Band of Brothers


Band of Brothers Information

Band of Brothers is a ten-part, 11-hour television World War II miniseries, originally produced and broadcast in 2001, based on historian and biographer Stephen E. Ambrose's book of the same title. The executive producers were Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, who had collaborated on the 1998 World War II film Saving Private Ryan. The episodes first aired in 2001 on HBO and are still run frequently on various TV networks around the world.

The series fictionalizes the history of "Easy" Company (part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division) from jump training in the U.S. to Japan's capitulation and the war's end. The events portrayed are based on Ambrose's research and recorded interviews with actual Easy Company veterans. A large amount of literary license was taken with the episodes, with several differences between recorded history and the film version. All of the characters portrayed are based on actual members of Easy Company; some of them are recorded in interviews as preludes to each episode (their identities, however, are not revealed until the close of the finale).

The title for the book and the series comes from the famous St. Crispin's Day Speech delivered by the character of Henry V of England before the Battle of Agincourt in William Shakespeare's Henry V; Act IV, Scene 3. A passage from the speech is quoted on the book's first page, and is also quoted by Carwood Lipton in the final episode.

Plot

Main article: List of Band of Brothers episodes
Band of Brothers is a fictionalized account of "Easy Company" (part of the 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment), assigned to the United States Army's 101st Airborne Division during World War II. Over the course of ten episodes, the series details, sometimes in a condensed format, the company's real-life exploits during the war. Starting with jump training at Camp Toccoa, Georgia, Band of Brothers follows the unit through the American airborne landings in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, the Siege of Bastogne, and on to the war's end, including the taking of the Eagle's Nest and Japan's capitulation. Major Richard Winters' (1918"2011) experiences are a primary focus, as he attempts to keep his men together and safe. While the series features a large ensemble cast, each episode generally focuses on one primary character, following his actions during certain events (for example, the Siege of Bastogne and Operation Market Garden).

The series is based on real-life events, with the fate of characters being the same as their real counterparts. Numerous characters either die or sustain serious wounds, some of which lead to their being sent home or leaving the hospital to rejoin their comrades on the front lines. Their experiences and the moral, mental, and physical hurdles they must overcome are central to the story.

Production

The series was largely developed by Tom Hanks and Erik Jendresen, who spent months detailing the plot outline and individual episodes. Steven Spielberg's role primarily consisted of being "the final eye" on the series and using Saving Private Ryan, the film on which he and Hanks worked together earlier, as a template for the series. The accounts of Easy Company veterans, such as Donald Malarkey, were later used in production to add as much detail as possible.

Budget and promotion

Band of Brothers was the most expensive television miniseries made by HBO or any other television network at the time it was created. This record would be superseded by the series' 2010 sister show, The Pacific. The budget for Band of Brothers was approximately $125 million, which comes to an average of $12.5 million per episode. An additional $15 million was allocated towards the promotional campaign, which involved, among other things, hosting screenings for World War II veterans.

One of those screenings was held at Utah Beach, Normandy. On June 7, 2001, 47 Easy Company veterans were flown to Paris and then travelled by chartered train to the site, where the series premiered. Also sponsoring the miniseries was then German-American owned automobile manufacturer Chrysler, as its Jeeps were used to great extent in the series, with an estimate of 600 to 1,000 vehicles. Chrysler spent $5 to $15 million on its advertising campaign, based on and using footage from Band of Brothers. Each of the spots was reviewed and approved by co-executive producers Hanks and Spielberg.

The BBC paid 7 million ($10.1 million) as co-production partner, the most it had ever paid for a bought-in program, and screened it on the BBC Two channel. It was originally to have aired on BBC One, but was moved to allow "an uninterrupted 10-week run" with a denial that this was because it was not mainstream enough. Negotiations were monitored by then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who personally spoke to co-executive producer Spielberg. Producer of comedy film An Everlasting Piece, Jerome O'Connor, alleged in a 2001 lawsuit against Spielberg's studio, DreamWorks, that Blair also loaned military equipment and 2,000 troops, while Spielberg gave Blair's son Euan a job in the production. According to O'Connor, his film was "sabotaged" because DreamWorks feared it would interfere with Spielberg's receiving his British knighthood, which he received in 2001.

Location

The series was shot over 8 to 10 months at the Hatfield Aerodrome in Hertfordshire, England, on which various sets, including replicas of European towns, were built. This location was also used to shoot the film Saving Private Ryan. Twelve different towns were constructed on the large open field, including the towns of Bastogne, Belgium; Eindhoven, Netherlands; and Carentan, France. As of 2012 the majority of land features have been built over, with the exception of a small portion of the "crossroads" in a field just several meters to the west of the newly built housing (though prior features are viewable through Google Earth's past images option).

The village of Hambleden, in Buckinghamshire, England was used extensively in the early episodes to depict the site of the company's training in England and for scenes later in the series.

The scenes set in Germany and Austria were shot in Switzerland, in and near the village of Brienz in the Bernese Oberland and the nearby Hotel Giessbach.

Historical accuracy

To preserve historical accuracy, the various writers conducted additional research (beyond Stephen Ambrose's book). One source was the memoir of Easy Company soldier David Kenyon Webster, a Harvard English major at the time of his enlistment. His memoir is titled Parachute Infantry: An American Paratrooper's Memoir of D-Day and the Fall of the Third Reich, published by LSU Press in 1994, almost 40 years after his death in a boating accident. (Ambrose's book quotes liberally from Webster's then-unpublished diary entries.) Webster's trained eye, honesty, and writing skills helped give the book and miniseries a tone not available in other G.I.s' diaries because it captured in detail the daily life of the infantryman working his way with comrades across Europe.

Dale Dye, a retired U.S. Marine Corps Captain and consultant on Saving Private Ryan, as well as most of the surviving Easy Company veterans at the time, such as Richard Winters, Bill Guarnere, Frank Perconte, Ed Heffron, and Amos Taylor, were asked for input. Dye (who additionally plays the role of Robert Sink) had the actors undergo a 10-day boot camp.

Similarly, great attention was paid to details of weapons and costumes. Simon Atherton, the weapons master, corresponded with veterans to match weapons to scenes, and assistant costume designer Joe Hobbs extensively used photos and veteran accounts.

Most actors had contact with the people they were meant to portray, often by telephone, and several of the veterans came to the production site. Nonetheless, co-executive producer Tom Hanks admitted that they could not provide complete accuracy: "We've made history fit onto our screens. We had to condense down a vast number of characters, fold other people's experiences into 10 or 15 people, have people saying and doing things others said or did. We had people take off their helmets to identify them, when they would never have done so in combat. But I still think it is three or four times more accurate than most films like this." As a final accuracy check, the veterans saw previews of the series and approved the episodes before they were aired.

Nonetheless, some inaccuracies did manage to get into the series, such as the case of Albert Blithe, a focal point of the third episode, which incorrectly states that he died in 1948. In fact, Blithe lived on to 1967, dying while on active duty in the Army. Another inaccuracy is the portrayal of Joseph Liebgott as Jewish, when in actuality he was Roman Catholic.

Cast and characters

Since Band of Brothers focuses entirely on the exploits of "E" (Easy) Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment (PIR), 101st Airborne Division during the World War II, the series features a large ensemble cast, based on existing persons. The show's main character is Major Richard Winters, played by Damian Lewis, who leads the cast for most of the episodes and is the main subject of the episodes "Day of Days", "Crossroads" and the final episode, "Points". Tom Hanks, co-executive producer of the miniseries, explained that they needed a central character to tie the story together, and felt that Damian Lewis was best for the role.

Ron Livingston portrays Captain Lewis Nixon, Major Winters' best friend and frequent confidant during the series. The episode "Why We Fight" largely centers on him, dealing with his problems with alcoholism, in particular. Captain Ronald Speirs, played by Matthew Settle, leads the Company into the field in the series' latter half and is the subject of rumors among the soldiers starting in the third episode, "Carentan."

Appearing alongside Lewis and Livingston in all ten episodes are Donnie Wahlberg as Sergeant Carwood Lipton, Scott Grimes as Technical Sergeant Donald Malarkey, Peter Youngblood Hills as Staff Sergeant Darrell "Shifty" Powers, and Shane Taylor as Technician Fifth Grade Eugene "Doc" Roe, although both were uncredited in the opening sequence. The episode "The Breaking Point" features Lipton prominently and the importance he played in maintaining the company's morale, while "Bastogne" features Doc Roe's experience as a medic during the siege of Bastogne.

Appearing in nine episodes are Rick Gomez as Technician Fourth Grade George Luz, Michael Cudlitz as Staff Sergeant Denver "Bull" Randleman, Nicholas Aaron as Private First Class Robert "Popeye" Wynn, and James Madio as Technician Fourth Grade Frank Perconte. Randleman was the subject of his own episode, "Replacements", which featured his escape from a German-occupied village in the Netherlands. Philip Barrantini as Private Wayne A. "Skinny" Sisk is uncredited in the opening sequence but also appears in nine episodes.

Neal McDonough as First Lieutenant Lynn "Buck" Compton, Dexter Fletcher as Staff Sergeant John "Pee Wee" Martin, Ross McCall as Technician Fifth Grade Joseph Liebgott appear in eight episodes. George Calil as Sergeant James "Moe" Alley Jr., Nolan Hemmings as Staff Sergeant Charles E. Grant and Rick Warden as First Lieutenant Harry Welsh and Robin Laing as Private First Class Edward "Babe" Heffron, although uncredited in the opening appear in eight episodes. Stephen McCole portrayed First Lieutenant Frederick Heyliger, who took part in D-Day and Operation Market Garden before being wounded by friendly fire.

Credited in the opening in seven episodes or fewer are:

  • Kirk Acevedo as Staff Sergeant Joseph Toye
  • Eion Bailey as Private First Class David Kenyon Webster
  • Dale Dye as Colonel (eventually Lieutenant General) Robert F. Sink
  • Michael Fassbender as Sergeant Burton "Pat" Christenson
  • Stephen Graham as Sgt. Myron "Mike" Ranney
  • Colin Hanks as First Lieutenant Henry Jones
  • Tom Hardy as Private John Janovec
  • Craig Heaney as Private Roy W. Cobb
  • Frank John Hughes as Staff Sergeant William "Wild Bill" Guarnere
  • Matthew Leitch as Staff Sergeant (served as First Sergeant for a time) Floyd Talbert
  • James McAvoy as Private James W. Miller
  • Alex Sabga as Cpl. Francis J. Mellet
  • Tim Matthews as PFC Alex Penkala
  • Rene L. Moreno as Technician Fifth Grade Joseph Ramirez
  • Peter O'Meara as First Lieutenant Norman Dike
  • Simon Pegg as First Sergeant William Evans
  • David Schwimmer as Captain Herbert Sobel
  • Douglas Spain as Technician Fifth Grade Antonio C. Garcia
  • Richard Speight, Jr. as Sergeant Warren "Skip" Muck
  • Rick Warden as First Lieutenant Harry Welsh
  • Marc Warren as Private Albert Blithe

Reception

Critical reception

Band of Brothers was met with extremely positive reviews. Caryn James of The New York Times called it "an extraordinary 10-part series that masters its greatest challenge: it balances the ideal of heroism with the violence and terror of battle, reflecting what is both civilized and savage about war." However, the article criticized the generation gap between the viewer and characters, which the journalist felt was a significant hurdle. Robert Bianco of USA Today said the series was "significantly flawed and yet absolutely extraordinary "? just like the men it portrays," rating the series four out of four stars. He noted that it was hard to keep track of and sympathize with individual characters during battle scenes. Tom Shales of The Washington Post was not as positive, stating that though the series is "at times visually astonishing," it suffers from "disorganization, muddled thinking and a sense of redundancy." Shales noted the lack of presence from the cast: "few of the characters stand out strikingly against the backdrop of the war. In fact, this show is all backdrop and no frontdrop. When you watch two hours and still aren't quite sure who the main characters are, something is wrong."

Ratings

The premiere of Band of Brothers on September 9, 2001, drew 10 million viewers. However, two days later, the September 11 attacks occurred, and HBO immediately ceased its marketing campaign. The second episode nonetheless drew 7.2 million viewers.

Awards

The series was nominated for 19 Emmy Awards, and won six, including "Outstanding miniseries," "Outstanding Casting for a miniseries, Movie, or a Special," and "Outstanding Directing for a miniseries, Movie, or a Dramatic Special." It also won a Golden Globe for "Best miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for Television," an American Film Institute award, and was selected for a Peabody Award for "...relying on both history and memory to create a new tribute to those who fought to preserve liberty." It also won a 2003 Writers Guild Award (Television, Adapted Long Form) for episode six ("Bastogne"). The series was ranked at #54 on TV Guide's 100 Greatest Episodes of All-Time list.

Home video releases

All ten parts of the miniseries were released in a DVD box set on November 5, 2002. The set includes five discs containing all the episodes, and a bonus disc with the behind-the-scenes documentary We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company and the video diary of actor Ron Livingston, who played Lewis Nixon. A collector's edition of the box set was also released, containing the same discs but held in a tin case. Band of Brothers is one of the best-selling TV DVD sets of all time, having sold about $250 million.

The series was released as an exclusive HD DVD TV series in Japan in 2007. With the demise of the format, they are currently out of production. A Blu-ray Disc version of Band of Brothers was released on November 11, 2008 and has become a Blu-ray Disc top seller, though many video enthusiasts contend that the HD DVD version features superior visual quality due to the presence of digital noise reduction on the Blu-ray release.

See also




This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Band_of_Brothers_%28TV_miniseries%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.
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