Graham Yost Makes War in The Pacific

This is a big week for Graham Yost. The Toronto-born writer/director/executive producer (Speed, Boomtown) has two TV projects that are premiering. One is the new FX series Justified, a modern day western starring Timothy Oliphant and based on a character in a couple of novels by Elmore Leonard. It debuts on Tuesday, March 16 on FX and on April 5th in Canada on Super Channel.
Yost is also a writer and a director on The Pacific, the 10-part, $150 million World War Two epic premiering Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Canada. A couple of guys named Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks had a hand in producing this absorbing follow up to Band of Brothers.
It took six directors to helm The Pacific, shot in Australia over a 10-month period. Two were Canadian, Yost and Jeremy Podeswa (Six Feet Under). Yost chose to direct the fourth episode because he wound up writing much of it.
The miniseries tells the story of three U.S. Marines–Robert Leckie, Eugene Sledge and John Basilone–who fought against the Japanese in the Pacific theatre during WWII. I interviewed the three actors who play the principle characters and you’ll find their story here in the current issue of Movie Entertainment magazine.
James Badge Dale (above) plays Leckie, who figures prominently in the episode Yost directed. All the actors had to undergo a vigorous, 10-day “boot camp” conducted by real U.S. marines before filming commenced.
“It was intense,” says Yost, who I spoke with last January at the TCA press tour. “We’re in Australia, a long way from home, it was raining all day on the set, all over the gear and stuff, and you think this is hard, this is hard, and we get to go home to a nice hotel every night, and the guys didn’t.”
Yost’s dad, Elwy Yost, was a familiar face to generations of Ontarians though his many years as host of TVO’s Saturday Night at the Movies. (He now lives in British Columbia.) The affable movie host almost had his own WWII stories. “He went through basic training in Canada and was ready to go overseas when the war ended,” says Yost, who is doubly glad his dad never saw action after speaking with several actual war vets who acted as consultants on the miniseries. “You quickly find out from these guys that it was not something you’d want to live through,” he says.

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