HBO is developing a third iteration of Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s World War II miniseries, the network confirmed. Joining an oeuvre that already includes Band of Brothers and The Pacific, the untitled WWII miniseries will explore the aerial wars through the enlisted men of the Eighth Air Force – known as the men of the Mighty Eighth. The HBO miniseries will use at 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 will again serve as executive producers via Hanks and Goetzman’s Palytone and Spielberg’s Amblin Television. HBO executives have been in discussions about a third World War II miniseries for several months. Graham Yost recently told The Hollywood Reporter that he was eager to re-team with Hanks and Spielberg on another WWII epic; the Justified creator wrote several episodes of Brothers and Pacific. And now that the source material has been optioned, the project can move into development. (Additional source material may be added as well.)
Band of Brothers, an 11-hour epic that ran over ten parts in 2001, was based on the book of the same title by historian Stephen E. Ambrose, who died in 2002. It followed Easy company, part of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, through their mission in Europe from Operation Overlord through V-J Day. The miniseries featured Damian Lewis; the British actor was then mostly unknown to American audiences but would of course go on to a slew of awards and accolades in Showtime’s Homeland. The premiere of Band of Brothers just days before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, drew 10 million viewers (though ratings measurements at that time are less accurate than they are today). The Pacific – which bowed in March 2010 during a much more cluttered entertainment landscape – pulled in 3.1 million viewers for its premiere.
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 and The Pacific was budgeted at $200 million with millions more spent on promotion for both series.
But they are among HBO’s prestige projects and have historically 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