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Woody Harrelson Reenlists in the Pacific Theater of World War II for ‘Midway’

Mandy Moore has also been cast in Roland Emmerich’s $100 million war epic.
The Thin Red Line
By  · Published on May 3rd, 2018

Mandy Moore has also been cast in Roland Emmerich’s $100 million war epic.

In between his staple of explosive science fiction offerings, Roland Emmerich sometimes dips his toes into historical epics. He tends to do so with a bigger emphasis on the “epic” rather than the “historical” part of that phrase, but that’s not necessarily a deal breaker for many. Those who aren’t opposed to unabashed spectacles and easy popcorn fun have spoken with their wallets before, and Emmerich is enough of a box office draw to make any movie he wants.

And he’s been gunning to make a World War II film for a while. First announced a year ago, Emmerich’s war drama Midway is finally shaping up with some potential stars who will eventually make up an ensemble cast. Woody Harrelson and Mandy Moore are said to be in negotiations to lead the epic, according to Deadline.

Midway, which was penned by Wes Tooke (Colony), will chronicle the Battle of Midway, a crucial turning point in the Pacific Theater of WWII. The event marked the Allied forces’ first naval victory against the Japanese, turning the tide of the war by irreparably damaging the capabilities of the Japanese fleet. The film will reportedly focus on the soldiers and aviators involved in the iconic battle in June 1942.

So far, everything about Midway ticks all the boxes of your standard American war blockbuster. I can already see it — the explosive action sequences and harrowing emotional content that make up the majority of these movies are already a given. Midway sounds like it could riff off the classic underdog tale in a very patriotic way, too, wherein American forces beat a formidable enemy against all odds. In short, Midway is definitely the sort of film that Emmerich excels at making. Just look at Independence Day and White House Down — these movies are big, noisy, and fun if not nuanced.

Still, if nothing else, the casting for Midway is on point. Harrelson is a no-brainer choice for an ensemble. His most iconic roles from basically the last decade haven’t been outright leads, although he usually manages to stand out among the masses. What’s The Hunger Games without Haymitch or Now You See Me without Merritt? Alright, to be fair, the latter series probably wouldn’t be the best either way. But the point of Harrelson’s undeniable screen presence — particularly his cutting comedic timing — still stands. Harrelson joining Midway will mark his reunion with Emmerich after he appeared in the disaster film 2012.

It also marks a return to the Pacific Theater for Harrelson, who had a minor but very memorable part in Terrence Malick’s 1998 Best Picture nominee The Thin Red Line. In that movie, he plays a fictional squad leader named Sgt. William Keck, who literally blows his butt off when he accidentally pulls the pin out of a grenade during the Battle of Guadalcanal. This time he’s going back a couple months and is, according to Screen Daily, reportedly playing Admiral Chester Nimitz, who led the battle as Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas.

As for Moore, she could have a new cinematic break with Midway, provided that the film is good. Once a teen star in The Princess Diaries and A Walk to Remember, Moore has since made a comeback on television, flexing some serious acting chops in This Is Us. She even received a Golden Globe nomination for her role in the show. However, despite also having voiced Rapunzel in the Disney animated film Tangled, Moore’s film resume still lacks in the dramatic arena. Something as high-profile as an Emmerich project could be a big opportunity for her in many ways, but I’m just hoping the role is worth her time and talent.

We can likely count on Emmerich to make an effective drama that feeds the masses adequately — unless there is a repeat of Independence Day: Resurgence — and as such, Midway will be just fine. If it doesn’t totally work, then maybe his other big budget movie, the one about Maya civilization, will the basic blockbuster that we need.

Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)