January 18, 2013 1:05pm PT by Marisa Guthrie
HBO Developing Third WWII Miniseries with Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg (Exclusive)
HBO confirmed Friday that it is developing a third World War II miniseries from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
Joining an oeuvre that already includes 2001's Band of Brothers and 2010's The Pacific, the untitled miniseries will explore the aerial wars through the eyes of enlisted men of the Eighth Air Force -- known as the men of the Mighty Eighth. The project will use as its source material historian Donald L. Miller’s nonfiction tome Masters of the Air: America’s Bomber Boys Who Fought the Air War Against Nazi Germany.
Spielberg, Hanks and Gary Goetzman again will serve as executive producers via Hanks and Goetzman’s Playtone and Spielberg’s Amblin Television. HBO executives have been in discussions about a third World War II miniseries for several months. Justified creator Graham Yost, who wrote several episodes of Brothers and Pacific, recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he was eager to reteam with Hanks and Spielberg on another WWII epic. And now that the source material has been optioned, the project can move into development. Additional source material might be added later.
Band of Brothers, an 11-hour epic that ran over 10 parts in 2001, was based on the best-seller by historian Stephen E. Ambrose, who died in 2002. It followed Easy Company, part of the Army's 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, through their mission in Europe from Operation Overlord in 1944 through V-J Day a year later. The miniseries featured Damian Lewis; the British actor was then mostly unknown to American audiences but would go on to a slew of awards and accolades in Showtime’s Homeland. The premiere of Band of Brothers, just days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, drew 10 million viewers (though ratings measurements at that time are less accurate than they are today).
The Pacific, based primarily on the memoirs Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie and With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by Eugene Sledge, followed men in three regiments of the 1st Marine Division as they battled the Japanese in the Pacific from 1942-45. The first of its 10 parts pulled in 3.1 million viewers for its premiere in March 2010, during a much more cluttered entertainment landscape.
The miniseries are a significant financial commitment for HBO requiring the construction of large-scale sets, significant special effects and pyrotechnics and, because of the nature of the stories, big ensemble casts. Brothers cost $125 million to produce, and The Pacific was budgeted at $200 million; millions more were spent on promotion for both series.
But Band of Brothers and The Pacific are among HBO’s prestige projects, and both cleaned up during awards season. Brothers was nominated for 19 Emmys and won six, including outstanding miniseries; it also won Golden Globes and was awarded a Peabody. The Pacific took home eight Emmys in 2010, more than any other program.
Email: Marisa.Guthrie@thr.com; Twitter: @MarisaGuthrie