Cast & Crew
Sixty years after the end of World War II, Japanese researchers arrive on the Japanese island of Iwo Jima to explore the caves and tunnels built by their soldiers to defend against American attack forces. In June 1944, Imperial army commander Lt. Gen. Tadamichi Kuribayashi and his aide, Lt. Fujita, arrive at their new post in Iwo Jima to prepare defenses for the island's crucial airplane landing strips. Upon making a walking tour of the island, Kuribayashi calls an immediate halt to the digging of trenches along the beaches, a traditional defense measure, which distresses navy and army officers alike, including dysentery-plagued Admiral Ohsugi, dedicated Lt. Ito, traditional Col. Adachi and rigid Maj. Gen. Hayashi. Kuribayashi, who years earlier served as a military envoy in the United States, recognizes that America's great industrial strength gives their forces an enormous advantage, but is nevertheless determined to mount an aggressive defense of the island. Young Pvt. Saigo appreciates Kuribayashi's thoughtful treatment of the soldiers, but his friend Nozaki wonders about their fate upon hearing the rumor that their new commander is pro-American and the military's second choice for the island posting. Over the next several weeks, Kuribayashi struggles to unify the army and naval forces on the island and continues to confound his officers with unusual defense plans, including moving heavy artillery from the beaches to emplacements dug into the rocky terrain of the dormant volcano Mount Suribachi at the southern tip of the island. Despite the infrequency of mail pick-up ships stopping at the island, Kuribayashi writes to his wife and children on a regular basis, describing a sanguine situation and decorating his letters with idyllic drawings. Saigo, who also writes continually to his wife Hanako and their baby, whom he has never seen, relates the arrival of nobleman baron Lt. Col. Takeichi Nishi, an equestrian gold medal winner at the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. Kuribayashi welcomes Nishi and his horse, and the men reminisce about their days in the cavalry. Later over dinner, Nishi informs Kuribayashi that with the thorough defeat of the Japanese fleet at the Mariana Islands, it is evident that Iwo Jima will receive no naval or air support. When Kuribayashi announces his intention to build a series of caves and tunnels from which to mount their defense, Ohsugi and the other officers consider the action defeatist and doomed to fail. Despite their weakened physical state from limited rations and the constant nuisance of heat and bugs, most of the garrison commences the difficult work of digging into the island. Continually sickened by dysentery, Saigo's friend Kashiwara dies. Later, Saigo and Nozaki suspect that replacement Pvt. Shimizu, from the prestigious police military academy, is a spy placed among the regular soldiers to report unpatriotic talk. When the men continue to receive meager rations, a hungry Saigo confides in Nozaki that he and Hanako ran a bakery until the military's relentless requisitioning finally drove them out of business. Saigo also recalls the day he was called into service and his promise to his then unborn daughter to return home. Despite the navy's success in forcing Kuribayashi to construct traditional gun casemates and pillboxes along the landing beaches, the officers remain deeply concerned with Kuribayashi's methods. When Kuribayashi tells Ohsugi he is transferring him back to the mainland for health reasons, the admiral bluntly tells him that the cave defense is futile. Kuribayashi angrily responds that the longer the island can divert crucial American forces, the more time it will provide the homeland to gather its own defenses. Before departing, Ohsugi encourages Hayashi to continue resisting the general's recklessness. As the work on the caves and tunnels continues, Nishi overhears hidebound Capt. Tanida instructing the soldiers, with the eager Shimizu reciting the military belief that Americans are cowardly and weak. Soon after, the American pre-assault begins with a heavy bombing campaign and Nishi is distraught when his horse, is fatally wounded in the first raid. The arrival of the American navy brings additional bombardments, increasing the tension throughout the caves. With the invasion imminent, Kuribayashi addresses his men over speakers, exhorting them to fight for their country and to kill ten Americans before they die. The enemy landing begins and despite heavy casualties from the unexpected, hidden defenses, the Americans gradually make their way toward Suribachi and the western side of the island. After days of desperate fighting, Tanida orders Saigo to request reinforcement from Adachi, but Saigo finds the commander despondent and prepared to order mass suicide despite Kuribayashi's strict orders forbidding it. Returning to his unit's cave with Adachi's note to Tanida, to Saigo's horror, the men, including the frightened, weeping Nozaki, follow Adachi's orders and begin killing themselves with grenades. After Tanida shoots himself, Saigo convinces the overwrought Shimizu to retreat with him. As the pair hasten through the maze of tunnels, they witness two soldiers set on fire with American flame-throwers. Moments later, when a Marine accidentally falls into a tunnel, the outraged soldiers brutally slay him. Saigo and Shimizu make their way to the cave commanded by Ito, who is furious that they have fled their position. His attempt to execute them for cowardice is halted by Kuribayashi, who announces that Mount Suribachi has fallen. Hayashi and Ito insist they must retake the mountain and although Kuribayashi refuses, that night Hayashi leads an attack outside. Ito follows, but when Hayashi and his men are decimated, he falls back and orders his men to join Nishi's unit. Ito then takes numerous anti-tank mines and, placing them around his neck, lies down among the dead men hoping he will be run over by an American tank which will detonate the mines. Angered over the waste of the mass suicides, Kuribayashi then receives a message from Tokyo that there will be no reinforcements, thus dooming the island to annihilation. At Nishi's cave, after Lt. Okubo wounds a Marine, Nishi surprises his men by ordering the soldier brought to the cave and treated with the last of their medicine. The young American is startled when Nishi speaks to him in English and relates his experience in Los Angeles during the Olympics. Meanwhile, Saigo contemplates surrender, but suspects that the stalwart Shimizu will prefer to commit suicide. Shimizu confides that he spent less than a week with the prestigious police military academy and was discharged and shipped to Iwo Jima after he proved incapable of killing a dog under orders. As the battle rages across the island, Kuribayashi recalls that upon leaving the United States in 1930 he was presented with a 1911 Colt 45, which he still carries with pride, as a parting gift from the officers at Fort Bliss, Texas. When the young American Marine in Nishi's cave dies, the commander treats the body deferentially and upon finding a letter from the boy's mother, reads it aloud to his men who are unexpectedly touched. The next morning when Ito finds himself still alive among the dead, he hurls the mines away and stumbles off. During another assault, Nishi is struck in the face and blinded and, learning there is no ammunition remaining, passes command to Okubo, ordering him to get as many men to the northern end of the island as possible. As Okubo leads the survivors, including Saigo and Shimizu, outside, they hear Nishi shoot himself in the cave. Disturbed, Shimizu admits to Saigo that he realizes he knows nothing about Americans and the exchange in the cave between Nishi and the Marine contradicts much of what he has been told about them. Not wanting to die in vain, Shimizu decides to surrender. Later that evening Shimizu successfully makes his way to the Americans where he and another soldier are provided water. Angered at being left behind to guard the two Japanese soldiers, however, an impatient Marine shoots the two men. The next morning, when Okubo's men come upon the bodies, Saigo weeps bitterly for Shimizu. Later, Okubo leads the men on a desperate dash through enemy crossfire across open ground, but only Saigo and a few others manage to reach Kuribayashi's headquarters. With no fresh water and reduced to eating worms, Kuribayashi continues to encourage the survivors and praises Saigo for being a good soldier. Privately, Kuribayashi writes to his wife not to expect his return. Later, the general and remaining men are deeply moved by a radio broadcast by the children of Kuribayashi's hometown of Nagano singing a song for Iwo Jima praising the soldiers' sacrifice and honor. Determined to lead a final assault, Kuribayashi orders Saigo to remain behind and burn military documents and all his private papers, which include the company letters that have never been mailed. Although he burns the military documents, the private buries all of the letters in a bag. When Kuribayashi is wounded in the futile assault, Fujita drags him away to safety but the general insists on dying honorably. Fujita prepares to ceremoniously kill his general, but is shot before he succeeds. Later, Saigo finds the weakened Kuribayashi, who requests that the private bury him and, using the American Colt 45, Kuribayashi then takes his own life. Exhausted and demoralized, Saigo is picked up by Marines but, outraged when one soldier takes the Colt 45 as a souvenir, is knocked out before being taken to a medical unit. Years later, the research excavation team on Iwo Jima finds the bag of Kuribayashi's papers and the letters from the soldiers to their families.
Sonny Seiichi Saito
Steve Santa Sekiyoshi
Mark Tadashi Takahashi
Hiroshi Tom Tanaka
Jonathan Oliver Sessler
Scott M. Anderson
Denise Anderson Poore
Wanliss E. Armstrong
Michael I. Bilog
Richard L. Bucher
Stephen S. Campanelli
Sgtmaj. James D. Dever Usmc (ret.)
J. Mark Donaldson
John J. Downey
Juno J. Ellis
Chuck Eskridge Jr.
James Daniel Fernandez
Robert A. D. Frick
Ian A. Harris
Leo A. Hernandez
Judie G. Hoyt
Gabriella Urbina Kalaitzidis
Seung Hyuk Kim
Donald A. Kincade
Steven D. Kline
Andrea R. Knaub
Nicholas V. Korda
Steven G. Ladish
Mable Lawson Mccrary
Robert A. Mcmahan
Dustin J. Meier
Msgt. Tom Minder Usmc (ret.)
Thomas Isao Morinaka
James J. Murakami
Alan Robert Murray
Jason M. Muscarella
Carol A. O'connell
Thomas J. O'connell
Nicholas M. Papac
Darren M. Poe
Edward J. Protiva
Best Sound Editing
Best Original Screenplay
The working title of the film was Red Sun, Black Sand. Only the company credits and title appear before the film; all other credits are at the end. Among several organizations given written thanks in the closing credits were the Association of Iwo-Jima, the Ogasawara Municipal Office and Special Thanks to Johnny's Junior Kids. Dialogue in Letters From Iwo Jima was in the Japanese language with English subtitles. Several reviews of the film noted that the film's desaturated color heightened the mood of the film and made it appear almost black and white.
According to a January 2006 Variety news item, Letters From Iwo Jima was developed by director Clint Eastwood while working on the 2006 Paramount release, Flags of Our Fathers, which related the story of the World War II battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the United States Marines. That film centered on the events surrounding the now iconic image of Mount Suribachi as the American flag was raised by Marines on the fifth day of the battle. A photograph of the event became world-famous and was later the basis for a memorial to the U.S. Marine Corps on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The news item indicated that Eastwood concluded that the only way to tell the full story of one of the bloodiest campaigns in the Pacific theater was to present both the American and Japanese experiences, but in separate films. According to interviews, Eastwood had investigated purchasing the rights to the book of Flags of Our Fathers, but upon learning that they were held by Steven Spielberg, gave up on the project. Later, Spielberg approached Eastwood to direct the film. Spielberg then went on to produce Letters From Iwo Jima for DreamWorks and Warner Bros.
An October 2006 Los Angeles Times article indicated that producer Paul Haggis selected screenwriting novice Iris Yamashita to write the script. Yamashita, a second-generation Japanese American, knew nothing about Iwo Jima prior to her work on the script. In researching, the writer utilized the same historical documents that Eastwood examined, including the letters of Tadamichi Kuribayashi (1891-1945), the commander of the Japanese forces on Iwo Jima. Although the film depicts Kuribayashi writing to his family during his period on Iwo Jima, the book credited as a basis for the script, Picture Letters from Commander in Chief, contains correspondence from Kuribayashi's service as a military envoy in America and Canada from 1928-1931. In the writing of the script Yamashita also employed information from descendents of Baron Takeichi Nishi (1902-1945), the 1932 Los Angeles Olympic gold medal winner for equestrian show jumping, and from soldiers' diaries. As the film is almost entirely in Japanese, Yamashita's English language script was translated by several Japanese transcription services. Letters From Iwo Jima marked Yamashita's screenwriting debut. The role of "Saigo" was played by popular Japanese pop-star Kazunari Ninomiya. Although Eastwood normally has composed the score for films he has directed, for Letters From Iwo Jima Eastwood's son, Kyle Eastwood, co-wrote the film's music with Michael Stevens.
Described as a "companion piece" to Flags of Our Fathers, Letters From Iwo Jima contains moments of footage from the prior film, including shots of the U.S. Naval force surrounding the island and the Marine landing. A few sequences from the earlier film, such as the American flame-thrower assault on Japanese soldiers falling out of their cave are mirrored in Letters From Iwo Jima. A scene from the first film that shows a horrified medic's response to the brutal mutilation of a comrade, whose body is never shown, is revealed in the second film as the result of the Japanese soldiers' outrage at the horror and devastation of the use of flame-throwers. Although the raising of the American flag on Mount Suribachi is not seen in Letters From Iwo Jima, the raised flag is witnessed by Japanese soldiers from a cave several miles from the volcano.
While Eastwood had filmed most of Flags of Our Fathers in Iceland, which had black sand on its beaches similar to that on the volcanic island of Iwo Jima, he received special permission from the Japanese government to film portions of Letters From Iwo Jima on the island. The bulk of the film was shot in Southern California. The final budget for the film was twenty million dollars. Letters From Iwo Jima was initially scheduled to be released in February 2007, four months after the release of Flags of Our Fathers. In November 2006, however, the decision was made to move the release up to December 2006 to qualify it for Academy Award eligibility. An October 2006 Daily Variety news item indicated that Eastwood requested the change after the enthusiastic response in Tokyo to a preview of the film. Letters From Iwo Jima marked the final film of longtime Eastwood associate, production designer Henry Bumstead (17 March 1915-24 May 2006), and casting director Phyllis Huffman (23 June 1944-2 March 2006).
The Battle of Iwo Jima occurred from 19 February to March 26, 1945. Iwo Jima (Sulfur Island) was part of the Ogasawara, a group of islands approximately 520 miles south of Tokyo, which the Japanese knew were crucial to defending the home islands. As noted in numerous historical sources, after the loss of the Marianas to the Americans in the summer of 1944, a critical event mentioned in the film, reinforcements were sent to build up the Iwo Jima Army garrison and naval base. As indicated in the film, Lt. Gen. Kuribayashi arrived on Iwo Jima in June 1944, which shortly thereafter was bombed by the U.S. Navy, destroying all every building and all but four Japanese aircraft on the island. As shown in the film, army Lt. Gen. Hideyoshi Obata believed the defense of the island should follow the standard military practice of defending the beaches, but Kuribayashi insisted on radical measures. These included placing artillery, mortars and rockets at the base of the dormant volcano Mount Suribachi, and the controversial plan for a vast system of caves and tunnels from which the troops would defend the island.
At Kuribayashi's request, mining engineers were dispatched to Iwo Jima to create blueprints for the underground network. Although tunnels were intended to connect Suribachi, at the southernmost end of the island, with Kuribayashi's command post in the northern part of the island, only eleven of the projected seventeen miles of passageways were completed before the Marine landing. As depicted in the film, frantic work on the caves and passageways were constantly disrupted by continual American bombardments from December 1944 up until the February 1945 invasion. In addition to these measures, Kuribayashi's tactics included not firing on American naval vessels in order to prevent disclosing artillery locations; offering no opposition to the beach landing; waiting for the enemy to advance 500 meters on the beach before commencing their assault; and while inflicting as many enemy casualties as possible, forbidding large-scale counterattacks and withdrawals or "banzai" (suicide) charges. The American attack plan, led by veterans of the successful amphibious assaults on Guadalcanal and Guam, anticipated taking the island within a matter of days. The Marines suffered 23,000 casualties, including nearly 7,000 dead, out of a force of 70,000. Out of a force of 23,000, 22,000 Japanese died during the thirty-nine-day conflict.
Letters From Iwo Jima was selected by AFI as one of the Movies of the Year for 2006. AFI also named Eastwood a "national treasure," declaring his work on both Letters From Iwo Jima and Flags of Our Fathers "a moment of significance for post 9/11 cinema." In addition, Letters From Iwo Jima received an Academy Award for Achievement in Sound Editing and nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. The film was honored by the National Board of Review as Best Film of the Year and received a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film. Eastwood received two nominations in the Golden Globes' Best Director-Motion Picture category, one for Letters From Iwo Jima and another for Flags of Our Fathers, but lost to Martin Scorsese for The Departed.
Voted one of the 10 best films of 2006 by the American Film Institute (AFI).
Winner of the 2006 award for Best Film by the National Board of Review (NBR).
Winner of the 2006 award for Best Foreign-Language Film by the Chicago Film Critics Association (CFCA).
Winner of the 2006 award for Best Picture of the Year by the Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA).
Winner of two 2006 Golden Reel Awards including Best Sound Editing in a Feature Film: Dialogue and Automated Dialogue Replacement and Best Sound Editing in Sound Effects and Foley for a Feature Film by the Motion Picture Sound Editors (MPSE).
Released in United States Winter December 20, 2006
Limited Release in United States December 20, 2006
Expanded Release in United States January 19, 2007
Released in United States on Video May 22, 2007
Released in United States February 2007
Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Competition) February 8-18, 2007.
Based on the book "Picture Letters From Commander in Chief" written by Tadamichi Kuribayashi; published by Shogakukan-Bunko.
Clint Eastwood decided to film a companion movie to "Flags of Our Fathers" that is told from the point of view of the Japanese.
Released in United States Winter December 20, 2006 (LA, NY, SF)
Limited Release in United States December 20, 2006
Expanded Release in United States January 19, 2007
Released in United States on Video May 22, 2007
Released in United States February 2007 (Shown at Berlin International Film Festival (Competition) February 8-18, 2007.)
The Country of United States