If you ask Graham Yost—prolific TV producer with a resume including Band of Brothers, The Pacific, and Justified—accuracy in on-screen military portrayals is a relatively new phenomenon, similar to how tech ranging from the latest hacker tools to futuristic autonomous bots have recently become increasingly grounded in reality. Ground zero for this idea won’t surprise any fans of this particular entertainment genre.
“In some historical military films, there have been some training of actors, but I think a lot of this really starts with Dale Dye and [Saving] Private Ryan ,” Yost says during ATX TV Festival’s panel on modern military television. “That set a template for people, and we wouldn’t have done Band without it. In fact, when the cast of Band gets together every year, the day they pick for their reunion is the first day of bootcamp. That’s when they felt they came together as a unit.”
Of course, even projects like Band and Saving Private Ryan ran up against limits to realism despite lauded end-products. Even if Yost and others could set up months-long bootcamps for actors and get prop and VFX teams to recreate gear and tactics as accurately as possible, historical wars inherently had the sad hurdle of firsthand accounts increasingly being inaccessible. Donnie Wahlberg (Carwood Lipton in Band) was uniquely fortunate that he could connect with his real-life inspiration, Yost recalls. But the same approach to research and accuracy couldn’t happen for The Pacific, and it gets increasingly difficult for any newly proposed period projects as 20th-century wars and veterans from WWII to Vietnam and Korea age.