Captain Dye's Blog
Monday, 22 February 2010
The Pacific this week...
It shouldnt be a shocker, I suppose, but early reaction to The Pacific, our new HBO mini-series debuting on premium cable next month, has left me drooling on the keyboard when I try to describe it. Understandably, Marines past and present are generously sprinkled throughout the cheering section and leading the wave as we all wait anxiously for the opening gun on 14 March, but some recent sneak screenings have convinced me we are about to strike an unexpected cord with this production. Its about war, that most brutal of human events, with gobs of gunfire, devastating high-explosive detonations, and gut-wrenching close combat. Thats what youd expect from an epic about World War II in the Pacific. What you probably wouldnt expect is chicks dig it.

Maybe it has to do with episodes that follow our Marines off the battlefield, in between the epic campaigns for places like Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu and Okinawa, during which they chase - and often catch  female companions in desperate attempts to live their lives to the fullest before they must face death once again in combat. Maybe it has to do with latent sexual tension and the quest for pleasures of the flesh among young men barely beyond puberty and the women who want to ease their burdens in one of the most comforting ways possible. Or maybe its the tragic, magical love story between Manila John Basilone and his strong, independent-minded bride Marine Sergeant Lena Riggi that touches the women who have seen some of our production. Frankly, I dont know and I dont care.

Whats important to me is that we are about to absorb a whole new audience in a ten-part TV saga which by all standard measures ought to be a strictly male bastion. During a sneak preview of just one episode we showed during the 1st Marine Divisions annual convention down at Camp Pendleton, I noticed a number of women  and these were civilians; not female Marines  seemingly enraptured as one of our characters traded innocent juvenile flirtations with a young girl who becomes his wartime pen-pal and civilian touchstone just before he ships out for Marine training. And interest didnt wane among the females in the audience when the episode inevitably took that character into shocking sequences of night combat on Guadalcanal. They were with us all the way and I took a moment after the screening to ask about that.

It was the innocence, you know? Not like the smart-ass kids you see today. My respondent was about thirty or thirty-five who said she had a favorite uncle that served with the division in Korea. I just felt like those two were looking for&companionship, I guess&for something comforting in hard times. I get that. I want to see where it goes. If she got that little taste of what makes this mini-series different from anything else weve worked on in the past twenty-some years, then she and women like her are going to love the passions on display during the divisions hedonistic sojourn in Melbourne, Australia. And there wont be a dry female eye during the episodes that include the classic wartime romance between Sergeants Basilone and Riggi that leads from a mess hall encounter to a wedding chapel in Oceanside.

If it pans out that way  and Ive got a reliable gut feeling that it will  then weve hit on something even broader, more enticing and insightful than our previous mega-hit efforts with Band of Brothers. As I keep telling the media-oriented reporters that are all over this thing like a cheap suit on a fat body, The Pacific is as different from Band of Brothers as war in the ETO was different from war in the Pacific theater of operations. Its like apples and oranges, folks, night and day. In its earlier stages, war in the Pacific was an afterthought, something to be dealt with when the Nazi juggernaut was stopped from conquering the ancestral European homelands of most American families. That added a note of desperation to the people fighting out of headline sight and mostly out of mind across the broad expanses of the Pacific Ocean. It was war on the cheap and campaigns were always a dollar job to be done on a dime budget.

War on the miniscule coral flyspecks of the Pacific and in the jungles of tropical atolls was brutal, ugly in the extreme, against an enemy that fought to the death from a cultural perspective that western-oriented Americans couldnt perceive. And combat on those remote islands and in those verdant jungles was not just against a fanatical enemy. There were the insects that brought debilitating disease, mud, slime and torrential rains, heat and humidity that turned the slightest lesion into a festering sore. There was malaria, dengue fever and varieties of tropical rot and corruption that never made the medical journals until the survivors came home and begged for relief from a puzzled medical community.

Thats all covered frankly, honestly and openly in The Pacific with an intentional emphasis on what such deprivation and desperate close combat did to the minds, bodies and souls of the players. Its becoming a bit of a bromide now that Ive repeated it so often in interviews but I keep going back to the orders Executive Producer Tom Hanks gave me before we shipped out to Australia to begin an epic tour of duty on The Pacific. Get up under the helmet of those Marines, he told me and the Warriors Cadre, and take the audience on the trip they made to hell and back between 1942 and 1945. Its been a long, hard two years since those initial orders were issued, but I believe weve done just that in a limited but admirable, accurate and honest look at World War II in the Pacific. From an even more personal perspective, it was a genuine thrill and an honor to work on a project that tells the World War II story of the 1st Marine Division. I served proudly with that unit during two combat tours in Vietnam

And just to bring this screed around full circle to my original point, Im aware that the rugged good looks, raw talent and passionate performances of guys like Jon Seda (Basilone), James Badge Dale (Leckie) and Joe Mazzello (Sledge) might have something to do with chicks digging The Pacific. These guys and a number of the supporting players featured around them are going to launch like rockets into stellar careers. After all they poured into training and performance, they deserve it.
Posted By Captain Dale A. Dye at 6:23 PM in Category:General News
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