Tom Hanks talks war films, mentors veteran for 'Standing Up For Heroes'
While Tom Hanks has found much success with World War II-themed projects, namely "Saving Private Ryan," he says it is currently different to try to make films based on the recent and current U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Speaking to ABC News' Bob Woodruff in an interview for the network's "Standing Up For Heroes" project, the Oscar-winning actor said that war films require a period of "distillation," or adequate time for people working on it to process the material, before they can be produced.
"Iraq and Afghanistan -- these cameras do a better story of what's going on there than any recreated fiction can," he said, referring to TV news teams.
"One of the finest war movies, one of the most authentic war movies was [the 1979 film] 'Apocalypse now.' It came out about four years after the fact," he added. "The cosmic aspect of what peoples went through requires a distillation and I think that distillation process can only come through time."
Hanks said he thinks the greatest war movie ever made was 'The Best Years of our Lives.' The film won seven Oscars. It was released in 1946 and depicted the lives of American veterans who fought in World War II after they return home to the United States. The movie was released a year after the war ended.
"Even if you're going to be landing on an ambiguous ending that is neither positive nor negative, that is neither hopeful nor cynical ... I think the audience needs a grander understanding if what their own concept of the war was," Hanks said.
The actor has starred in and co-produced a slew of World War II-themed projects -- the 1998 movie "Saving Private Ryan", which earned director Steven Spielberg and Oscar and the actor a nomination, as well as the mini-series "Band of Brothers" and "The Pacific."
"When 'Saving Private Ryan' was done, I had in my head oceans of information that came out of everything that I read and particularly the first-person histories," Hanks said. "And I just said, 'This is rich and it's different. This is more than the movie that we made. So out of that came 'Band of Brothers,' which led to 'The Pacific' which led to even current things that go on because I find out that there is nothing better than a true story well-told, so we keep finding them."
Tom Hanks recently became a mentor for a U.S. war veteran named Gabriel Posey as part of ABC News' "Standing Up For Heroes" project. The 32-year-old is a former staff sergeant in the Army Reserves military police who served his military duty in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. He is an aspiring screenwriter.
Hanks said if any Afghanistan or Iraq war veterans are thinking about making a movie about his own military experiences, they should start the process now.
"It's not going to be a quick one," he said. "If you want to tell this story, begin now because you are going to have to test that material and let it distill and let it filter for a while, 'cause otherwise you'll probably be coming out with a didactic piece of filmmaking that says 'You must think this way.' In order to truly address it, you need time. Time to distill what really went on and time for the participants to distill what it did to them. That takes a while to get to."
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