gooding Jr. but there were many others in consideration to star in the flick. Kevin Costner was offered the role of Col. James Doolittle, Charlize Theron turned down the role of Evelyn Johnson, and producers originally wanted Matt Damon and Gwyneth Paltrow to star alongside Ben Affleck. Meanwhile Ashton Kutcher almost had the part of Danny Walker until Josh Hartnett beat him out, and Ben Affleck initially turned down the role of Rafe McCawley before changing his mind.
5. Great Lengths
A lot of CGI and software was needed to pull the film off, but wherever possible Michael Bay and the rest of the crew went to great lengths to make scenes as real as possible. For the series of six explosions in Battleship Row, they actually staged the explosions on real Navy ships. Bay found the ships while scouting locations and were told they were part of an inactive fleet. The used plywood to protect the ships from the explosions and used 700 sticks of dynamite, 2000 feet of cord and 4000 gallons of gasoline and the explosions took a month and half to rig while the federal Environmental Protection Agency had to oversee every explosion. As well, the farmland scenes that were supposed to depict Tennessee were actually filmed outside of L.A. in Somis, California, but to make it look real, crews planted corn five months before shooting.
4. Scaring the Locals
For some of the scenes the crew flew planes over the unused Marine Corps Air Station Tustin base in Tustin California but because the base is no longer in use, the sudden flurry of activity and planes cause some Orange Country residents to believe a real war was starting and they were being attacked.
In 2002, Pearl Harbor was nominated for four Oscars in total and ended up winning for Best Sound Editing. Interestingly enough it was also nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, honoring the worst in movies, and was up for Worst Picture, Worst Actor, Worst Remake or Sequel, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay and Worst Screen Couple. It didn’t win any Raspberry awards but it did mark the first time a Worst Picture nominated film won an Oscar.
Many were surprised when watching the film how authentic it looked during the Doolittle Raid as it seemed the actors were actually flying the planes… and as it turns out they actually were! Alec Baldwin, Josh Hartnett and Ben Affleck were all given basic flight training so that they could handle the planes. A pilot would fly the plane to the destination for filming and then switch seats with the actor who would take over control while the shot was filmed and they would switch seats again for a safe landing.
1. End Result
Even though Pearl Harbor is still a much buzzed about film and an icon in romantic wartime drama films, it ended up with overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics. It didn’t matter though because it made almost $200 million in the domestic box office and a total of almost $450 million worldwide making it the sixth highest-earning picture of 2001. It is also the third highest-earning romantic drama film of all time only behind Titanic and Ghost.