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by dr andrew cousins

Michael Bayne on How America Won The War

Michael Bayne began his career directing music videos. He then graduated on to feature films such as ‘The Crock’ and ‘World Go Boom!’ His new film, ‘How America Won The War’ takes place against the backdrop of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour. I went to talk to him about it.

Michael, congratulations on the new film. Are you happy with it?
I’m very happy with it, thank you. But then again I’m happy with most things I do. I was particularly happy with the way that I parked my car this morning. It was at exact right angles to the kerb. Damn fine park job even if I do say so myself. Life’s too short to be self-critical.

But you surely can’t be happy with every aspect of your life. In 1982 you were found wandering down Sunset Boulevard in your underwear, brandishing a machete and threatening to cut off Francis Ford Coppola’s penis.
What’s your point?

My point being that you cannot possibly be proud of that, can you?
All I can say is that it was a difficult stage of my life. I had a few issues. I’ve since resolved them. I’d rather not say any more about it.

OK — we’ll move on. How...
It’s dealt with pretty thoroughly in Chapter 12 of my autobiography, ‘Bayne of My Life’.

Thanks. How…
Chapter 14 deals a lot with it too.

The book’s called ‘Bayne of My Life’. Did I mention that already?

How do you react to the critical reaction that ‘How America Won The War’ has received? The press have been quite negative haven’t they?
I don’t think that’s true.

Well ‘Time’ magazine said, "Can I please have the last three hours of my life back? Because I’d rather not have wasted them on that film." ‘Movieline’ said, "At last, a film that makes Waterworld look like the product of a sane and rational mind" ‘The Guardian’ — "A film so stultifyingly bad you’ll want to divorce your eyeballs for subjecting you to such extreme cruelty" ‘The New York Times’ review simply read, "Expletive deleted" I’d say that was a fairly negative reaction wouldn’t you?
Oh well, if you’re going to fight dirty and throw actual quotes at me…

But you do concede that the press reaction has been bad?
No. Read them again. The words are bad but the vibe is good. There’s a lot of positive energy in those reviews.

Positive energy?
That’s right. See? You’re catching on quick.

One thing that all the reviews have pointed out is that the film does seem to glorify war somewhat. How do you defend that?
I don’t think you could show me a single bit of evidence to back that up.

What about the scene where Ben Affleck picks up an American flag and screams, "I love war" at the top of his voice?
I think you’ll find that he actually screams, "I love Waugh" — referring to his love of English literature.

That isn’t true is it? You just made that up.
Yes. Yes I did. Sorry.

So do you think the film glorifies war?
I think it was John F Kennedy who said, "War. Ha! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again." I agree fully with that sentiment. Also, John Rambo said, "War is hell". I’d go along with that.

I understand that there is to be a different version of the film for the Japanese and German markets. What changes are you making to the film that they’ll see?
Well we just thought that a few scenes needed toning down slightly. It was possible that certain people in those countries may have been offended by some of the content.

Like the scene where one character shouts, "Die you filthy, scum-sucking Japanese son-of-a-bitch bastard!" for example?
That line no longer appears in the Japanese version of the film, no.

But what about Japanese people who live outside of Japan? They’ll see the original version won’t they?
Er, yes. They will. Damn. Can somebody get Jerry Bruckheimer on the phone?

Some people have complained that the film is very similar to Titanic.
Well they both feature water in some capacity but apart from that I can’t really see any similarity.

But they both use a real life tragedy as a backdrop to a poorly conceived and unrealistic fictional romance, don’t they?
In what way is the romance "poorly conceived and unrealistic" might I ask?

Well the way that the main characters appear to fall in love for no apparent reason whatsoever. Plus they have no sexual chemistry between them.
Yes, but apart from that?

It has been suggested that you were more concerned with the battle sequence then with developing the main characters. How do you respond to that?
What main characters?

The nurse and the two pilots?
Oh them. The way I look at it the attack sequence is the foundation of the film. It’s the rock — the centre. But it’s held together by the relationship between the people in the story. They’re the bond — the glue. A love glue, if you like. The two can’t exist without each other. Take away the foundation and you have nothing. Take away the glue and the foundation just falls over into a heap of rubble.

There has also been a fairly hostile reaction to the US premiere of the film hasn’t there?
I hadn’t heard that. What was the complaint?

Mainly how excessive it was.
I don’t recall it being that excessive.

Well you transformed an aircraft carrier into a cinema. There was a flypast by US military fighters. Half a million dollars worth of fireworks were used after the screening and they set off an atom bomb to illuminate the sequins on Goldie Hawn’s dress as she stepped out of her limousine. You still don’t call that excessive?
You’re just upset because you didn’t get invited aren’t you?

I… Er…<sniff>
Would you like a tissue?

Yes please.
There you go. You’ll have to talk to Disney about the premiere. They made all the arrangements. They make very good sandwiches too. I’d recommend them.

So what’s next for you then?
Next I’m doing something completely different. It’s a feminist version of Falling Down. Basically it’s set in contemporary Los Angeles and it’s about a woman with raging PMT who finally snaps and goes on a revenge-fuelled killing spree.

I suppose you could call it a modern-day "period" drama then?
Sorry you’ve lost me again.

Never mind. Michael Bayne, thank you.

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