WWII Veteran Dr. Sidney Phillips Reacts to HBO's 'The Pacific'
March 19, 2010
By: Sandie Angulo Chen
'The Pacific,' HBO's monumental 10-part miniseries produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, chronicles four Marines as they serve in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II.
Unlike its companion miniseries, 'Band of Brothers,' which followed the legendary Easy Company throughout the war in Europe, 'The Pacific' focuses more on the individual perspectives of four Marines -- Pvts. Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) and Sidney Phillips (Ashton Holmes) in the 1st Marine Regiment; Sgt. John Basilone (Jon Seda) in the 7th Marine Regiment; and Phillips' best friend, Pvt. Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello), in the 5th Marine Regiment -- as they struggle to keep their spirits high while fighting an unrelenting enemy -- the Japanese.
AOL TV had the honor of speaking to 85-year-old WWII veteran Dr. Sidney Phillips, the only one still with us (Basilone was fatally wounded at Iwo Jima, and Leckie and Sledge, both of whom wrote memoirs on which 'The Pacific' is based, both passed away in 2001). Phillips tells us what it felt like to see his war-time experiences and those of his best friend Sledge depicted on screen.
Ashton 'Sid Phillips' Holmes, above at the left.
Read the interview below.What did you think of Ashton Holmes' performance as a much-younger version of yourself?
I thought he looked exactly like me. I tell everyone he was perfect for the part: handsome, young, witty, intelligent [laughs]. Very few people, I suppose, ever get to see themselves like that, and it is startling. You just can't believe that it's happening. There is somebody who's supposed to be me.How much interaction did you have with Ashton to help him prepare for the role?
I had contact with him; he would call me on the telephone. He said he wanted to hear my accent. We'd have long, long conversations about my life. We didn't see each other until I went out to the West Coast, but we'd had many good phone conversations.It must've been surreal to not only see yourself but also your late best friend, Eugene Sledge, in the miniseries.
Eugene died in 2001, so by the time they started working on 'The Pacific,' he had already passed on. I didn't speak to the actor who played him, but seeing him on the miniseries was very difficult for me. I had to keep telling myself, "Now that's Eugene, that's Eugene, that's Eugene."And you also knew Pvt. Bob Leckie, since you were in the same company.
The part about it that's so startling to me is that when all of that occurred, these people were nothing. They were absolutely nothing. They were just privates in the Marine Corps. I was a private in the Marine Corps. They were not famous writers, they were not famous anything. They were just nobodies. The fact that all of this is taking place, involving not great generals but three privates, is the most interesting part of all. Never in your wildest dreams, would you have ever imagined that you would've been catapulted into all of this notoriety when you had been nothing more than a private.The scenes in Guadalcanal are so violent and emotional to watch. It must have immediately taken you back to your time in the jungle.
You know, we had one boy in our squad who every morning would say, "If I had remembered to bring my 'Jesus Shoes,' I would've left this place last night." Marines always make fun of highly emotional things and all kinds of stress. They never would admit to being scared to death.Wait, so you did have a girlfriend in Australia!
Well, we had lots of girlfriends, but she was my special, nice girlfriend. I'd go and see her, and we'd go to the movies and things like that. You can spend the rest of your life studying all the tales from our Marine division's time on liberty in Melbourne.Sounds like the premise for another 10-part miniseries.
Right. You got it. In 'The Pacific,' it looks like you had an easier time returning home after the war, whereas Eugene looks almost haunted.
They would bring you home when you had more than two years overseas, and since I went overseas way before Eugene did, I came home first while he stayed on. There was some truth to Eugene being portrayed that way. The war seemed to haunt Eugene. He could not throw it off the way I tried to. I was determined the war would not ruin my life, and I kept telling him, "Forget it all, Eugene, forget it." Thank goodness he didn't because he wouldn't have written that book ['With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa'] if he had forgotten, and none of this would've happened. ... We remained close friends all our entire lives. He was best man at my wedding.http://insidetv.aol.com/2010/03/19/inte ... e-pacific/