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Isle-based filmmakers see hope for movie on 442nd Combat Team

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Some rumors are so good, you just can’t pass them up, especially if they involve a Hollywood star and war heroes.

So it was for filmmakers Ric Galindez and Roy Tjioe, whose Hawaii-based Island Film Group helped produce "Princess Kaiulani." When they read online reports that actor Ken Watanabe wanted to direct a film about the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and that it might be produced by Billy Gerber, they started calling around.

Watanabe became a fan favorite after his Oscar-nominated role in 2003’s "The Last Samurai," and gave a stamp of authority to Clint Eastwood’s 2006 World War II drama, "Letters from Iwo Jima." Gerber produced "Gran Torino," a 2008 film directed by and starring Eastwood.

And Tjioe had written a screenplay about the famous World War II unit, which largely comprised Japanese-American soldiers from Hawaii, including U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye.

Galindez and Tjioe wound up talking to Gerber for 15 minutes. They knew that the story of the unit, one of the most decorated of World War II, needed big players to succeed, even with their script, Galindez said.

"We think it is a really good script, but we are not crazy enough to try and make a film we think really needs to have the scope of ‘Letters from Iwo Jima,’" he said. "It needs to be a full-on, large-scale epic film. We will need to partner with a studio in order to get that film made."

They sent Gerber the script.

The story of the unit has been on the big screen twice: First in the 1951 film "Go for Broke!" which starred Van Johnson, and in 2006 in "Only the Brave," with Lane Nishikawa and Jason Scott Lee.

"PRINCESS KAIULANI," the first major project from Island Film Group, ended its run in Hawaii last week after screening in theaters statewide since May 14.

"It has done amazingly well," Galindez said. "In Hawaii this movie did as well as the $100 million blockbusters. We estimate that we had 50,000 people see it in Hawaii. That’s huge."

"Princess Kaiulani" continues to screen at select mainland theaters, mostly in communities with large populations of former Hawaii residents such as Houston and Salt Lake City, Galindez said.

The filmmakers are trying to find permanent venues in Waikiki and on Maui, Galindez said, so they can keep the film playing "basically forever."

IT MAY HAVE a closed set, but the public got a rare close-up view recently of "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," which filmed at the tiny cove near Halona Blowhole that’s often referred to as Eternity Beach. The set, easily visible from Kalanianaole Highway and various coastal outcroppings, featured giant rainmaking devices and boats with little cannons.

The latest "Pirates" sequel began filming last month on Kauai but has been on Oahu for several weeks. Hollywood mogul Jerry Bruckheimer said the public has been largely respectful.

"Primarily, we have, and will continue, to film in sites which are inaccessible to the general public," he said in an e-mail. "However, all interactions during shooting both in Kauai and Oahu have proven that Hawaii’s worldwide reputation for aloha is truly deserved. Everyone seems as glad to have us here as we are to be here, and the respect has gone both ways."

RUSHES … Comic-Con 2010, which ends its four-day run today in San Diego, had a definite Hawaii flavor. Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, two of the fresh faces on the CBS remake of "Hawaii Five-0," led a panel discussion and signed autographs. And Mililani High School grad Maggie Q, who will star in the spy series "Nikita," participated in a panel discussion on her show, which premieres Sept. 9 on the CW. …

Veteran actor Ned Van Zandt, who divides his time between Kailua and L.A., didn’t get a part on the "Pirates" sequel, but he’s feeling the love today. He was cast as an Army general in the first episode of "Hawaii Five-0."

And that’s a wrap. …

Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser’s film and television writer. His "Outtakes" column appears Sundays. E-mail him at


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