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Brotherly love Epic reveals horror of war

BAND OF BROTHERS is the biggest, most ambitious and expensive TV series ever made... but maybe even that's selling the show short.

The pounds 80million Second World War drama, which tells the true story of crack US paratroopers Easy Company, is not so much a TV show as an overwhelming exercise in heroism, passion and violence.

It will have viewers on the edge of their seats and, in the current political uncertainty, perhaps even on the verge of tears.

For British actor Dexter Fletcher, the emotional impact of playing quiet hero Sergeant John W. Martin is still spilling over into his life off-screen.

"When you're playing someone who is still alive, you know you've succeeded a bit of the way when you meet their family and they cry and say 'We're so proud that our father has had a chance to be represented," he said.

The 10-part production features a huge cast - 500 speaking parts, 10,000 extras - brought to the small screen courtesy of co-executive producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.

The director and star of big screen hit Saving Private Ryan bring the same gritty approach to the story of Easy Company - and it's already won the approval of the real Sgt Martin.

"It brought back a lot of memories," said the former soldier, now 80 and a multi-millionaire construction boss.

"It was a very emotional experience watching it. You keep thinking about the people who never came back."

The series, which also stars David Schwimmer as the company's very un-Friendly trainer, begins on Friday on BBC2.

For Dexter, best known for movie hit Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, playing Sgt Martin looks like the kind of role you get once in a lifetime.

But, like a patriotic youth trying to enlist before his time, Dexter had to lie about his age to get on board.

He said: "I'm 35 now and I was 33 when I went up to audition for this. All the other guys were in their early 20s.

"Tom Hanks said to me 'How old are you?' And I joked 'That's classified information.' He said 'OK, well you're 27-28.' So I said 'Yeah, I'm 27-28.'"

Dexter also had the opportunity to phone the real John Martin - who has become a firm friend - for tips on how to play key scenes.

It was these conversations which hammered home what the war really meant to the men of Easy Company.

He said: "Being able to call the man I play was a rich vein of research but it quickly dawned on me how upsetting it could be for John Martin.

"I would say, 'Do you remember a guy called Private Julian?' And he would start crying and say 'He was 18 years old. I'm sure we could have saved that guy'. Suddenly I'd realise that what was an interesting bit of business for my character is still a living tragedy for him, 50-odd years later."

But the tough veteran is grateful to the actor - and the makers of Band Of Brothers - for telling his story.

He said: "Dexter did a good job. He captured exactly what I was like as a young man. Easy Company was very special."

Source: The Sunday Mail
Date: 30th September 2001