Recently I had a chance to sit down with James Bradley. If you have not heard of him, he has written a New York Times Best Seller that has recently been adapted into a motion picture. Flags of Our Fathers is a story about the men who raised the flag on Iwo Jima and became the subjects of a very famous photograph. James’ father was one of the flag raisers, and he tells how the film Flags of Our Fathers only emphasizes his father’s sentiment that the real heroes of Iwo Jima were left on the island.
Brian Gibson, FilmSchoolRejects.com: Good Morning James.
James Bradley: Good Morning Brian.
FSR: First off James, I just wanted to say I have a couple of friends who are marines and they wanted me to tell you how much they appreciated your book Flags of Our Fathers.
JB: Thank You
FSR: One of those marines, my friend Tim Maffo, wanted to know what is it like for you to have a father who is considered to be such a hero and an inspiration to others?
JB: That was the whole point of my book, to say that my dad always said he wasn’t a hero. No matter how I feel about that, my hands were not on that pole on February 23 1945. I tracked my father’s statements over many years and he said the same thing when he was 22 as he did when he was 62.
What he said was “I just did what I thought anyone else would do.” So if that inspired those marines, then that certainly inspires me. It was not heroism, because my father says there wasn’t any [heroes], other than the guys who didn’t come back. My father always instructed us that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back.
FSR: Usually the translation of a novel to a film does not work very well, coming from the man who wrote the book and has a very intimate knowledge of the subject, how well do you think your work has fared?
JB: I know it is commonly said by people that “I liked the book better,” but I don’t understand that sentiment. It is almost as if I was to have a portrait done of your mother, and then to have you say that you like your own mother better than the portrait. It’s a different medium.