Roland Emmerich’s latest large-scale production is ‘Midway’, a Second World War film starring familiar faces — from Ed Skrein and Woody Harrelson to Mandy Moore and Nick Jonas. Here are 10 things to know about the film, out this Thursday in the UAE.
1. ‘Midway’ is based on the real-life clash between the American fleet and Imperial Japanese navy during World War Two. The decisive naval battle in the Pacific Theatre of the Second World War took place between June 4 and 7 in 1942. Notably, it transpired six months after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, which the US Navy was still recovering from. Late English military historian Sir John Keegan called The Battle of Midway “the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.”
2. The all-star cast will be familiar to most. The film features Woody Harrelson (‘War for the Planet of the Apes’, ‘Venom’, ‘Now You See Me’) Ed Skrein (‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’, ‘Alita Battle Angel’, ‘Deadpool’), Patrick Wilson (‘Aquaman’, ‘The Conjuring’), Luke Evans (‘Fast & Furious’) and Aaron Eckhart (‘The Dark Knight’, ‘London Has Fallen’), as well as Nick Jonas (‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle’), Mandy Moore (‘This is Us’) and Dennis Quaid (‘Frequency’).
3. Roland Emmerich directs the film. Emmerich is best known for his vast scope and visually ambitious films such as ‘Independence Day’ and ‘The Patriot’. “I’m thrilled that we had the opportunity to tell this story, because young people today don’t always know the stories about those who fought for their freedom,” said Emmerich. “I think that without the generation who fought in World War Two, our world would be very different. There was a lot of hardship and a lot of people died for it, but they died for a reason … Today we sometimes forget about these things, but movies can serve as a vivid monument to them.”
4. Similar to Christopher Nolan’s award-winning war epic ‘Dunkirk’ — narratively split into sea, land and air — ‘Midway’ will follow three storylines, “depicting three interwoven perspectives on the battle,” Emmerich said.
“One is the pilots aboard the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise, mainly Dick Best [Ed Skrein], Clarence Dickinson [Luke Kleintank], and Bruno Gaido [Nick Jonas], who are historical figures.
“A second storyline follows the critical work of Naval Intelligence officer Edwin Layton [Patrick Wilson], a code breaker, Joseph Rochefort [Brennan Brown], and Admiral Chester W Nimitz [Woody Harrelson] in Pearl Harbor.
“The third storyline centres on the Japanese officers, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto [Etsushi Toyokawa], and Japanese officers Tamon Yamaguchi [Tadanobu Asano], Kaku Tomeo [Nobuya Shimamoto] and Chuichi Nagumo [Jun Kunimura], who are historical characters, as well. My film is an homage to all the sailors who lost their lives at Midway, both American and Japanese.”
5. Actor Etsushi Toyokawa, who plays Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, said: “I could tell they researched Japanese art and culture.” Set Decorator Carolyn Louckes explained the process of switching from a Japanese perspective to an American one. The Japanese outlook “introduces you to a world of culture, honour and respect. We had an industrial tone for the scenes with the American characters, and then this old world, a more traditional view that you can see in the richness of the colours of the Japanese ships … The Japanese were still in ships that were originally from World War One. They still had a lot of wood components. Even on the bridge, they had real cabinetry. It made for a lot of brass and mahogany, and warmth, right down to the white gloves worn by the officers. It’s about the beauty of their ships. The Americans didn’t think about their ships as being beautiful, that way.”
6. The film reunites actor Dennis Quaid and director Ronald Emmerich. Emmerich had directed Quaid in the 2004 sci-fi disaster flick ‘The Day After Tomorrow’. 15 years later, the pair are together again as Quaid plays Admiral William ‘Bull’ Halsey, commander of the USS Enterprise. “Roland shows audiences what they have never seen before, and does it in a way that makes you believe,” said Quaid. “I knew he would bring the same movie magic and his particular style and mastery to Midway, which is an amazing story.”
7. The research team relied on historical texts and scholarship to ensure as accurate a retelling as possible, according to executive producer Wes Tooke.
“There was a huge amount of Japanese military history that had not made it over to the US,” said Tooke. “When we began this project, I was fascinated to discover this wave of new scholarship, where the Japanese side of the story was finally being told in English in a way that it had never been before … Roland insisted that we make every effort to make all aspects of the film as accurate as possible. Everything that happens on-screen, in terms of historical events, is factual and in chronological order. It begins in December 1941 with Pearl Harbor and ends in June with the Battle of Midway. It is the most dramatic six months in the history of warfare.”
Emmerich added: “The Japanese in this story are just as brave as the Americans, although with far more tragic outcomes … Politicians start wars, but never fight them. It’s the common soldier who ultimately pays the price. For me, it was important to show how the Japanese fought as honourably as the Americans in the Battle of Midway.”
8. Nick Jonas, well known as one third of the music group Jonas Brothers with older siblings Kevin and Joe, felt a personal connection to the film. Jonas plays the Naval radio man Bruno Gaido. “I have an affinity for stories with a focus on brotherhood and camaraderie,” said Jonas. “Maybe that’s because I am close to my brothers and understand the dynamic in that relationship. I wanted to do justice to Bruno because he was a real American hero.”
“A really important moment for me was when I put the costume on,” he added. “I thought back to pictures of my grandfather, who served in the military, and immediately sent a picture of me in costume to my grandmother.”
9. The cast filmed partially on location in Hawaii, as well as in a soundstage and on location in Montreal. “We were lucky enough to shoot at Hawaii’s Hickam Air Force Base, in an old abandoned home that they brought to life again, as well as Ford Island,” said Mandy Moore, who plays Ann Best, married to Navy flyboy Dick Best (Ed Skrein). “It felt like you were back in the early 1940s. Shooting at these historical locations, where families actually lived during World War Two, brings a level of authenticity. It helps you feel grounded and puts yourself in your character’s shoes.”
10. According to special effects (SFX) supervisor Guillaume Murray, Emmerich wanted a realistic set, complete with “the dirtiness and nastiness of the elements — the guns, ships, mist and rain — all of which make it look uncomfortable to be on those aircraft carriers back then.”
Emmerich also wanted actors to be in the thick of it. (Stunt coordinator Patrick Kerton said the director ‘wasn’t interested’ in stunt doubles: “I only had about 20 stunt performers working, and the actors were basically able to do all their own stunts — everything I asked for.”)
“The carrier set was very immersive, and the wind machines really hurled you around,” said Skrein. “You needed to scream and shout to be heard, even when people were next to you. Add to that the sounds of the heavy artillery — it was unbelievable. You don’t have to imagine too much. You can feel the power of the guns going off in your chest and in your bones.”
Don’t miss it!
‘Midway’ releases in the UAE on November 7. Watch the trailer below: