Band of Brothers is one of the best TV series of all time, and it changed the entire TV landscape upon its release. At the time, with Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg serving as executive producers, it was the most expensive series ever created. It had the ambition and scale of a full-blown war movie, and was conceived of by the two Hollywood legends after the success of Saving Private Ryan.
All they needed was a great cast which, thankfully, the duo successfully secured. The Band of Brothers cast is immense and packed with talent, but right at the top of it all is British actor Damian Lewis who stars as the stoic Dick Winters. When he met with Hanks and Spielberg to be offered the role, though, Lewis feared he’d lose it for being too drunk.
After a confident audition in front of Hanks, Lewis spent the night celebrating hard. However, things took a turn for the worse. “I got out and get absolutely hammered,” said Lewis, to TODAY. “I’m so excited. I’m in L.A, I did a really good audition for Tom Hanks, and I come back at about 3AM. I get a phone call at about 8AM: ‘Damian, Steven [Spielberg] would like to meet you now, can you be there by 9AM?'”
Lewis’ wrote about what then happened in his personal diary, and how he feared the worst before for his next meeting with Hanks and Spielberg. “I cry into my pillow. Little simpering sobs at first, then naked hysterical screaming. The biggest meeting of my life and I’ve blown it. I’ve had three hours’ sleep,” the actor wrote. “I’m still drunk.”
He continued, writing that by the time he arrived for the meeting with Spielberg and Hanks he’d: “had three cold showers, five coffees and stubbed my toe a lot. I walk into the office sweating and shaking.”
Thankfully, despite Lewis having probably the worst hangover of his life, it all went OK: he got the role. Clearly Hanks and Spielberg could sympathize. Lewis’ portrayal of Winters would go on to be one of the best performances in the whole in a series full of great performances, and brought him into the wider spotlight.
For more on Band of Brothers, check out the tank scene which one historian says in nonsense. You can also see our picks for the best Tom Hanks movies, and the best Steven Spielberg movies.