Joe Liebgott (portrayed by Ross McCall) is portrayed as a Jew in the miniseries, and based on his name, appearance, and utter hatred of the Germans his fellow members of E Company all believed that he was Jewish, but in reality, Liebgott was a Roman Catholic, the son of Austrian immigrants. He was apparently aware that his fellow troopers assumed he was Jewish but never bothered to correct them as he found it amusing.
During the actors' ten day "Basic Training" they were required to stay in character at all times. The only exception was the "Officers" were treated just as poorly as the "Enlisted" by the training cadre.
Malarkey is seen meeting an American-born POW that is also from Oregon. In real life the two had actually worked across the street from each other for years. The change was presumably because audiences would find this too unrealistic.
"Currahee" is the American aboriginal Cherokee Indian equivalent for "Stands Alone". The original members of the 506th were trained at Currahee Mountain Georgia. "Currahee" was the cry of the 506th paratroopers as they cleared the door on their first jump, and it continued to be their cry when in combat.
The actors endured a grueling ten day boot camp where they learned the basics, from how to wear a uniform and stand at attention, to sophisticated field tactics and parachute jump training. The average day was 16 hours long, beginning at 5:00 a.m., rain or shine, with strenuous calisthenics and a three-to-five-mile run, followed by hours of tactical training, including weapons handling and jump preparation..
Several innovations involved the use and firing of squibs, the small charges that cause the bullet holes in costumes and sets. The special effects team came up with a firing mechanism using compressed air, instead of the traditional pyrotechnics, so that actors could be much closer together when a squib went off without the dangers inherent in conventional squibs. They also invented a new firing system, whereby an actor was pre-wired with up to eight hits, controlled by a button he activated that was hidden in the sleeve of his costume.
During the boot camp training, Neal McDonough's weapon went off and damaged part of his face. After the wound became infected, he had to be taken to a downtown London hospital at 10 in the evening. Not wanting the press to hear about it, he gave his name as Buck Compton. He also refused Novocaine while the wound was stitched, under the basis that a 1940s soldier wouldn't have had it. He was wearing his costume the whole time. He arrived back at the base at 3 am, just in time for drills the next day.
The black and white "Invasion stripes" on the wings of the C-47 in the scene where the soldiers are entering the plane, are wavy and sloppily painted. This is accurate. The word went down to all allied air units on June 4th to paint broad stripes on the planes, for recognition. Maintenance personnel used paint brushes, many of them purchased from English retailers, to paint the stripes on thousands of planes, literally overnight.
One-third of a million pounds of recycled paper were used to create the snow for the forest set - the largest ever used in a production - and it took four weeks to dress the entire set. The total budget for the miniseries was $120,000,000. Of that, construction costs were $17,000,000.
Prior to production, the various directors were told that the actors were in contact with the veterans they were playing. And if the actors said that the veterans disapproved or disagreed with something in the script, it would have to be changed. Many of the actors frequently got themselves taken out of certain scenes after the respective veterans said they weren't there for the event in question.
Jimmy Fallon, who had a brief appearance as 2nd Lt. George C. Rice in episode 5, revealed on his talk show that even though his appearance involved driving a military Jeep, he did not know how to drive a stick shift. Fallon stated that during filming, the Jeep he was driving had to be hand pushed by crew members. Sound was later added to make it appear that he was driving.
The title of the series (and of Stephen Ambrose's book) is from William Shakespeare's "Henry V": "This story[of the battle] shall the good man teach his son, And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by From this day to the ending of the world But we in it shall be remembered We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. For he today that sheds his blood with me Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, This day shall gentle his condition."
The series was screened at Fort Cambell, KY in Aug 2001 to members of the 101st Airborne Division just a few weeks before the attacks of 9/11. Several characters from the film, and the actors who portrayed them met with the currently serving Screaming Eagles, including Bill Guarnere, Carwood Lipton, and Don Malarkey. Bill Guarnere even danced the Jitterbug despite only having one leg. 18 months later, the 101st deployed and participated in the invasion of Iraq.
According to Matt Hickler (O'Keefe), because the on-set hours were so long, actors frequently just slept around the set. He jokes that while on the concentration camp set, himself, Ron Livingston and James Madio went to sleep at the top of a lookout tower. They later woke to find out that an Assistant Director had been frantically searching for them for two hours.
Damian Lewis claims that when he was waiting to go into his audition, the actor in front of him was almost identical-looking to the real Dick Winters. Convinced that actor would be chosen, he was surprised when the same man came up to him and congratulated him after the audition was over.
The original script called for Lipton to be cold and hostile towards Lt Jones (Colin Hanks's character). But Donnie Wahlberg claims that the real Lipton said he got on very well with the man in real life - and played the scene that way.
The site of the actual Camp Toccoa is now partly occupied by an industrial plant near the highway above Toccoa, Georgia, with the remaining areas now overgrown by a pine forest. A flagpole and monument are located by the highway at what was once the camp's main gate. Locations of former camp streets are denoted by street signs named for personnel and terminology of the paratroops (Currahee Street, for instance) but have a tendency to disappear to souvenir hunters. The winding trail up Mount Currahee is named for Colonel Sink. It is accessible but the last few hundred feet are extremely rough and part of it passes over a bare rock outcropping. Not recommended driving for low-slung vehicles. Communications antennas surmount the crest of Currahee.
The BBC - despite being a co-funder of the series - still had to pay $22.7 million for the broadcast rights. Surprisingly, the channel chose not to show it on its mainstream channel, BBC1, but on its more culturally-oriented BBC2.
The hard shock that many of the paratroopers spoke of when they jumped at Normandy - causing them to lose their leg bags, helmets, and other equipment - was caused by the parachute the troopers were using (not the type shown in the film). That parachute was called a T-1, and as it deployed out of its pack the canopy came out first, then the suspension lines and finally the risers connected to the harness. With this design, by the time all of the lines are fully deployed the canopy has completely filled with air, acting as a brake for the lines, causing the paratrooper to come to an abrupt stop at the end of the deployment. The heavier the paratrooper and the more equipment he was carrying, the more sudden the stop or shock. Current design parachutes deploy in the completely opposite way (lines first, then canopy), greatly reducing the opening shock. On D-Day, not only were the leg bags a new "innovation" that the paratroopers hadn't practiced with, but frequently the aircraft were flying much faster than expected (to avoid flak) and the shock of opening was, therefore, increased.
The dummies were modeled after auto crash test dummies, so they had the proper weight and dimensions, and their joints behaved like human joints. When the dummy took a hit, the electromagnet was released and the dummy crumpled as a human would.
The real Frank Perconte reportedly loved the little boost of fame he got from the miniseries. Towards the end of his life, he was referred to as "Mr Hollywood" by everyone in his rest home. He also remained good friends with James Madio.
The actors playing the replacements were ostracized by the actors who had been at boot camp, in order to generate an authentic feeling of resentment between them. The exception was Robin Laing (Babe Heffron) - who recalls Frank John Hughes taking him under his wing as Bill Guarnere had done to the real Babe.
The Hatfield Aerodrome in Hertfordshire, previously host to part of the Saving Private Ryan (1998) shoot, became the principal location, and sets of the English, Dutch and French sites, including a river and massive dikes, were created there.
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair personally met Steven Spielberg to request that the series be filmed in the UK. In return Spielberg gave Blair's son, 'Euan Blair (I)', a job as a runner in the production.
In the series, Joe Liebgott (Ross McCall) states that he wants to go home after the war and run a taxi service. In real life, Liebgott was a barber by trade. This is reflected in the first episode's opening montage of the paratroopers getting ready for the D-Day jump, where Liebgott can be briefly seen shaving another soldier's head.
Breaking down the top acting parts cast by nationality, there are 59 cast members from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 29 from the United States, 12 from Germany and 1 from South Africa.
Neal McDonough brought a bottle of whiskey in to boot camp with him and hid the contents in his canteen. This unfortunately meant that during the training, he wasn't able to drink too much from it. He joked that the rest of the actors were impressed that he apparently didn't need to hydrate.
When the real Bill Guarnere visited the set, Mark Huberman (Les Hashey) asked him what he thought of his character. When Guarnere replied he didn't like him, Huberman claims that Frank John Hughes never spoke to him on set again afterwards. Though Hughes did clarify that it was for the sake of method acting.
Damien Lewis put effort into working out prior to going to boot camp, since Dick Winters was famously one of the best athletes of Easy Company. Lewis estimated that of the approximately 50 actors who went to boot camp, he was the tenth best at exercise.
The white "PT gear" (physical training) tee-shirts worn in the first episode and seen again in the closing scenes of the last episode with the parachutist and the legend "U.S. Paratroops - Camp Toccoa, GA". are exact reproductions of the ones worn during training. The Stephens County museum in Toccoa has an original on display as well as uniforms, Normandy maps, and other Airborne exhibits. The originals were printed with black ink, while reproductions sold at the museum as a fund-raiser are in a very dark blue and have a small copyright legend at the bottom right of the design.
The battle at Brercourt Manor shows Buck Compton throwing a grenade at a soldier's chest and it exploding on contact. This did happen in reality - only it was actually the soldier's head rather than the chest.
David Schwimmer had to go into hospital during boot camp to get treatment for a knee injury. He reportedly returned with a bag full of sweets and naughty magazines, snuck under the watchful eye of Dale Dye.
David Schwimmer portrays Capt. Herbert M. Sobel, and filmed his scenes while on hiatus from Friends (1994). In that TV series, his on-screen father is portrayed by Elliott Gould, who in A Bridge Too Far (1977) portrayed Col. Stout, a character based on Col. Robert F. Sink, and Sobel's direct superior officer.
Bart Ruspoli (Ed Tipper) had to miss the first day of boot camp in order to undergo make-up and prosthetics tests for the eventual scene where his character would get an eye blown off. It was Ron Livingston's job to train him how to assemble an M1 rifle when he joined the others.
Rick Gomez had a longer audition process than the others. He had to fly back out to New York immediately afterwards to do a play he was committed to. He described waiting outside and hearing the casting director bickering with Tom Hanks - before calling him back in and having him go through more screen tests and readings that were usually reserved for second call backs.
Joe Liebgott was much older than the other Easy Company men, being 30 when the war ended. His actor Ross McCall was 24 during filming. It was the opposite with Bull Randleman and Buck Compton whose actors were over ten years older than their characters.
Damien Lewis claimed that when he came to audition he saw the real Dick Winters sitting next to an actor who was a near perfect lookalike. Lewis was never introduced to the actor or learned why he was not cast.
Renee Lemaire was only given a passing mention in Stephen Ambrose's book. During pre-production, the writers became familiar with her story; she was a native of Bastogne who worked as a nurse in Brussels, and was visiting family when the battle struck. When the aid station was bombed, she evacuated six people from the burning building and died trying to save a seventh. As she was at a different aid station to the one Eugene Roe kept going back and forth to, it's unknown if they ever met. Producers however wanted to feature her as a character anyway.
Richard Speight Jr fell badly ill while filming, due to contracting a parasite in the food served by catering. He comments that when he returned to the United States, he'd lost so much weight that his friends asked if he'd taken heroin.
The real life Donald Malarkey and Warren Muck were good friends with Frederick Niland, a fellow paratrooper in the 101st Airborn. Niland was the soldier that Matt Damon's character was loosely based off in Saving Private Ryan (1990), another World War II project that Exec. Producer Steven Spielberg was involved in.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
In "Day Of Days" when the company first attacks the German gun position at Brecourt, there appears to be some kind of cinematic error when it looks as though an American soldier throws a grenade and it explodes upon hitting a fleeing German soldier. Grenades don't explode on contact; they have timed fuses. However, this actually happened: 'Buck Compton' had been an All-American catcher for UCLA and threw that grenade at the enemy with no arc and it exploded as soon as it struck.