If you’ve seen the trailer for ”Pearl Harbor” — and let’s be honest, it’s been hard to miss — you’ve already caught this summer’s money shot to beat: the bird’s-eye view of a bomb dropping from a Japanese fighter. Like a 21st century Hollywood version of Isaac Newton with his famous apple, Bay claims he came up with the image quite randomly. ”It was three in the morning and I just woke up with it in my head,” he says, laughing. Score one for the sandman.
It goes without saying that with Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer (the duo behind 1995’s ”Bad Boys,” 1996’s ”The Rock,” and 1998’s ”Armageddon”) at the helm, ”Pearl Harbor” is an action picture. Yet both insist that their WWII epic is first and foremost a love story — ”Titanic” with B-25s instead of icebergs. In fact, the Japanese surprise attack only takes up about 40 minutes of the film’s two and a half hour running time. The filmmakers guarantee that it will be a memorable 40 minutes, but the rest of the movie uses the tragedy as the backdrop for a passionate triangle involving a Navy nurse (Beckinsale), an Army flyboy (Affleck), and his best friend (Hartnett). ”It’s not a love story that’s just tacked on for the girls,” Beckinsale says. ”It was one of those scripts that was so good, I would’ve slain someone to get the role. It was only when I walked on set that I realized ‘This… is… a… huge… movie!”’
Actually, ”Pearl Harbor”’s more than just a huge movie — at $135 million, it’s the costliest ever greenlit (though far from the costliest ever completed). Way below Bay’s initial estimate of nearly $200 million, the budget was the source of stops and starts for two years (and led to Bay quitting four times), until a compromise was reached in which the filmmakers waived their up-front fee and the actors agreed to get paid near scale against some of the potential profits. Not surprisingly, Bruckheimer doesn’t see the price tag as a problem. In fact, says the producer, ”I think it’s good. I think it’s kind of exciting that you have this kind of heat from the media — can we deliver or not? Then again, I’ve seen the picture.”