The filmmaker behind massive hits like “Independence Day" and “The Patriot” has locked in a filming location for a remake of the 1976 movie “Midway," starring Charlton Heston and Henry Fonda, about the decisive 1942 naval battle that became a turning point for U.S. forces in the war in the Pacific.
After scouting filming locations around Pearl Harbor, German director Roland Emmerich settled on Oahu, and will begin filming the $100-million blockbuster next month at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. The same location was most recently used to film Cameron Crowe’s offensively awful film “Aloha,” starring Bradley Cooper and Emma Stone.
Woody Harrelson will be starring as the legendary Adm. Chester Nimitz, who, with the help of innovative U.S. codebreakers, foiled a Japanese ambush at Midway on June 4, 1942, less than a month after the conclusion of the Battle of the Coral Sea.
Luke Evans (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Professor Marston and the Wonder Women”) will star as Cmdr. Wade McClusky, who received the Navy Cross for his actions during the Battle of Midway. Mandy Moore and Patrick Wilson have also been confirmed for roles in the film, which is expected to be released sometime in late 2019.
Navy officials have emphasized that Emmerich and crew, a team that includes Mark Gordon, who assisted with the production of “Saving Private Ryan,” “are dead-set on making sure it’s a historically accurate [film],” the Star-Advertiser reported. Last month, a call went out for local military members and their families to serve as extras in the film, a request that received almost 1,500 responses.
Filming is also expected to take place in Canada, among other potential locations.
Knowing when and where the enemy planned to attack in June 1942 allowed Adm. Nimitz to dispatch the carriers Enterprise, Hornet and Yorktown to ambush the unsuspecting Japanese navy. Aircraft from the three U.S. ships would wind up sinking four of Japan’s lead carriers, a devastating blow that decimated Japanese dominance at sea and allowed U.S. forces to go on the offensive in the Pacific.
The Yorktown was damaged in the Battle of the Coral Sea and limped into Pearl Harbor only eight days before Midway. But with battle imminent, she was quickly patched up and prepared for a fight after 1,400 shipyard workers spent 72 hours readying the carrier, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
“There are few moments in American history in which the course of events tipped so suddenly and so dramatically as at the Battle of Midway,” author Craig Symonds wrote in his book, “The Battle of Midway.” “At dawn of June 4, 1942, a rampaging Japanese navy ruled the Pacific. By sunset, their vaunted carrier force (the Kido Butai) had been sunk and their grip on the Pacific had been loosened forever.”
Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.