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Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg wartime series set in Norfolk finally happening

PUBLISHED: 15:58 11 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:58 11 December 2019

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg whose WWII series Masters of the Air is inspired Norfolk-based US airmen. Pictures: PA Wire

Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg whose WWII series Masters of the Air is inspired Norfolk-based US airmen. Pictures: PA Wire

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A multi-million pound miniseries from Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg following the story of two US airmen based in Norfolk looks set to be made for Apple TV.

US airmen with the 100th Bomb Group who were based at Thorpe Abbotts near Diss  from 1943. Picture: 100th Bomb Group Memorial MuseumUS airmen with the 100th Bomb Group who were based at Thorpe Abbotts near Diss from 1943. Picture: 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum

First mooted as a follow-up to the pair's previous hugely successful Second World War series, Band of Brothers and The Pacific, Masters of the Air, the third of a planned trilogy from HBO, had appeared grounded reportedly over its high production costs.

But the drama, based on historian Donald L. Miller's non fiction book about American bomber pilots of the US Eighth Air Force, now looks set to instead be made as a flagship series for the tech giant's new Netflix-style streaming service, Apple TV+.

From left, John Orloff, scriptwriter; Don Miller, author of Masters of the Air; and Kirk Saduski, executive in charge of production at Playtone, Tom Hanks' production company, at the 100th Bomb Group Museum at Thorpe Abbotts in 2017. Picture: Denise BradleyFrom left, John Orloff, scriptwriter; Don Miller, author of Masters of the Air; and Kirk Saduski, executive in charge of production at Playtone, Tom Hanks' production company, at the 100th Bomb Group Museum at Thorpe Abbotts in 2017. Picture: Denise Bradley

Mr Miller, scriptwriter John Orloff, who worked on Band of Brothers, and Kirk Saduski, an executive from Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks' production company Playtone, toured of the region in 2017 visiting the 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum at Thorpe Abbotts, near Diss.

At the time they said it would focus on the aircrew and the ground crew of the so-called 'Bloody Hundredth', part of the Eighth Air Force stationed at RAF Thorpe Abbotts from 1943.

Squadron Leaders John 'Bucky' Egan, left, and Gale 'Buck' Cleven two of the service men based at Thorpe Abbotts on which the series will be based. Picture: 100th Bomb Group Memorial MuseumSquadron Leaders John 'Bucky' Egan, left, and Gale 'Buck' Cleven two of the service men based at Thorpe Abbotts on which the series will be based. Picture: 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum

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Mr Orloff said: "The 100th is wonderfully representative of a larger story of all the airmen. They had a particularly rough time at the beginning of the war and they were led at various times by some very dynamic characters."

Kirk Saduski, executive in charge of production at Playtone, in the control tower at the 100th Bomb Group Museum at Thorpe Abbotts in 2017. Picture: Denise BradleyKirk Saduski, executive in charge of production at Playtone, in the control tower at the 100th Bomb Group Museum at Thorpe Abbotts in 2017. Picture: Denise Bradley

Two of the main characters in the series could be John "Bucky" Egan and Gale "Buck" Cleven, squadron leaders who were shot down on missions within days of each other in 1943 before being reunited in a German prisoner of war camp.

Museum trustee and volunteer Sophie Towne said: "This series has been long mooted and it would be wonderful to see the history brought to life in a big budget drama. It would bring it to a whole new audience, people who might never visit a military museum.

"When Band of Brothers came out there was a big spike in tourism in Normandy so we would hope that a high profile drama like this would benefit lots of different museums in the area, not just us."

MORE: Did Tom Hanks visited museum in secret - as his Toy Story character Woody

It has been suggested that Tom Hanks may himself have made an incognito visit to the museum a few years ago, possibly signing his name as Woody in the visitor's book after his Toy Story character.

The 100th Bomb Group who were based at Thorpe Abbotts flew missions in  B17 Flying Fortress aircraft. Picture: 100th Bomb Group Memorial MuseumThe 100th Bomb Group who were based at Thorpe Abbotts flew missions in B17 Flying Fortress aircraft. Picture: 100th Bomb Group Memorial Museum

However it is unlikely that the series will be filmed at Thorpe Abbotts.

Ms Towne said: "We have only had quite small things filmed at the museum in the past. I'm not sure how suitable it would be as a site location for what would be such a big production. Film crews can be quite intrusive and it would probably be over quite a prolonged period."

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