Fraternity ‘Brothers’

Cudlitz barbecue brings HBO group together annually

The story they told is unforgettable. So was the experience of bringing “Band of Brothers” to the screen a decade ago.

The bonds among those who worked on HBO’s 10-part WWII mini are so strong that even 10 years after its premiere thesp Michael Cudlitz still hosts an annual “Brothers” barbeque reunion bash at his home in the Valley. It’s so well-attended by those who labored on the mini that he couldn’t give it up if he wanted to, which he doesn’t.

“Every year around January and February I start to get the calls asking when it’s going to be,” Cudlitz says. “On a lot of shoots when you finish up, you say you’re going to stay in touch but you drift apart. On this one a lot of us drifted into a very natural continuing friendship.”

History was initially unkind to “Brothers” in that its debut, on Sept. 9, 2001, came less than 48 hours before 9/11. The harrowing carnage of modern-day terrorism overshadowed the inspirational stories of men who triumphed over evil in another era.

But Cudlitz’s reunion bash is usually held in late March or early April, to commemorate the period in 2000 when the “Brothers” stars — including Damian Lewis, Scott Grimes, Ron Livingston, Michael Fassbender, Neal McDonough and Jason O’Mara — were shipped out by exec producers Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks to an out-of-commission airbase in Hatfield, England, for two weeks of grueling boot-camp training.

The thesps were put in the hands of Dale Dye, a Marine captain turned showbiz military consultant, who got them into shape to play the heroic Army paratroopers of the famed Easy Company. Cudlitz, now starring in TNT’s cop drama “Southland,” knew “Brothers” was going to be special when his call sheet came in the form of a 1940s-style military service summons signed by Dye.

Throughout the training, they referred to one another only by their character names, and they were schooled in the specifics of their service rank.

“When it was over we were ready to portray these incredible guys,” Cudlitz says. “The whole shoot was an amazing experience.”

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