Excerpt: 'There and Back Again'

It's fair to say that I was somewhat conflicted about what I wanted to do with my life. Here I was, part of this big World War II movie produced by the estimable David Putnam, who, a decade before Saving Private Ryan galvanized public opinion, had captured my imagination and made me understand the importance of movies. One reason David wanted to make Memphis Belle was his outrage over the gratuitousness of Top Gun, which a few years earlier had trumpeted the machismo and courage of modern day fighter pilots in what he considered an almost cartoonish manner. David was after something else, something more subtle, more honest. He wanted to celebrate the greatest generation!) He understood how critical and important the Images of war could be, and so he believed it was a sacred responsibility to portray such behavior in aft its complexity. I believed what he told us with my whole heart. I wanted to be an important filmmaker, just like David Putnam. He had been the president of Columbia Pictures, and now he wanted to try to improve the quality of British film.

The first day I met David, I said, "Mr. Putnam, I'm not going to ask you for anything except, please, let me go to Asia when it's time to promote this movie." He said he'd try, and true to his word, he took me with him to Thailand, Singapore, Japan, and Hong Kong. In no small bit of irony, we wound up promoting the movie on the eve of the Persian Gulf War, and I found myself on a dais with David and Matthew Modine, fielding questions about our positions on the conflict in Iraq. Memphis Belle was a celebration of American air supremacy during World War II, and a reflection on the kinds of sacrifices that made Allied victory possible. The Japanese journalists seemed justifiably skeptical about whatever propaganda we were supposedly engaged in. To our credit, David, Matthew, and I took refuge in our roles as artists whose primary mission is to examine and reflect the best and worst of what human nature has to offer. I've always had notions of a political future for myself, probably since my mom told me in the fourth grade that I could be anything I wanted to be, even president of the United States. Well, I believed her, and now at nineteen I found myself "on the record" about serious issues at a serious time. But I remember feeling that my country was at war, and I should be at home with my family.

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