“The Pacific,” a ten-part miniseries produced by Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman, and Steven Spielberg, chronicles the stories of three real-life World War II Marines across the Pacific Theater of Operations. This epic is based on the memoirs written by Eugene Sledge (portrayed by Joe Mazzello) and Robert Leckie (portrayed by James Badge Dale).
This epic miniseries is not like any other that viewers have seen before. Not only are the stories more compelling, but the actors themselves were immersed in the culture and prepared for months for the roles.
For actors Mazzello and Dale, preparations for filming were extremely thorough. According to Dale, they were sent “literally a 50 pound box of research material” including the memoirs, the history of the Pacific, documentaries and DVDs. The actors were able to talk to the families and immerse themselves into the material before and during filming.
Research for the film was most important to the actors. Mazzello says that their “main focus was to focus on the men we were playing and to honor them the way they deserve and tell their story.” He feels that this series is different from other representations of the war, as we get to see these individuals before they came into the war, their motivations for joining, the events during the war, and how they left the war, if they did at all.
In addition to accuracy in their acting abilities, the actors were pushed to their physical limits as well. Senior Military Advisor Dale Dye put the actors through an intense boot camp, which Dale expressed was 21 days worth of training stuffed into 9. He says that “you know the men in “The Pacific” were broken down, mentally, spiritually and physically.” The actors learned their weapons while they did war games with the Japanese Imperial Army who were also training nearby.
Mazzello backed up Dale’s boot camp experience: “I lost 12 pounds in those 9 days… they wanted us to lose the weight because the guys who fought there were emaciated and they wanted us to look the same way.” He feels that the audience who is educated on the era wants to see actors who have experienced some of the difficulties of being a Marine; Mazzello went on to say that “we got our taste of it and we kind of got...to be able to honor these men the way they deserve.”
Aside from the mental and physical training, the weaponry and battle scenes continued with the mini-series’ emphasis on authenticity; this is evident in how the battle scenes were filmed on location rather than relying on post-production. Mazzello commented, “Everything that exploded on screen was exploding in front of us. Every tank that blew up was …blowing up in front of us.” The actors underwent weaponry training and spent all day with their rifles, much as the soldiers were accustomed to.
Above all, the reoccurring theme of the most importance to the creators, actors, and everyone involved in this series is to pay tribute to and honor the veterans and those affected by this time in history. Some veterans were able to go see the sets during filming, while others were able to attend screenings and premiers. Dale comments, “those are the guys that we really did this for and those are the guys that we were thinking about every day.” Mazzello continues: “we always find them just to be like such wonderful people, such humble people and they just have such good spirits. We just are so proud to be able to honor them the way they deserve.”
“The Pacific” airs this Sunday, March 14 at 9pm ET/PT on HBO. Story by Amber Wojcek