Graham Yost is a genius, and I know that very well because we worked together on ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘Boomtown’
He is well known for his work on TV, film amongst many other things. He can direct, write, and produce.
Graham has a busy schedule but very kindly, spared some of his busy schedule to answer some interview questions.
Thank you for your time, it is very much appreciated.
I was born and raised in Toronto, Canada. My father, Elwy Yost, produced and hosted a TV show called Saturday Night At The Movies. Our family loved movies and books. If I had told my parents I wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, they would’ve said, “Are you sure you don’t want to be a writer?”
Have you always known that you wanted to be a writer?
In a word, yes. Always.
Was screenwriting always a love of yours? What drew you to it?
I wanted to be a writer, and always wanted to be in movies and TV. Bernard Slade was a family friend, and he left Canada to write in Hollywood (and later for Broadway), so I knew it might be possible. The inspiration was there for me.
You have written some impressive screenplays. Mission to Mars, Speed and Broken Arrow to name just three, but it is your TV career I would like to focus on. How did you meet Mr Hanks to carve your path onto ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ , ‘Band of Brothers’ and ‘The Pacific’
In 1996, my agent Carin Sage called to say Tom Hanks was doing a miniseries about the Apollo space program and was I interested. I was big fan of the US space program – and Tom Hanks — so I said yes. I was fortunate enough to be assigned the episode about the tragic fire in the Apollo 1 that killed three astronauts. Tom liked what I did and I joined the project full-time as a producer, and got to direct an episode (Hour 5: Spider).
“From the Earth to the Moon” is such an incredible piece of television. You wrote Apollo One and Mare Tranquilitatis. Where do you start with writing about history making events. Did you encounter any problems while doing so
I became, I think, a better writer on Earth to the Moon, because I had to become one. I was writing about a tragedy in the space program and I had to do a good job. I worked very hard on it. Read as much as I could. Talked a lot to our astronaut advisor Dave Scott (he was the Commander of Apollo 15). I felt that I had a big responsibility to do a good job.
How did you get involved with Band of Brothers? Was it as simple as being asked by Mr Hanks?
I reached out to Erik Bork and asked if there were any open scripts on Band and thank goodness he said there was.
One of the most beautiful things I have consistently read about, is Bill Guarnere and Babe Heffron on set. Did you sit with them as many did, listening to their stories
I only met Bill and Babe when we all gathered in Paris and Normandy for the premiere in 2001. I went up to Bill in the bar one night and said, “Mr. Guanere, I wrote the episode where you lose your leg,” and he said, “It’s your fault!”
The episodes that I’d like to talk about are Episode 4: Replacements. This episode had a cameo from one of Easy Company. Babe Heffron. Did it change how you approached the episode knowing he was waving a flag as an extra in it?
I was only about to get to England for the prep for Part 7. So, I have to admit that until right now, I didn’t know Babe was in Band at all!
You also wrote Episode 7, “The Breaking Point”.such a traumatic episode from every angle. We open with the veterans telling how they were never the same again, that is clearly etched on their faces. The trauma continues with death all around them, Toye and Guarnere losing a leg, Buck Compton coming off the line, Muck and Penkala deaths. Malarkey’s reaction to his friends death and issues surrounding Dyke. The episode does not let up. How do you manage such an episode, knowing that you need to own the truth, do it justice but also not inflict further distress to the veterans?
When writing episodes there is a massive responsibility. I felt that increase ten-fold while writing on Band.
I know that people think that Part 7 is a dark episode. Certainly the men remembered being in the woods outside Foy, subjected to brutal artillery bombardments, as the lowest point of the war for them. But I also saw a lot of positive in it – how Lipton held the company together, gaining a battlefield promotion to lieutenant; how Spiers took over command of the company in the middle of the battle to retake Foy; how they all did everything they could to take care of one another.
Erik Bork said in his interview “writer Graham Yost told me once that it might have been me that suggested (episode 7) it be from Liptons point of view. I’ll take his word for it.” – is that true
It’s true. He said, basically, “We have Donnie Wahlberg playing Lip, and we haven’t focused an episode on him, see if that could work.” Then I talked to Lipton and he mentioned that the company had a weak leader in that period, but that the company held together. I asked him who kept the company together and when the phone was silent, I knew it was him. And all the other men confirmed it. I thought that story could make a good episode.
When you were writing your episodes, did the veterans have any input into the language that you used?
We wanted it to sound true to its era, but without being precious about it. As for profanity, some of the Easy Co vets complained about how much we used the F- bomb. But then you’d get one of them alone and they admitted they used it all the time.
Do you have a favourite episode of Band of Brothers and why
I am very proud of Part 7. I think it is pretty much the best thing I have written. But I would also go with John Orloff`s Part 9: Why we fight. Outstanding work by John, the cast and the director David Frankel.
Most that watch Band of Brothers have a solid love and respect for Major Winters. Mine is different. Mine is Captain Sobel. I always think there is more to this man than we ever knew and I’d love to find out. Who is yours? Which veteran has had the most impact with you?
I can answer that very easily.
For me, it can’t be anyone but Carwood Lipton. He gave me so much of his time, was so honest and modest. I was honored to have gotten the opportunity to write about him
Thank you for taking the time with this interview Graham. It has been such a pleasure to do.
Thank you for your body of work that you have graced us with already and good luck with all future endeavours.