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Eastwood finishing pair of Iwo Jima movies

One is about U.S. troops, the second, in Japanese, chronicles other side
/ Source: The Associated Press

As a kid, Clint Eastwood watched his share of war movies. Later on, he starred in them. But now, as he puts the finishing touches on a pair of films about the bloody World War II battle for Iwo Jima, he says he has a changed perspective.

"It was always one-sided. There were good guys on one side," the 75-year-old actor-director said in a news conference Friday. "Life isn't like that."

To get in both sides of the story, Eastwood has spent the past year working on two movies.

The first, "Flags of Our Fathers," follows the story of the U.S. troops famously photographed raising the flag at Iwo Jima. The second, in Japanese and with a predominantly Japanese cast, focuses on the general who lost the battle and the young soldiers who died following his orders.

"I think those soldiers deserve a certain amount of respect," Eastwood said. "I feel terrible for both sides in that war, and in all wars. A lot of innocent people get sacrificed."

"Flags of Our Fathers," based on the best-selling book by James Bradley, is set for release in August. "Red Sun, Black Sand," starring Ken Watanabe, comes out in December.

Eastwood traveled to the tiny, remote island last April to get a firsthand view of the former battle site. Sixty years after Japan's surrender, Iwo Jima remains uninhabited, except for a few scattered military bases.

Any activity on the island is potentially controversial because Iwo Jima is considered by many to be hallowed ground — nearly 7,000 American troops and more than 20,000 Japanese died in the battle from February to March 1945, and the bodies of thousands of soldiers remain unaccounted for.

But Eastwood's project got the blessing of veterans groups and the Tokyo government, which has jurisdiction of the island, located 700 miles south of Tokyo.

Eastwood stressed that his movies are about the people, not the battle.

"It's not about winning or losing, but mostly about the interrupted lives of young people, and losing their lives before their prime," he said. "These men deserve to be seen, and heard from."

Eastwood said he enjoyed working with the Japanese cast, who spoke virtually no English.

"It was a pleasure to do, even though I didn't understand a word they were saying," he said.