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Band of Brothers

Based on the bestseller by Stephen E. Ambrose, the epic 10-part miniseries Band of Brothers tells the story of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, U.S. Army. Drawn from interviews with survivors of Easy Company, as well as soldiers' journals and letters, Band of Brothers chronicles the experiences of these men who knew extraordinary bravery and extraordinary fear. They were an elete rifle company parachuting into France early on D-Day morning, fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and capturing Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden. They were also a unit that suffered 150 percent casualties, and whose lives became legend.

Damian Lewis's Band of Brothers Training Diary:

British actor Damian Lewis beat off hundreds of rivals to land the lead in BBC's Band of Brothers, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks' WWII epic. In this compelling diary, he tells of his story of the extraordinary filming regime, which turned actors into men of war.

BOOTCAMP AT LONGMOOR, NEAR PETERSFIELD, HAMPSHIRE, MARCH 23: 'You better not give up on me, Winters. I'm watching you, Winters.' I'm on my 70th sit-up. I've been given a personal trainer to get in shape and for the moment it seems to be working. But I'm on my way to 80 and my stomach has cramped. Captain Dale 'no namby-pamby actor s--t' Dye, a Vietnam veteran, is hulked over me and letting me know who's in charge. It's the first morning of a ten-day basic training. It's 6am, we've been on a five-mile run and now we're being watched doing 45 minutes of physical training. All before breakfast. Captain Dye addresses us only by our character names. We're not allowed to have mobile phones or contemporary literature. We're in 1942, whether we like it or not. Already he is instilling in us the feeling that we are special, or will be if we make it. This drive for authenticity is exhilarating. All I know is, the deeper I involve my imagination and give him the 'heart' he asks for, the more rewarding all this will be. Tom Hanks made it perfectly clear in a trademark tub-thumping speech to us all that we have a social responsibility to document this period of history as accurately as possible. I think he's right. I'm the lead role in this show, which is going to be seen by millions of people worldwide and has a budget of 86 million pounds. When I'm Damian Lewis, I'm nervous. When I'm Dick Winters, I can do anything. Now that's drama therapy.

DAY 2: 'Who's Winters? Who's playin' him? Is he English?' There are murmurs in the camp -- a lot of the guys don't know who I am yet. Is this where the trouble starts? I brace myself for a bit of Limey bashing, but incredibly, I seem to have the full respect of all the men present. People are asking for my opinions and calling me 'Sir.' Suddenly it's clear I'm in a 24-hours-a-day, ten-day Method rehearsal. I think to myself, 'If they want Method. I'll give them Method,' and start dishing out a lot more orders.

DAY 3: The training regime in the mornings is now established. We run in formation and sing: 'Mama, Mama, can't you see, what the Airborne's done to me?' Singing together makes the five miles easier. I feel like I'm in a movie already, not preparing for one. Guard duty tonight. Each man is to patrol the perimeter for one hour, in temperatures below zero. It's too cold to sleep, but I don't think sleep is valued particularly highly around here.

DAY 6: Promotion today. I'm now Captain Dick Winters. Injuries have started to happen. David Schwimmer [Herbert Sobel] has twisted his knee performing field manoeuvres and has become 'officer in charge of cigarettes.' Thankfully, Schwimmer is taking his responsibilities seriously. With no booze for ten days, people are smoking furiously. Neal McDonough [Buck Compton] has cut his lip open with the butt of an M1 rifle and has had stitches without anaesthetic. 'Well, Buck wouldn't have had anaesthetic,' he chimes, grinning widely.

DAY 7: We have a massive simultaneous attack today on a train. With a six-man training team sniping (with blanks) at our 50-man company. I lead the assault. It's a total disaster. I'm shot so many times I feel like a sieve. I fail to control the men. I get torn apart by Captain Dye, who tells me I'd better get them in order. I'm so immersed by now, believing that I'm in 1942 and that I'm Dick Winters, that I go and hand out the biggest roasting in military history to my men. And what's more, I expect to be listened to.

DAY 8: We move into our week of jump training today. There's one major problem. I'm scared of heights. Thankfully, today is spent jumping off chairs on to mattresses, practicing our falls and rolls.

DAY 9: We visit RAF Brize Norton for a day in jumping school. Today I'm going to jump off a 60ft tower screaming from the top of my lungs 'One thousand, two thousand, three thousand, four thousand...' After this, you're supposed to open your chute. Looking up, the platform doesn't seem so high. Looking down, I want to cry. I can't hold on to anything because I can't get any grip. My palms are sweating too heavily. A jump trainer edges me out. I look straight ahead at the horizon and leap into the void. I land about five seconds later. I've done it. Parachuting becomes addictive. Apparently.

DAY 10: The day of the 'propblast,' airborne slang for big drink. Boy, do we need alcohol. It's been ten days of authentic military training and everyone is incredibly proud to have got through it. So we all get drunk and hug each other a lot.

FIRST DAY OF FILMING: APRIL 4, 2000: Arrive on the disused runway at Hatfield Aerodrome. This will be our home for the next eight months. Here we will walk through film sets constructed to look like the streets of France, Belgium and Germany. We will storm dykes and cross the Rhine. It's the first day of an epic undertaking. Band of Brothers is about a small group of ordinary men. The faithful retelling of Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division and its achievements in World War II. How the men suffered and how they prevailed. They're American in this series. But they could just as well be English, French, or German. It's an eager bunch of actors that turn up on that first day. All stories and japes. But within an hour we've changed into our combat gear, have lined up in formation and are marching the half-mile to the set. Word gets around and hundreds of people in the production offices start flocking to the side of the runway. Can this really be the same bunch of actors they'd hired? We look like real soldiers. We know we've turned a few heads and we're quietly smug about that, but no one is in the least bit complacent, because we know this is day one. Zero hour. Day one of an eight-month shoot. The soldiering starts here....

used with permission of Damian Lewis