I. Opening Thoughts
At first, I was going to title this article “What Would it Take to Make The Last Full Measure?”, but we all know what it would take: money, lots and lots of money. We know the interest level is there, after seeing the glowing reviews and remarks regarding the release of the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut, as well as the Civil War’s 150th Anniversary being commemorated from 2011-2015. The problem we have here is the immense budget it would take to finance, somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million, the same amount it took to make the prequel. With Ted Turner losing so much money at the initial box office failure, he is probably not interested in taking another gamble, because if he was, he might have done so already. Perhaps, if someone came up with around $30 million, he would match it, but of course, that person or group is elusive.
The only way this film gets made is if we prove to that mystery man out there that this project can be successful after all, either as a three-hour movie (any more than that would spell doom, if it does not already) or television mini-series event. With To Appomattox, an upcoming creation to television, promising to be all the rage in 2013, I would lean towards a feature film. This has its trouble, and will no doubt be mocked by the same people who balked at a three-hour and forty minute Gods and Generals in 2003. Would this project too, be killed before it even reached the silver screen? Or would it be looked upon as the necessary completion to the all-important Civil War trilogy, a more fitting statement? The one and only way to find out is to get the ball rolling and the juices flowing, which I hope this article will somehow do. We all know that getting the cast of thousands would not be difficult because of the never-ending devotion of Civil War reenactors, who pay their own way just to help accomplish something in the name of education. Aside from the aforementioned money, there is also a problem with the casting, because of course, as fans of the two films, we would want to see actor reprisals. Due to the age gap between films, this is easier said than done, but I shall elaborate further later on.
“…I sat next to [Ted] Turner all day, when we filmed the Vaudeville sequence [in Gods and Generals], that he made his cameo in, and so I talked to him pretty much all day, and one of the things he said was, “If we break even, or even if we don’t lose too much money, as soon as we’re finished, we’ll start The Last Full Measure,” but of course, it lost a lot of money. I’ve often thought, even while we were filming it, that it would have made a better mini-series, like Band of Brothers, because there is so much information. It’s great for someone who loves the Civil War, who is an aficionado, and reenactors will watch anything, and even though I’m not a reenactor, I will watch anything on the Civil War.”- Patrick Gorman (March 26, 2011)
“…the thing is, there were mistakes made with Gods and Generals that I would not allow to happen again. If a film is going to be made from The Last Full Measure, I will have much more involvement or there simply won’t be a film…That’s the other thing I hear, and I get letters on this literally every day, people want to know (which was why I put the note on my website) when the third movie is coming out, and it’s like they’re waiting for the shoe to drop because the story needs to be completed. I’ve had people chew me out and say, “Why aren’t you making the third film?” as though somehow I am stopping this. Gods and Generals cost $60 million to make, and if someone comes up with $60 million, fine, let’s talk. But so far it hasn’t happened.”- Jeff Shaara (January 24, 2011)
“…So, for people who say that the odds are long, therefore you will never see it, is just silly. People who make that statement are just ignorant. I work on it every day. You know, maybe it won’t get made in my lifetime, maybe it will be made after my lifetime, and maybe it will never be made, we don’t know. What we do know, is that sometimes, these forces line up and these movies get made, but they do not get made with defeatist attitudes. They do not get made when you don’t suit up and go on the battlefield. They get made because you believe it can be made, you believe in the possibility of getting it made, and you will it into existence, by finding the right financing team, the right distributor, and the right actors who agree with you. That is how my two Civil War movies were made, and that is exactly how The Last Full Measure will be made. What I can tell the fans of the film and those who hope the movie will be made, is that there is not a week that passes where I do not work on it, and one of two things will happen: either I will die, or the film will be made. But, until I die, I will never cease my efforts to get the last part of the trilogy made.”- Ron Maxwell (July 24, 2011)
III. Production Notes
So there you have it, the “long and the short of it”, so to speak: the dream of making LFM is certainly not dead, but perhaps it is much more complex than we ever could have imagined. I had to go back and re-read the Jeff Shaara interview, and there is a lot more there than I even posted above. To me, he expressed his disappointment and even anger, to a degree. I have no idea who owns the rights to the film project itself, but I would presume it is Shaara. If the film is made, then the filmmakers would have to work something out with him. If this is the case, then LFM would be more like Gettysburg than G & G, because the former was almost word for word, in most instances, with late Michael Shaara’s novel The Killer Angels. Because Gettysburg seems to have a larger fan base, and much larger audience potential, maybe this is not such a bad thing.
In any sense, pre-production would need to begin very soon, and a realistic release date if that happened would probably be 2015, which would appropriately coincide with the end of the Civil War. Because LFM covers the Overland Campaign, Petersburg, and the surrender at Appomattox, this would not be a bad place to start. Maxwell said that he works on “it” everyday, and I will assume he means the screenplay. If that is the case, then a large chunk of time was just saved, because the script would just need to be finished and edited, as opposed to started from the beginning.
At this point in time, because nearly twenty years have passed since Gettysburg, and eight since Gods and Generals, former cast members reprising their roles will be a very difficult task. Robert Duvall is 80 years old and Martin Sheen is now 71. While Sheen could probably pass for Lee, even at that age, I think an entirely new actor would have to be chosen. Could Stephen Lang, with a hair-dye job and grey beard possibly play his third different character in this, the third and final film? Then comes Tommy Lee Jones to mind, and I could definitely see him as Lee once decked out in the uniform with a beard. He would not need to put on a southern accent, and would also bring some much-needed intensity to a film that will involve the end of the war and fall of the Confederacy.
While I admit I have not read LFM as of yet (hence the reason for the question marks scattered through this section), I know that the major characters are Lee, Chamberlain, and a new addition in Ulysses S. Grant. It may be stretching it, but I think Jeff Daniels needs to reprise his role as Chamberlain, even if he looks older than the part. He, essentially, is this Civil War trilogy, and I would sacrifice that small level of authenticity to have him back. It could also be seen as the war aging and changing him, which happens to almost all soldiers.
As Grant, I can see Russell Crowe in the role (can’t we all?), since he was the original choice to play Thomas Jackson in G & G. But as a superstar who would command major money, that might not be an economically feasible option. After scanning various message boards, the name Josh Brolin also popped up to play Grant, which I would label more realistic, depending on how large a budget the film would receive. Now to something I thought of: what about Orlando Bloom? Put a scruffy beard and Ohio accent on him and I definitely see a Grant there (Bloom is now 34 and Grant was 39 when the war began). He would also attract a younger audience that might not have originally wanted to see a Civil War film. I imagine Lang’s name mentioned for this as well, but I just do not see him there. Does Pickett figure in as a prominent character with more than a couple of lines? If so, then he can continue where he left off from Gettysburg in that role. What about Sherman, is he in this as well? Lang could fit their too, which shows his versatility.
For the supporting cast, I would very much like to see Bruce Boxleitner back as Longstreet, because with a beard, you really would not notice much of an age difference, if there is any to begin with (having spoken to him at the Premiere, I would say that he looks very good). Chris Conner is also still young enough to come back as John Wilkes Booth, so we can see the completion of his transformation from angry actor to assassin. Though he had limited screen time in the director’s cut of G & G, Christian Kauffman played Lincoln well enough to be back for the sequel (heck, I can even see Lang there too). C. Thomas Howell and Brian Mallon back in their roles as Chamberlain’s brother and General Hancock? I would not have it any other way. I would like to see Patrick Gorman back as well, but in a much different role than General Hood. I would also, most definitely, want to see Mira Sorvino return as Fanny Chamberlain, because I have heard she would have some decent screen-time if the book became a movie. Because Buster Kilrain was killed off in the second film, where would Kevin Conway fit? I would want back him in a different capacity. Could we also get Jeremy Irons involved in some way? He is one of my favorite actors, and when I see him, the word “warrior” always comes to mind. What about Dennis Quaid too, Bo Brinkman’s cousin, who has worked with Maxwell previously in The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia?
All in all, there is definitely a lot of work to be done here, but that is why we have casting directors! I am glad this is not my job, because what an ordeal it would be. Below would be my final cast list of some of the characters. I hope to read LFM very soon, but until then, this is what I have drawn from the messy paragraphs above:
Robert E. Lee….. Tommy Lee Jones
Joshua L. Chamberlain….. Jeff Daniels
Ulysses S. Grant….. Orlando Bloom
[Special Appearance ala Sam Elliot in Gettysburg]….. Dennis Quaid
James Longstreet….. Bruce Boxleitner
George Pickett/ William T. Sherman [?]….. Stephen Lang
Fanny Chamberlain….. Mira Sorvino
John Wilkes Booth….. Chris Conner
Winfield Scott Hancock….. Brian Mallon
Thomas Chamberlain….. C. Thomas Howell
Walter Taylor….. Bo Brinkman
Abraham Lincoln….. Christian Kauffman
[?]….. Patrick Gorman
[?]….. Kevin Conway
V. Final Thoughts
Now that my manifesto is complete, I would like to invite the readers of this blog to make their own casting selections in the comment section below. Perhaps yours will even be more accurate, if you have read the novel and have a feel for it. I really wish that I had the time to sit down and read it, but maybe I can accomplish it the last week of August, when I have some time off before school starts up again. It was a lot of fun casting this movie, the same amount of fun it is dreaming that this film can be made. It is out of our hands, not just we as fans, but Maxwell’s and Shaara’s as well. The two people who want this film made the most have to wait for a door to open in the financing department. We have waited many years, and even if this film does get made, we will wait some more, but either way you look at it, these next for years are now or never for The Last Full Measure.
(NEW!) VI. Jeff Shaara Responds to Article
“…I own 50% of the film rights to the book. Ron Maxwell owns the other 50%. Thus, for any film to be made, we would both be included in the contract. I respect Ron’s passion for seeing LFM put onto film. I think LFM is a far better story than Gods and Generals, and would make a better film. But keeping a positive outlook isn’t the primary requirement to getting this film made. I continue to believe that with the box-office (and critical) failure of G& G, a golden opportunity was lost for all of us, that Ted Turner was definitely “the man” who should have put the final capstone on the trilogy. Now, we’ll see. My fingers are crossed.” (8/4/11)