SWINDON actor Mark Lawrence has landed a big break working with movie legends Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg on epic TV series Band of Brothers.

Hanks and Spielberg are executive producers of the $120 million 10-part mini-series which has taken the US by storm, and hits British TV screens on BBC2 from Friday.

"I went through five auditions to get the part and one of them was a read-through with Tom Hanks,'' said Mark, a former Dorcan School pupil, who is still based in his home town.

Band of Brothers is the real-life story of an American World War Two Army unit, Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, based on the best-seller by Stephen Ambrose.

Mark plays Bill Dukeman, an American airborne paratrooper, starring alongside David Schwimmer who plays Ross in Friends. "David plays the leader of the men who shaped the company,'' said Mark. "I'm a lucky boy to have worked with some of my heroes.''

Mark said that a lot of research went into the series and he himself met up the real Bill Dukeman's family to find out more.

"It was eerie at first but they were fantastic and so proud of the guy,'' said Mark. " It is very emotional to play a real person and you have to be careful not to dishonour their memory. But there was a lot of thought and talk before any action on film.''

Tom Hanks directed the fifth episode. Mark said: "He said to me that he didn't like the script and what did I want to do. He's an actors' director and not that technical which means he gets the best out of people.''

Mark also met Steven Spielberg.

"He showed me how to fake a kick-back on a gun.'' Mark said.

Before they started shooting, Mark and his fellow actors were sent to boot camp for a week. "It was April last year and we had 12-hour night marches, learned how to salute properly, how to march and disengage a gun. I was in the best shape I have ever been."

The series started being broadcast in the US just two days before the hijacked planes were flown into the World Trade Centre in New York.

"It really brought it home to us what these people had sacrificed,'' said Mark.

The series follows Easy Company from training, all the way through the Battle of the Bulge until they take Hitler's Eagle's Nest at Berchtesgaden.

Mark attended the premiere on the anniversary of D-Day (June 6) and met all the veterans who had served in the crack rifle company.

Mark even took his mum on set to meet Tom Hanks. Both she and Mark will be glued to their TV sets on Friday at 8.30pm when it will be broadcast.

Mark was inspired to act through his grandfather who was a professional standup comedian. "He worked with Bert Fluck, Diana Dors' dad,'' said Mark.

Mark went on to study drama at the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York.

He returned to London and got parts in fringe theatre and TV work on CrimeWatch and Family Affairs before his big break.