We are Mark Harris and Laurent Bouzereau who, respectively, wrote and directed the series ‘Five Came Back’ which is now on Netflix. It tells the story of five filmmakers who interrupted their careers to serve their country and bring the truth back to the American people: John Ford, William Wyler, John Huston, Frank Capra, and George Stevens. Featuring interviews with Steven Spielberg, Francis Ford Coppola, Guillermo Del Toro, Paul Greengrass and Lawrence Kasdan and narrated by Meryl Streep, the three-part docuseries depicts how WWII changed Hollywood.

Watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JuiCTz6Khw

Proof: https://twitter.com/MarkHarrisNYC/status/847922549082255362


UPDATE: Thank you for all of the great questions! You can watch the series on Netflix at this link: https://www.netflix.com/title/80049928. -Mark & Laurent

Comments: 138 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

buffery33384 karma

What 5 current directors do you think would take part in modern war affairs?

Mark_Harris132 karma

I can think of a lot of documentary filmmakers who put themselves in danger in battle zones already. But I can't imagine a situation in which the Defense Dept. would ask Hollywood filmmakers to help. We're in such a different world now, and there are so many more ways for people to get news about a war...

buffery33333 karma

very true, this documentary/book is endlessly fascinating for so many reasons. I think we all thank you for shedding light on this amazing mix of war/film history

Mark_Harris25 karma

Thank you for watching! I'm glad you liked it.

Chtorrr82 karma

What was the most surprising thing you found in your research for this?

Mark_Harris100 karma

For me the biggest research surprises came when I was working on the book, and they were mostly contained in the letters these five directors wrote back to their wives or loved ones. I got a great sense of them as people thrust into a situation in which they'd never imagined they'd find themselves. Also, seeing the "outtakes" from John Huston's staged "San Pietro" at the National Archives was revelatory in terms of having a glimpse of how a great director developed his technique.

goofylovechild47 karma

This question is for Mark: why were Hollywood film directors sent out to document the war instead of journalists? As a journalist, do you think it had something to do with making us look better than we did during the war?

Also, did you get to talk to Garry Shandling in preparation for your Mike Nichols biography? I'm a huge fan of his.

Mark_Harris75 karma

It was Gen. George Marshall's idea to use Hollywood directors instead of journalists or the makers of newsreels. He admired the storytelling skills of Hollywood directors--he had seen how much emotion their movies could spark in audiences during the Depression--and he thought they could bring some of those narrative skills to their war work. He felt their passion would come across to both homefront moviegoers and new recruits.

goofylovechild21 karma

Interesting. Second question: could Pictures at a Revolution receive the documentary treatment someday?

Mark_Harris31 karma

I hope so. Some very talented people have tried over the years, but it's tricky; there are complicated issues involving everything from clip rights to the fact that some people in the book are alive and others are not. But I am giving it a lot of thought right now. If enough people like Five Came Back, then who knows?! (Also, in answer to your first question, no, sadly, I did not get a chance to talk to Garry Shandling.)

wheredabridge23 karma

What was it like making love to Martha Raye?

And do you still enjoy milk and honey baths?

Mark_Harris43 karma

On so many levels, you have the wrong Mark Harris.

Sumidiotdude22 karma

What's the most famous movie that you haven't seen?

Mark_Harris74 karma

I'm not sure what it is NOW, but here's a confession: Before I started research on the book, I had never seen Casablanca! That's a pretty big omission, don't you think?!

BrendanMLeonard10 karma

I have two questions for Mark Harris:

  1. Who is one star or filmmaker from the 1930s or 40s who you think is due for critical re-evaluation?

  2. Your tweets about watching shows with your husband is one of the best things about your Twitter. With that in mind, what house on Game of Thrones most resembles House Harris-Kushner?

Mark_Harris27 karma

  1. Great question! It surprises me how many people who say they're movie buffs have told me that until reading/watching Five Came Back, they didn't know much or think much about Wyler or Stevens as directors. Wyler's pre-war work--Dodsworth, Jezebel, The Letter, The Little Foxes--is great, and so is Stevens's (I particularly like Alice Adams and The More the Merrier). I didn't think they need re-evaluation but maybe they do.
  2. I don't know! A peaceful House where nobody gets slaughtered? We have a small dog with the will and temperament of a baby dragon, so maybe that's an answer.

spontaine278 karma

This question is for Mark. After doing the research for your book, did you find yourself reevaluating the work of any of the Five? I read Five Came Back when it was originally released and found myself completely fascinated with George Stevens, and wound up tracking down a lot of his work that I had never seen (I had somehow missed The More The Merrier, which I thought was completely delightful!) and now happily rank A Place In The Sun as one of my favorite movies of all time (a lot of my favorite movies seem to involve Shelley Winters drowning, but I think that's a coincidence...). I guess finally, and apologies if this is an annoying question, can you name your favorite pre WWII and post WWII film for each of the the Five? You can too, Laurent!

Mark_Harris16 karma

Great questions! Yes, I definitely reevaluated their work. I already admired all of them but doing the research helped me understand the postwar work of Stevens, and Capra's postwar struggles too, in a more sympathetic light. And Stevens seems to be the director with whom people are least familiar, so I'd be very happy if the book or the doc inspire people to seek out his work. Okay, prewar/postwar favorites (out of way too many to choose from: Capra: It Happened One Night/It's A Wonderful Life Ford: The Grapes of Wrath/The Searchers Huston: The Maltese Falcon/The Treasure of the Sierra Madre Stevens: Alice Adams/Shane Wyler: The Letter/The Best Years of Our Lives

treesshatterfreak7 karma

Why did you choose Meryl Streep to be the narrator?

Mark_Harris20 karma

Her warmth, her balance, her sense of authority and empathy, and her incredible ear; I knew that in the recording session, if she said a line and it didn't sound right, it'd be because there was something wrong with the line. And I was very glad to be able to make some fixes on the spot, including a few moments she caught when the words were, inadvertently, not a good fit with the images. We were very lucky to have her.

Frinedel6 karma

How long did it take to film?

Mark_Harris11 karma

Laurent and I worked on the project for three years--but that was everything from planning to structuring to writing to filming the interviews to postproduction (our great editor was Will Znidaric).

Chtorrr5 karma

What are some of your favorite films?

Mark_Harris17 karma

From Wyler, The Best Years of Our Lives--it's a movie that everybody should see. But I also hope people will check out George Stevens's Shane, which is currently featured in the movie Logan. It's a Western, but Stevens called it the closest thing he would make to a WWII movie--he wanted to use it to show the impact of even a single act of violence.

tousie5 karma

Hey Mark and Laurent. Great series so far. I just wanted to know why do you this story really hasn't been well known to the general public in modern times as a historical part of the war? Thanks.

Mark_Harris12 karma

I won't speak for Laurent, but I think that a lot of us look at a director's filmography, on IMDB or Wikipedia, and focus on the Hollywood features. I know that before I started working on the book, I thought of the WWII years as more of an interruption of their careers than a central part of what shaped their work.

Cornato4 karma

What did you not want this documentary to be about?

Like was there a direction that you found yourself going in that you tried to avoid. Or something you definitely wanted to steer clear of.

I.e. Focusing on famous actors turned soldiers, or solely historically based or opinion, etc

Mark_Harris9 karma

This is one I had to think about for a couple of hours. For me, it was important that the documentary not be all positive. That sounds harsh, as if I'm saying I was only interested in the bad stuff. But what I mean is, it would've been easy to make this an uncomplicated story that raised no questions for viewers--very tempting when you're talking about WWII and heroism. But it wouldn't have been true to the story of these five men. So that was something I thought about a lot.

ExpFilm_Student4 karma

What is the process for researching and finding old films done by these filmmakers? Specifically, where do you go to find them?

Mark_Harris9 karma

I should note that all of the wartime documentaries featured in Five Came Back are currently streaming on Netflix. As for their feature work, most (not all but most) are available on DVD (you can often find very inexpensive used copies), and some (but not many) stream as well.

fumbler1233 karma

Yay! Congrats... Hopefully when Netflix make it available to watch via Downloadable option I will. I have been dying to watch this and sadly cannot, but wanted to chime in and say I can't wait to watch and will be waiting avidly for that available to watch through netflix's download content option is up.

I know the AMA is over, but just throwing it out there, I noticed it was not included, but I was aware that Alfred Hitchcock also played a part in this operation if I was not mistaken, was I wrong?

Mark_Harris10 karma

Hitchcock wasn't a part of the American operation, but he did make two short films for the British Ministry of Information, and also consulted on a British documentary about the Holocaust that was shelved.

RushmoreBeekeepers3 karma

Question for both: Which are your respective favorite and least favorite films featured in the series?

Mark_Harris10 karma

Favorite: There are so many great ones, but you can't go wrong with The Best Years of Our Lives. Least favorite: Know Your Enemy--Japan is hard to defend.

WeinerFBIThrowaway-12 karma

Mark, I've read all of your books: Pictures at a Revolution. The Southpaw. All fantastic books written with empathy, wit, and a sense of discovery. In fact, I bought a second copy of Five Came Back for my Dad, who is an aficianado of both classic cinema and World War 2 history. Your work has been an enriching experience.

That said, my question is: What's with your constant Twitter tantrums? All you seem to do is scream at supporters of Bernie Sanders. It's embarrassing watching you rant, rave , and meltdown at the poor. Your behavior comes off as elitist, classist, and arrogant. It's very hard to continue to support your work when you show such blatant contempt for progressive members of the white working class such as our family.

When you think your audiences who simply can't afford to be "RA RA HILLARY!" are either Sexist Misogynist BernieBros or Unwitting Russian Stooges or whatever it is this week, you alienate a large percentage of your readership. Obviously, being married to an influential Democratic multimillionaire donor like Tony Kushner (who your tweets also reflect poorly) plays a part, but maybe take a chill pill from the social media? It's probably why your AMA is getting downvoted to hell.

Mark_Harris13 karma

Um, Bang the Drum Slowly was written in 1956. And if you don't like my Twitter feed--where, by the way, I rarely have much to say about Bernie Sanders--unfollowing is a fantastic option!

WeinerFBIThrowaway-14 karma

Whoops! You're right. I read a book by another Mark Harris because I like your work so much. My mistake. I will unfollow. And stop buying your books. And stop supporting the plays of your husband. Thanks for your arrogance and dismissal of a longtime fan's concerns!

Here's proof I bought Five Came Back: http://imgur.com/2BlIOQs

Also. You don't tweet about Bernie much? Hmm. Seems like you do: https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&q=from%3A%40markharrisNYC%20Bernie&src=typd

Mark_Harris12 karma

Since you called me elitist, classist, arrogant, and embarrassing while making up stuff about my feed, I'm kind of amazed you were a longtime fan! Because honestly, if I didn't have your solemn word that you were a longtime fan, I would ALMOST suspect you came here to troll!