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Posted on Feb 25, 2006 in Armchair Reading, Front Page Features

Band of Brothers – A Few Nostalgic Words and a Photographic Retrospective

By Roach

As I mentioned earlier, I had previously worked on Saving Private Ryan doing a similar job – trying to get extras and actors to look right in equipment that they were not familiar with and, in some instances, weren’t actually keen on wearing, especially if it was too heavy! Nevertheless, the end result looks-wise on SPR hadn’t been too shabby (!) and although the actual movie might not have been the best war movie ever made, at the time it was surely the best effort ever made in terms of attempting to get the authenticity aspects regarding uniforms and equipment correct. At the time, we felt fairly certain that, looks-wise at least, it would not be bettered for some time to come.

Of course, this just proved the fact that you shouldn’t really underestimate some people – in this case, the man behind SPR, one Mister Spielberg. There had been rumours abounding around the crew towards the end of filming on SPR that Spielberg was looking to making a television follow up to the film, but as shooting came to an end, so did the rumours. Saving Private Ryan came, saw and conquered – and then it went away while the dust settled. It was a couple of years later that the rumour finally took more substantial shape and stepped forward to take its place: enter Band of Brothers.

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Damian Lewis as Maj. Richard D. Winters
Picture courtesy of J Rowe

Using many of the same key members of the Ryan crew, and filmed almost entirely at the same Hatfield studio, or on location within a very short travelling distance, under the higher guidance of Messrs Spielberg and Hanks (who had become particularly interested in the wartime exploits of the 101st Airborne during the filming of Ryan), Band of Brothers was born.

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Both sides of the same coin – well, the same set anyway!

Once again the site of Ramelle in Saving Private Ryan (which had been completely levelled after the SPR Production had ended) became a hive of activity as building work began on a new ‘town’, the faces of which would change many times over the months of filming as it became the location of the numerous towns in the different European countries that the 101st Airborne had fought or passed through. Different areas became different European countries, sometimes with the buildings’ national origins changing dependent on which side you viewed them from. Look at it from one side and you were in France; look at it from the other and it was welcome to Germany.

Buildings that appeared early in the production did not necessarily make it to the end of it, sometimes being entirely rebuilt, at other times simply being given a facelift which nevertheless transformed its identity completely. All of this is, of course, a routine state of affairs in the film industry, but that didn’t, or doesn’t, make it any less an incredible feat of talent, engineering and construction.

Equal amounts of talent, engineering and construction were also very much in evidence in the vehicle department. Just as in Saving Private Ryan, T34s were transformed into Tiger tanks, Hetzers into Marders and, this time around, Stug IIIs also made an appearance as well as a striking copy of a Jagdpanther. The usual American softskins were required, and there were plenty of jeeps buzzing around the set, sometimes providing the occasional taxi service – handy little vehicles!

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There’s a Tiger in the woodpile… Numerous other conversions were taking place in the vehicle ‘shop’ as well as the renovation of many original soft-skin vehicles although these do not necessarily feature heavily, even at all, in the final edits of BoB.

Meanwhile, in the Webbing Department, Alan Hausmann had the task of procuring the webbing and various webbing accessories (“oh yes Sir, that tan gas mask bag really is you Sir, suits you Sir”) that were going to be required to dress the many hundreds of actors and extras that would be walking on set every day.

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