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HBO and Comcast host premiere screening of The Pacific at National Constitution Center

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Executive Producers Steven Speilberg  and Tom Hanks  have unveiled a project four years in the making.James Badge Dale of HBO's "The Pacific" greets a World War II veteran. Photo: Aileen Bannon

Movie stars and World War II veterans turned out in spades Tuesday for the Philadelphia premiere of the massive new HBO miniseries The Pacific. The red carpet event was held at the National Constitution Center on 5th and Arch.

The production, which carries a hefty $150 million dollar budget, is the latest lovechild of executive producers Hanks and Speilberg. Essentially a continuance of what was started in Saving Private Ryan  and more recently, Band of Brothers, The Pacific tells the true tale of three soldiers whose lives intertwine while on the battlefield. Unlike Band, the focus for this production was on the raw beaches and saturated jungles of the Pacific, where endless fighting occurred in areas completely alien to soldiers. The series starts in Guadalcanal, and then follows through the rain forests of Cape Gloucester and the strongholds of Peleliu, across Iwo Jima, and through the horror of Okinawa.

Filming was no picnic for the stars, who were literally put through the ringer so that they could accurately experience what actual soldiers went through. Joseph Mazzelo, who plays Eugene Sledge, had this to say about the grueling process. “For the physical stuff they gave us a ten day boot camp. I lost 12 pounds in 10 days. If that could give you some idea of what that’s about. Those guys were emaciated over there, and so they wanted us to look like that,” Mazzello continued to say that the filmmakers didn’t stop there. Throughout filming, there was extreme heat (over 110 degrees), no beds, no toilets, and no running water.  Joseph Mazzello from "The Pacific." Photo: Aileen Bannon

Of course it’s all worth it when you realize icons like Tom Hanks and Steven Speilberg are driving this machine. Co- star James Badge Dale  (24)explains: “It’s kind of a dream come true. This is their baby, and it just kind of came up after Band of Brothers, so to involved in this is great."  Of course, Dale, who plays Robert Leckie in the series, also has great adoration for these men and the hardships they went through. “It’s very important, explains Dale “to tell the story of these men, who were there, with honor and respect."

Judging from the one episode preview that was shown to the audience Tuesday night, Dale has nothing to worry about. The Pacific peaks interest as much as an initial episode possibly could, but the devil is also in the details. Meticulously shot with incredible craft and attention to every nuance, this material was clearly in very capable hands. The complex characters have been set up carefully and the casting and performances on point. Not to mention the whole thing is saturated in tension, from the bittersweet heartfelt goodbyes to the stunningly brutal first attack in the thick jungle of Guadalcanal.

The only foreseeable challenges for the creators of The Pacific lie in their abilities to humanize the enemy (unconvincingly done in this episode) and of course, their ability to sustain interest as the violent battle sequences may get repetitive. However, Speilberg is a master of character, and there’s no doubt viewers will ultimately be invested in the fates of these men as if they were part of their own families. Overall, The Pacific appears to be another rousing success for a creative team who have once again shown their talent for capturing the essence of war on a human scale. The Pacific premieres this Sunday on HBO.

For Aileen Bannon's EXCLUSIVE "Lens" photos, click HERE

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com