Dale Dye returned to Beaufort this weekend to receive a lifetime achievement award for making a few good Marines in Hollywood.
He was a Missouri country kid who earned three Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star in two decades as a U.S. Marine.
Since then he's worked to make war and veterans of war more than make-believe at the movies.
Along the way -- advising the makers of more than 50 movies, while also acting and writing -- he's gotten to know Beaufort, where he worked on "Forrest Gump" and a television pilot, "Semper Fi."
Dye was here this weekend on a special mission. He came to receive the Beaufort International Film Festival's inaugural Pat Conroy Lifetime Achievement Award Saturday night.
It comes on the heels of another big announcement: Tom Hanks, who wowed Beaufort with "Forrest Gump," will be an executive producer of Dye's newest project, a movie about World War II's D-Day called "No Better Place to Die."
But for Dye there was perhaps a bigger thrill in Beaufort.
He was honored on Friday to be an honorary parade reviewing officer as new Marines marched in their graduation ceremony at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
"You just see the throbbing heartbeat of America," he said Saturday morning in an interview at Anchorage 1770 bed and breakfast on Bay Street.
"The gritty faces. The determination that nothing is going to stop me. A certain pride of achievement.
"Jesus, that's America, son. That's it."
And that's what he wants America to see -- on the big screen, and in books.
"I try to see stories through their eyes," he says of middle America in the middle-management grind across the heart of the land. The Hollywood elite don't see them, he said. Don't even want to see them.
But, Dye says, "People get World War II. Not in detail. But there's something about that moment, that seminal moment of four or five years in our nation's life that the real people get. It's the lifeblood of America. It's why we're cool."
Dye has worked with Steven Spielberg and Oliver Stone. He has helped guide the mini-series "The Pacific" and "Band of Brothers"; and milestone movies "Saving Private Ryan" and "Platoon." He has made video games.
He said he and Tom Hanks are history buffs who "understand the importance of familiarity with history."
"I think war is a condition of mankind," he said. "I wish it wasn't, but it is. We are tribal. Given that, which I perceive as a reality, it is important for people to understand what war really is before we start waving flags and sending our sons and daughters off. I think I can help that."
War stories can show people at their worst. "We screw up," he said.
But Dye wants people to see the "selfless dedication it takes to put that uniform on and take that rifle and go out there and do what your country wants you to do, right or wrong. The self-sacrifice. It's a brilliant thing -- one of the highest qualities of the human being. It is meet and right to also show that."
He said he lives a frenetic life swirling around big money, movies and egos.
"There's something about Beaufort that I keep coming back to," he said. "When you hit Bay Street, you can take a deep breath."
David Lauderdale: 843-706-8115, @ThatsLauderdale ___
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