There's a spectacular illogic surrounding the wave of World War II mania that's cresting across the American landscape. Something about it doesn't make sense. Aren't Americans supposed to be notoriously disinterested in history? Doesn't Jay Leno still get laughs with his ongoing "Jaywalking" schtick, outing passersby on the street who demonstrate with appalling consistency that most of this nation couldn't pass a third-grade history exam? So, how come turn-of-the-century America is now searching for its identity in countless tributes to its graying veterans, in books like Tom Brokaw's The Greatest Generation and films like Pearl Harbor?
"I don't know the answer to that," says Tom Hanks, shrugging, proving that even the fashion's most noteworthy progenitor has difficulty processing the notion that the American public (which long ago became his public) has become wildly passionate about something so unsexy, so unHollywood, as history. "I wonder sometimes, are people really caring about all this?"
Of course they're caring, and Hanks knows it - he can always check the box-office receipts if he forgets - which is why, even during the filming of the touchstone Saving Private Ryan, he began laying plans for an even larger epic, one that would surpass the D-Day saga that's come to define WWII films.