During its 11-year, 256-episode run, the classic TV show M*A*S*H not only cemented itself in Hollywood history but birthed a number of memorable characters that remain highly revered to this day. Perhaps the most beloved M*A*S*H character of all, however, is Alan Alda’s Captain “Hawkeye” Pierce.
The Chief Surgeon of the 4077th, Hawkeye is a wisecracking, womanizing, protagonist, who has plenty of fun between treating his wounded patients. Not too much fun, however.
Though Alan Alda has nothing against a bit of fun amongst soldiers, he wanted a guarantee from producers that M*A*S*H wouldn’t make light of war. A Korean War veteran honorably discharged from the military himself, Alda knows just how serious and frightening things can get on the battlefield.
“We didn’t gloss over it and make the show about how funny things were in the mess tent,” Alda told Closer. For Alan Alda, it was crucial that M*A*S*H didn’t become McHale’s Navy but in Korea.
“When you’re in a war, it’s real,” Alda said in an interview with NPR. “People are going to die or lose their arms and legs. And when we did M*A*S*H, I wanted to make sure that at least that understanding that I had came out. That that’s what we dealt with.”
Alan Alda Opens Up About His Agreement to Star in ‘M*A*S*H’
Thankfully, M*A*S*H was not a remake of McHale’s Navy, and Alan Alda is now synonymous with Captain “Hawkeye” Pierce. In his interview with NPR, Alan Alda went into detail regarding his misgivings and what it took for him to sign on with the series.
Despite the strong script, Alan Alda had misgivings. “It was the best script of any television show I’d ever seen, I think,” Alda recalled. “Larry Gelbart had written it. And it was really sharp, you know? But I was concerned.”
“I was concerned about what would happen after the show went into production,” the M*A*S*H star continued. “I didn’t know if Larry would be part of it. And I was worried that it would become a hijinks at the front and that the war would just sort of exist as a pretext for silly stories.”
“Before I agreed to do the show, I had a midnight meeting with [producers] Larry Gelbart and Gene Reynolds. We all agreed that we wanted to do a show in which the war was seen for what it is. As a, you know, a place where people are badly hurt. And the humor came out of the reaction to that. The humor came out of the crazy pressure everybody was put under.”