"I made it because he asked me to," Eastwood told AP Television, referring to Spielberg, "because he is hard to turn down."
Spielberg was more verbose. "I had originally bought the book because I felt that that photograph, that Joe Rosenthal still photograph, which was one of the most iconic images in all of American history next to some of the Lincoln portraits — that photograph really launched a really amazing campaign that dislocated three survivors of the Iwo Jima flag raising and put them on a public-relations tour that, in many ways, was harder than fighting alongside their buddies on the island of Iwo Jima."
Based on the 2000 best-selling book by James Bradley and Ron Powers, the film recounts the story of Bradley's father John, a Navy corpsman, who was one of the six soldiers who raised an American flag on the flank of Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima's commanding high point. Rosenthal's photograph of the event became what is widely considered the best-known image of all of World War II.
"I think people will be surprised that this film is not about flag raising or flag waving," noted actor Barry Pepper, who portrays one of the soldiers. "It's about a wonderful chapter in America's history and how the country unified and rallied to support a cause that was necessary."
If these actors had a general, no doubt it was Eastwood. "He knew exactly what he needed and what he wanted from everybody," noted actor Joseph Cross. "So, we never felt hectic. We had literally 800 Icelandic extras and it felt like we had 10 cast members on the set. It was wild."
The film marks the screen debut of Scott Reeves, Eastwood's youngest son. "Definitely, I think it's the culmination of everything, of all his work combined coming to this," Reeves said. "It's just one of the best things to work on ever."
Some of the reporters' arrivals-line chatter spun around actor Adam Beach, and talk of a possible Oscar nomination for his emotional performance as one of the three surviving soldiers. "It's unimaginable," he said. "I never thought of myself to be talked about in that way. All I know is that every step I take, there's Native American people behind me taking the same step. So anything up ahead for me that puts me in a better possession — my success is their success. It's a privilege and an honor."
"Flags" undoubtedly is a tribute to a war and men now long-gone. But one actor said their lesson is worth noting in the modern age. "I think the movie is about how you sell a war to the public, and I think we are dealing with that right now in the current military campaign that we're involved in," said Jesse Bradford. "I think we're dealing right now with the war that a lot of people would agree was sold to us under false pretense. And so I think that's one of the main things. I'd like to see this movie spark a debate about."
Eastwood is currently finishing another film on the same subject, "Letters from Iwo Jima," which tells the tale from the Japanese perspective. It's slated to hit theaters in early 2007.