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Spielberg and Hanks and HBO with Guns and Tanks and a New War Show

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World War II: Part Three?

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks

God Bless America and the armed forces and HBO’s money.

You betcha.It seems that Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg will dip into the World War well for the third time (well, four times if you count “Saving Private Ryan”) and partner up with HBO to create yet another military mini-series event in the near future.

Hanks and Spielberg have been down this path before – first with the brilliant “Band of Brothers,” which came out in 2001, then with the not-as-brilliant The Pacific, which was released in 2010. Their upcoming project will be based on the non-fiction book by Donald L. Miller entitled “Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany.”

My guess, and it’s just a guess, is that they’ll probably shorten the title for television purposes. Maybe they’ll go with something like “Bomber Boys” or “Masters of the Air” or “Flying Metal Thingies That Drop Bombs.” Okay, most likely not the second one.

HBO's World War II 2

What happened to the Atlantic Band of Brothers? What? Jersey’s no good for the military?

They might be calling it “The Mighty Eighth,” most likely because the soldiers that the book focuses on were from the Eighth Air Force – hence the nickname “The Mighty Eighth.”

Well, at least it’s a lot fiercer sounding than “Easy Company” was. I mean really. Why would you get the enemy’s hopes up by calling a group of military men “Easy Company”? Maybe it was like some 1940’s version of reverse psychology or something. Or maybe it was better than any alternative letter-E words – like “Elephant Company“ or “Electric Company.” Actually, “Electric Company’s” marching songs would’ve been awesome.

One-two-three-four-five-six-seven-eight-nine-ten…

Or was that Sesame Street? Or maybe it was the Great Space Coaster? I can’t remember.

At any rate, I digress.

Joining Spielberg (through Amblin Entertainment) and Hanks as Executive Producers of the project will be Gary Goetzman – who along with Hanks forms Playtone Productions. Also, returning to fight the good fight, according to The Hollywood Reporter, will be Graham Yost, who wrote a number of episodes for both “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific.” Yost has since gone on to make some fantastic television without Tommy and Stevie, creating and developing the FX series “Justified.”

The last two WWII miniseries’ that Hanks and Spielberg created for HBO were essentially like feature films with ten hour-plus running times. With the ridiculous amount of detail and work that goes into the sets, costumes and special effects – not to mention the casting of literally thousands of people as main characters and extras – to say the projects are wide in scope would be a massive understatement. They’re mighty expensive as well – with both projects combined costing around $325 million to produce.

You might say that all of the hard work that was put into “Band of Brothers” (which was based on Stephen E. Ambrose’s book of the same name) and “The Pacific” (which was constructed from two separate books: Robert Leckie’s “Helmet for my Pillow” and “With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa” by E.B. Sledge) was well worth it for all involved.

Both series took home a slew of awards – including 14 combined Emmy Award wins. It also launched the careers of countless actors and actresses.  Included in that list is ginger-bearded, Golden Globe Award-winning, British actor Damian Lewis, now of “Homeland” fame, in the lead role of (the recently deceased) Major Dick Winters in “Band of Brothers,” as well as James Badge Dale, who will soon be seen in such upcoming, big-time flicks like “World War Z,” “Iron Man 3,” and “The Lone Ranger,” in the lead role of Private Leckie in “The Pacific.”

A reason to watch pay cable in the early millenium.

“Band of Brothers” wasn’t Spielberg’s and Hanks first choice for a title. They wanted to change the name to “Chamber of Chums.”

 

Also, if you pay attention you might even glimpse young versions of  an extended list of the “who’s who” of Hollywood and TV Land today. Among them are “Prometheus” android Michael Fassbender (before “300,” even), “The Dark Knight Rises” baddie Tom Hardy, and one of the stars of the anticipated “Star Trek Into Darkness” (not to mention, one of my favorite films, “Shaun of the Dead” co-creator) Simon Pegg – all in minor roles as “Easy Company” enlisted men in “Band of Brothers.” And in “The Pacific” you might see a pre-Shane from “The Walking Dead” living version of Jon Bernthal or even manage to spot a female up-and-comer like Anna Torv, before she got all “Fringe”d –out, in a really small cameo.

Anybody who watched either or both series could attest to the fact that a lot of the casting choices either made you say, “Wow, I didn’t know they could do that kind of a role” or “Holy crap, that kid is all grown up and playing war.”

Among those actors that fall into the first category from “Band of Brothers” are “Friends” resident doofus David Schwimmer, “Office Space” star and comic actor Ron Livingston in the not-so comic role of divorced and heavy-drinking Captain Lewis Nixon, and Tom Hanks’ boy and Dexter: Season 6 weirdo Colin Hanks in a very somber-faced role as a straight-out-of-West Point Lieutenant.

Some of the actors from both series that you might recognize for their child acting gigs are, in no particular order, “Jurassic Park”s Joseph Mazzello, 1980’s teen star (he was in “Critters” and “Critters 2” for God’s sake) Scott Grimes, “Hook” Lost Boy James Madio, and even former New Kid on the Block heartthrob and big bro of Marky Mark (who started a great career of his own, mind you) Donnie Wahlberg was hanging tough against the Germans.

There is no specific date when any further casting or development will begin for the new project.

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