There are two things that Tom Hanks never seems to get out of his system, Space and World War II. Last weekend was a free HBO preview weekend, and I spent it watching Hanks’ epic mini-series Band of Brothers, which may be the finest World War II drama since Twelve O’Clock High. I haven’t caught the second Hanks’ mini called Pacific, but now HBO and Tom Hanks are getting together along with Steven Spielberg to film the third mini in the trilogy, The Mighty Eighth. And with a $500 million budget, it’s going to be the most expensive mini-series ever.
Set during the period of daylight strategic bombing of Germany from mid-1942 to the end of the war, The Mighty Eighth is based on the book Masters of the Air by Donald J. Miller. It will be a ten part event that will tell the story of the U.S. Army Air Corps’ Eighth Air Force, which was the tip of the spear during the Allies’ daylight bombing campaign over fortress Europe.
With that backdrop, you can expect a very Band of Brothers like story arc which will focus on several crews who interact with one another, and who will suffer all the loss that comes with seeing whole crews of their friends shot of the sky by flak and defending Luftwaffe fighters. It will also feature documentary interviews from surviving members of those crews, much like Band of Brothers did with Major Dick Winters and members of Easy Company in the 101st Airborne. Such famous members of the 8th include Paul Tibbets (pilot of the Enola Gay), Robert Morgan, who flew the infamous Memphis Belle, and General Chuck Yeager who broke the sound barrier two years after the war ended.
Production The Mighty Eighth was planned to shoot in 2013, but was stalled for a while. Now that it is back under way and filming in Georgia, the author of the book Donald J. Miller has also been doing double duty scouting of locations for the mini-series in the UK.
The plan was to shoot location scenes in and around Lincolnshire England, which served as the main hub for the Eighth’s Allied Bombing campaign nearly 75 years ago. The last time these fields saw action though was during the filming of Memphis Belle, another good World War II drama released back in 1990.
Now that the HBO production is finally getting underway, there’s bound to be a flurry of activity, with warbirds flying in for static background and other uses, and a veritable invasion of extras dressed in costumes from the era, which hasn’t seen such activity since Operation Overlord and the Normandy operation.
The biggest challenge, though, is that many of the airfields that once dotted the British countryside are either fully functional airports now, or are no longer in existence, having been developed as other property or fallen into decay and overgrown. But there is talk that HBO mini-series may be filmed at Manston Airport, one of the most historic airfields of the war. Manston is no stranger to Hollywood, as it was used for such filming, and once doubled as a North Korean air base for the James Bond film Die Another Day, back in the early 2000s.
And although there will bound to be its share of classic warbirds in the film, most of the action will take place with CGI and studio mockups, creating virtual flying missions. Witness the video which was commissioned as a pitch and CGI concept for The Mighty Eighth, which HBO liked so much for its stunning realism, that they gave the greenlight to the mini-series with that massive $500 million budget.
After a delay in production, the epic mini-series should make it to HBO by 2019, and I can’t wait.
Hat tip to, and for a history of The Might Eighth, War History Online