Tom Hanks offers Connor Ratliff a dead serious explanation for ‘Band of Brothers’ firing gaffe in the latest ‘Dead Eyes’ episode
Actor/comedian Connor Ratliff created a podcast to solve an incredulous, two decade-long mystery: why did Tom Hanks fire him from HBO’s mini-series Band of Brothers for his “dead eyes” in 2001? In over 30 episodes, Connor was joined by actors and friends to reflect on their experiences, discuss rejection, and talk about showbiz. All three seasons have culminated toward the ultimate tête-à-tête between Connor and Tom Hanks to finally set the record straight.
Up until episode 31, we’ve heard Connor thoroughly unpack his side of the story and the small role he was abruptly uncast from. Tom joined Connor in a sincere, 88-minute episode for an illuminating conversation. Interestingly enough, Tom said he has no recollection of the “dead eyes” encounter, yet owned up to the alleged gaffe since he directed the episode, wrote the episode Connor was cast in, and co-created Band of Brothers with Steven Spielberg.
If this is your first time listening to “Dead Eyes,” Connor recommends listening to episodes 1, 3, and 6 for additional background before streaming his conversation with Tom. His producers also consider episodes 2, 10, 13, 20, and 27 as essential listens.
Tom was “aghast” to learn of the podcast’s existence from his kids and explained the pressures and difficulties faced by directors expected to make hundreds of correct decisions on the fly.
When Connor further pressed Tom about the comment, he said it sounded like something he would have said, “Because it’s been said about everybody. I mean, it’s been said about me.” But it could have been any number of reasons why actors were not hired during castings or fired right away. Tom said, “And if someone had also said to me, ‘Well, he’s already cast.’ I would’ve said, ‘Well, can we replace him?’ I would’ve said that. And I’ve done it and think it’s been said about me on occasion as well.” But was this enough closure for Connor?
Connor criticized how the “Dead Eyes” message was relayed to him, to which Tom replied they “should have their kneecaps broken because that is not allowed.” According to Tom, these sorts of private “inner sanctum” conversations between directors are commonplace and should be kept off-the-record.
Tom was presented with Connor’s headshot from 2001. His reaction was priceless: “These are not dead eyes. Can I just say that right now from this 8×10 black-and-white?” In addition to the “Dead Eyes” discussion, Tom had plenty of additional stories to share with Connor.
This episode reminds us of Gimlet Media’s “Heavyweight,” a podcast helping people find resolves to burning questions and make peace with the past.
Fortunately, the Band of Brothers bummer did not stop Connor from acting. He went on to add The Chris Gethard Show, Search Party, UCB, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and more to his resume. Hear Connor and Tom Hanks on “Dead Eyes” episode 31, now streaming wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts. This series is brought to you by Headgum.