So, just 25 years after December 7, 1941, veterans joined forces to tell the story of how it all began. Imagine if all the once warring nations did the same?
Until then, most portrayals of the Japanese in WWII films were stereotypical at best and often downright racist. They have been presented as mean, deceitful, and often incompetent. Not in “Tora”. Here they were professional, highly trained military personnel grappling with the violence they were about to unleash – upon our country and, eventually, upon themselves. The pilots were dashing and courageous. They flew these planes with remarkable momentum. Bob, for his part, said the flight in the movie – which is extraordinary – was true to life. Maybe a little too much.
Lots of old school movies went into the movie. A full-size Japanese battleship was built out of wood on a Kyushu beach. Over 70 real planes have been used. The Pearl Harbor hangars that survived the attack were shattered for the film. It was long before CGI.
But production was plagued by disasters and ultimately went well over budget. Zanuck and Williams first hired Akira Kurosawa, the most famous Japanese director of the time and still, at least for Western audiences, but then fired him when he behaved strangely on set. Two pilots were killed.
The logistics of creating this cinematic hydra-headed beast in the pre-Internet age, with multiple locations in Japan, Hawaii, Washington, and Hollywood, have proven daunting; delays were rampant, as were communication failures. The images had to cross the Pacific, strapped to seats of Japan Airlines.