"The comparisons with Saving Private Ryan are inevitable; we're aware of that," Hanks says. "But this is something very different. Saving Private Ryan tells a fictitious story over the course of seven days in June. With Band of Brothers we have the luxury of scope and of time and we are presenting a very different encapsulation of what the war must have been like for someone who survived it from 1944 to 1945."

Yet some of the similarities make it apparent that Hanks and Spielberg long ago mapped out Band of Brothers to dovetail with its predecessor. Careful watchers of the first film, for instance, will recall that Private James Ryan (played by Matt Damon) was, like the men of Easy Company, part of the 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. In effect, this makes Band of Brothers the real story of what the fictional Ryan presumably endured behind Nazi lines before hooking up with Tom Hanks' Captain John Miller. Which makes the whole thing nice history, but an even better story - which is what audiences are really responding to in all the WWII films.

As Hanks noted at the Band of Brothers première at Utah Beach in Normandy on June 6, Easy Company was made up of ordinary guys with names like Babe, Moose, and Shifty - guys who were asked to do the impossible, and delivered. The Normandy première was a near impossible feat in itself. Forty-seven of the 51 surviving Easy Company veterans attended the screening - American Airlines partnered with HBO to provide round-trip transportation and accommodations to vets and family members from their hometowns to Paris - which took place in a 70,000-square-foot tent erected on the beach as a temporary theater.