Austin Butler presents new show “Masters of the Air”
Stars of new WW2 drama Masters of the Air, Austin Butler and Callum Turner, spoke about playing real pilots at the limited series premiere in Los Angeles, where they were joined by co-star Barry Keoghan and executive producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg were accompanied. (11th January)
Author David McCullough (“John Adams”) had some advice for historian Donald Miller when it was announced that Miller's epic tome about the 100th Bomber Group, “Masters of the Air,” would be a $250 million Apple TV+ feature. would be a nine-episode series (streaming). Fridays).
“He said, 'Don, you have to be careful, make sure it doesn't go Hollywood!'” Miller says with a laugh. But he had previously worked with producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg on HBO's 2010 adaptation of his book “The Pacific,” “so I had a lot of confidence.”
Miller's book tells the story of the young men of the bomber group, whose risky missions over Germany contributed to the turning point in World War II. The series, also based on Air Force records and interviews with 100th veterans, sticks largely to facts about the lives of its American protagonists, with the occasional composite character thrown in to keep the story moving.
But Miller provides some additional background on some of the themes and issues in “Masters of the Air.”
Are the characters in “Masters of the Air” real people?
Miller says that all of the series' main cast were real World War II veterans, particularly the lead roles, which included Maj. Gale Cleven (Austin Butler), Maj. John Egan (Callum Turner), Lt. Curtis Biddick (Barry Keoghan), Lt. Harry Crosby (Anthony Boyle), Maj. Robert Rosenthal (Nate Mann) and Lt. Roy Claytor (Sawyer Spielberg).
“The big difference between this film and 'The Pacific' is that a lot of these veterans were still alive at the time and the actors could call them, or we had them on set and they told us what really happened,” says Miller . “So I was practically the only one who knew or interviewed many of these real veterinarians. So the actors came to me and I helped them as best I could.”
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Did the British and American soldiers really have antagonistic relationships?
Miller says that many veterans he interviewed “had good relationships with RAF (Royal Air Force) pilots with whom they met while on holiday in London.” But tensions among members of the Allied forces were common occurred were real.
“It was mostly because the British thought American aviators were being pampered,” he says. “The Americans were paid much better, they wore smart uniforms, looked a little more dashing and they seemed to have an advantage in the competition for women. Money in your pockets, Sinatra records, the latest popular culture, foreign accents, those dashing Americans, the exoticism of it.”
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How dangerous and deadly were these B-17 bomber missions?
“I don’t think there’s ever been such fierce fighting in history as these dogfights,” Miller says. “You're stuck in an aluminum tube that's so thin a man could punch a hole in it with a screwdriver. Germans (fighter pilots) targeted the pilot and co-pilot, and many pilots were decapitated by gunfire.”
Even if the plane didn't fall victim to anti-aircraft or enemy fire, your nerves would be frayed if you had survived a bombing raid just once, let alone dozens of times, he says. “The noise is terrible, there are no seats, things are flying everywhere. And it already smelled of cigarette smoke and cordite and the smell of human blood. And you couldn't avoid it; There are no foxholes in the sky.”
Were American prisoners of war really left to fend for themselves in German camps?
According to Miller, the “Masters” scenes showed exactly how Egan, Cleven and other captured bomber group members built homemade radios and made plans to escape from German Luftwaffe camps.
“Of course, many Jewish (American) soldiers were afraid of being dragged out of the barracks and shot, but that only happened if you tried to escape,” he says. “On the whole, you were left alone by your commanders to organize your day.” Most of the time they tried to take on the thugs, as they called them, by making escape plans like those seen in The Great Escape or Hogan's Heroes. But as the war neared its end, tension reigned. If the SS (Nazi secret police) took over the camps, as they feared, there was no telling what would happen.”
What stories about the 100th Bomber Group were left out?
“Well, the series is over nine hours long, but with such a complex story, you still have to leave things out to move the story forward,” he says. “But I wanted to record something about the little-discussed treatment of the aviators by the Swiss.”
Miller says a number of Swiss officials had Nazi ties, and when Allied airmen landed in Switzerland, which was neutral in the war, they were deported to high mountain camps. “We wanted to tell the story of the airmen who suffered in these Swiss camps. The boys felt really helpless, it was a terrible and unknown part of the war but we couldn't cope with it.”