In order to prepare to play a tight-knit platoon of paratroopers during D-Day and beyond, the young cast of HBO series Band of Brothers went through a rigorous boot camp – which some of them struggled with more than others. When spirits were flagging, and energy was at a low – Tom Hanks swooped in from where he was filming Cast Away on Hawaii. He proceeded to deliver an emotional pre-battle speech akin to Henry V’s famous St Crispin’s Day Speech – which is where the series title comes from.
Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg had created the Band of Brothers series as an unofficial continuation of war movie Saving Private Ryan. Hanks was heavily involved – including writing episode 1 and directing episode 5. Neal McDonough, who played popular officer Buck Compton, recently recalled the rigors of boot camp on the Inside of You podcast.
“About four or five days into boot camp, there was almost a mutiny because they were beating us up so bad – which I actually really enjoyed. My Dad was a sergeant in the army so I loved PT, I enjoyed being screamed at. A lot of the English guys – who were the sweetest, nicest guys – were like; ‘what did we sign up for?!'”
McDonough explains how Hanks got the cast geed up to tackle one of the best drama series of all time; “And then Tom Hanks came in a helicopter, with his Cast Away beard and hair. And gave us this speech as to why we owe it to the men of Easy Company to work our butts off to tell the truth, because they died for us. Were it not for them, we wouldn’t be speaking English right now, were it not for these men who gave their lives for us.”
“After that, everyone was just like [salutes] ‘yes, sir.’ It meant the world to him [Hanks] – not just because it was his show and he was a producer, writer and director. Tom Hanks is different to just about everyone else I’ve ever met because he did it because it was the right thing.”
The cast appreciated that the busy acting legend had interrupted filming on one of the best Tom Hanks movies to deliver the speech; “He flew all the way from Hawaii just for a 20 minute speech and then flew right back. Who does that?! He could have sent a video or something, but no – Tom Hanks said ‘let’s get on a plane and fly over there and talk to the boys and make sure they’re on the right track.’ And after that, we tore it up.”
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