I thought we would take a tiny break on this blog from all the Copperhead coverage, and what better way to do that than by posting an interview with a crew member from Gods and Generals? Yes, friends, just when you thought we could not find one more person involved with the film that was willing to tell of their experiences, I was able to come into contact with Donald Eaton, who served as the First Assistant Director to Ron Maxwell during the production. I asked him for an interview, and he most graciously agreed. Donald has been involved in the industry since the early 1980′s, when he worked on several very popular television series, notably Hart to Hart, Paper Dolls, and Moonlighting. All told, he has lended his services to nearly fifty movies or television specials, including a Hallmark film called The Love Letter in 1998, which also involved the Civil War. Of course, the one we are most interested in is Gods and Generals.
For those of you that could not get enough of the Shaara Civil War trilogy, started by father Michael and finished by son Jeff, a set of three books that forever changed the genre of historical fiction, the first installment of Jeff Shaara’s next trilogy on the war that divided a nation will be available on May 29. Titled, A Blaze of Glory, this new trilogy, one book being released in each of the next three years, part of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary, will be set in the Western Theater of the war, a region often shunned by fictional literature and film alike. This will be a stirring new look at the players who won and lost, and fought and died in the west, both major and minor. The official synopsis reads as follows:
Dear Big-Time Hollywood Financiers,
From this year, straight on through to 2015, the United States of America is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the country’s most important event, the Civil War. During those four years, from 1861-1865, nearly 600,000 men gave their lives for various causes, whether it was fighting to keep America united up north, or fighting for states’ rights down south. Never in our history was there more passion exerted over such a small length of time—the stories are endless, not just of the violent and bloody battles, but the individual soldiers that fought in them, and their loved ones at home, anxiously awaiting to hear from them. Though tactics and technology change, the overall scourge of war remains exactly the same. The phrase that we historians and enthusiasts use, “History Repeats Itself”, to which many roll their eyes, has become cliche, but it is true. It is for this reason that we strive to remember the past, however inconvenient or displeasing that may be.
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)
Being early usually pays off, and once again, it did on Friday afternoon. I was one of the first members of the press to arrive at the Premiere, and after we checked in, I noticed Ron Maxwell, who had entered the lobby and was standing and talking to someone. After waiting for him to finish, I walked over and introduced myself, and he knew exactly who I was. We chatted briefly before moving to another location to get some pictures together. I asked if it would be possible to ask a few more questions for my blog (we did an email interview a few weeks ago), and he pointed to some chairs and said, “Sure, let’s have a seat.” I made Jeff take some pictures of us so I had proof that I was actually “working” that afternoon.
Our interview is posted below, but it is what Ron told me after I shut the tape recorder off that I will never forget. He thanked me many times for coming and my enthusiasm for the film (just like I thanked him many times for inviting me!) and then he said that I had been on their radar for a while, and that “…the entire cast knows you, Warner Brothers knows you.” This would have made my day entirely, until he told me that he actually read my article on the importance of the John Wilkes Booth character to the director’s cut of Gods and Generals. This blew me away, because I had wanted him to read it, and was going to email it to him, but because I knew he was going to be busy, I never did, but he still found it anyway. He began by saying, “You got what it’s about.” Before adding, “You have a critical eye. It’s so refreshing that you are free of the political correctness of this generation.” He also went on to wish me good luck in the future as a teacher and historian.
GC: You have waited eight years for this to come out, so what is it like now that the day has finally come?
RM: For the longest time, we were not sure that the director’s cut would ever be released. It’s an unusual director’s cut because when people think in terms of these cuts, you think of maybe ten or fifteen minutes of more material, maximum, organized perhaps in a different way, but for a director’s cut to come out with an additional hour of new material, and that hour totally changes the entire film, reintegrating it, that is a rare event. So, we did not necessarily think that it would ever happen, but we kept that cut under wraps and no one had really seen it other than those who worked on the film. I think if it was not for the coincidence of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, there may not have been a trigger to consider releasing this. But that being the case, about a year and a half ago, Ted Turner decided the timing was right and that we should release the full version that we had scripted, filmed, and edited eight years ago. Happily, those of us who worked on the film, now have the film we really intended on making, and those who have been waiting for it, I know from the blogosphere and internet, and reenactors and history buffs, that there has been a lot of people hoping it would be released at one point, and here it is! I’m thinking over the long run, as one can anticipate these kinds of things, that this will be the definitive version of the film, and this will be the film that people will see going into the decades of the future.
GC: Of all the scenes you added, which is your favorite scene, if you had to choose one?
RM: I don’t know if I have a favorite scene, per se, but what I really appreciate is that, first of all, everything in the film makes more sense now. We’ve restored the historical integrity and continuity of events, number one. Number two, to have the whole Antietam sequence back, which again, the reason it is there and the four battles are there, is that they unify the main characters of Chamberlain, Lee, Longstreet, and Jackson. Antietam was the place where they were all present again. We obviously don’t pretend in this film that it is the battle of Antietam—you could do a whole big movie on just the battle alone, but it is just the grace notes to show where our characters are. Another thing I was gratified to bring back was the whole subplot with John Wilkes Booth, because every time you see him on a stage, that is historically where he was. He was on that stage, in that theater, in that play, playing that role, as he is shown to be. And so we have, in retrospect, and of course, no one knew it at the time, but when we juxtaposed the images of Booth on the stage with the events of the Civil War, you have, in effect, William Shakespeare as a kind of Greek chorus commenting on what is going on in the war, because Booth is playing regicides over and over again. Now, this obviously does not mean that any actor who plays a regicide is going to act it out in real life (laughs), but it is curious that he is given the words of the greatest poet in the English language, and those roles, of Brutus in Julius Caesar, Hamlet in Hamlet, and Macbeth in Macbeth, are the rationale for regicide. They are the most potent rationales for bringing down a tyrant, and he is saying this over and over again, so one must ask the question, did Shakespeare influence him in his ultimate political act? We see him gradually becoming radicalized. The film is over in May of 1863, so that is two years before he assassinates Abraham Lincoln, and he is not yet radicalized to the point, to the act that he ultimately commits, but he is on his way. I think the film accurately portrays him as a totally rational, totally sane, extremely talented, very popular, and very successful matinée idol, who is not just a matinée idol, but also someone who is a highly esteemed Shakespearean classical actor in a long family tradition. His brother Edwin and his father Junius Brutus Booth, were a great tradition of the stage, so he was a kind of like royalty. The equivalent today would be someone like Robert Redford, someone who is a very good actor, and also a matinée idol back in his day, who suddenly becomes an assassin. I think understanding how these things work, which is completely different from justifying political murder, is fascinating, cause obviously the whole exercise in making Gettysburg and Gods and Generals is to go where those people lived, to try to understand what made them tick and what was in their minds, not to bring or hold them up to the judgment of the 21st century, but for us, in this century, to go where they were and to try to illuminate that for ourselves and understand it. So to bring Booth back into it, it really makes the whole film work for me—it kind of locks it in perspective, to have this Greek chorus, the words of Shakespeare, commenting on what is going on in the American Civil War. Finally, we have restored a lot of the tender moments: Jackson and his wife baptizing their baby, Jackson getting his photograph taken, Jackson with his aides-de-camp, and when they are punning and joking around, and when he gets a new uniform; Joshua Chamberlain and his brother, who cannot figure out how to load a musket as quickly as he should, which is a matter of life and death as we later see, when he has to load it quickly when he is on the front lines in the battle of Fredericksburg. All those personal, familial touches, back in the film, humanize the characters and make it work a lot better.
GC: One last question, and it has been beaten to death, I know, so if you don’t want to answer it, that’s okay. The Last Full Measure, any chance at all that it will be made?
RM: This is where I find that I kind of laugh—I laugh at the people who should know better, who say with great authority, “This film will never be made.” Maybe they have a direct line to the Almighty, I don’t (laughs). I know that making Gods and Generals was miraculous, making Gettysburg was miraculous, like any of the films in that genre that we could talk about, whether its Glory, or you name the title, even The Charge of the Light Brigade. These are not films that are talked about. There is nobody at a studio meeting in Hollywood who goes into their weekly meetings and says, “Does anybody have a Civil War project today?” It does not happen that way. 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.
Once again, I thank Ron for taking some time to talk to me. His answer regarding The Last Full Measure was very passionate, and is definitely hopeful. When we were all done, he said, “If we decide to make it, you’ll be the first to know!”
EDIT: Click here to read our second interview!
Over the last few months, as I tried to find a way to come into contact with director Ron Maxwell, I thought about how I would introduce him had I ever got the chance. Well, now that the time has come, just how does one introduce Ron Maxwell? Just take a walk through the town of Gettysburg and you will realize how much this man means to the Civil War community, due to his work on Gettysburg and Gods and Generals. This is a genre of film rarely ever told, and rarely done correctly at that, so it is no wonder why he is such a revered figure. His film career began in the 1970′s, with two made-for-television films, Sea Marks and Verna: USO Girl, which starred Sissy Spacek. From there came Little Darlings (1980), The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981) with Dennis Quaid, Kidco (1984), and The Parent Trap II (1986).
However, it would not be until 1993 with the release of Gettysburg did his name become world-renown. The project was a massive undertaking that took nearly two decades to come to fruition. The result of this was the last of the old-fashioned war epics, which contained battle scenes filled with real people instead of CGI figures, and large, swooping camera shots. Ten years would pass before the film’s prequel, Gods and Generals, would be released, and though it was essentially a box office failure, perhaps it will be the most endearing of his film projects. After waiting an additional eight years, the full 280 minute version was released in May, prompting me to inquire about an interview like I did for several cast members. After viewing the new version, and taking into account this massive piece of storytelling, I can now say that my favor for this film trumps that of Gettysburg, and this was not an easy decision to make.
Without Maxwell, the Civil War community would be even more starved for films on their favorite subject. Though I did not ask him about the possibility of producing The Last Full Measure (a subject that has no doubt been beaten to death), the sequel to the trilogy, I can only hope, like many of us do, that some way, some how, it will get done in the future. Hopefully I will be able to meet him in-person at the film premiere event on July 22-23, as he is arranging to get me tickets. Please enjoy our interview below:
GC: How long did it take you to get Gettysburg to the big screen?
RM: Start to finish, 15 years from reading The Killer Angels to the theatrical premiere: 1978-1993.
GC: What was the most difficult part of filming such an epic movie?
RM: Financing, getting the script right, deciding on where and how to film the movie, budgeting, casting, filming, editing and post-production, marketing & distribution, are all equally demanding. There’s a newly published book entitled Combat Films by Steven Rubin which has a chapter on Gettysburg, which describes in detail the long saga of getting the film made.
GC: Was there ever any thought in the pre-production of Gods and Generals to make it into a mini-series?
RM: It was originally commissioned as a mini-series, which is why the screenplay was as long as it was, with the first draft at roughly 250 pages. After the script was written, Ted Turner decided to make it as a motion-picture. We then cut more than fifty pages and still went into production with a screenplay of 180 pages or so. We knew going in we had an epic scaled movie that would require an intermission, as with Gettysburg. Among the scenes we cut from the original script and never filmed were an opening scene of Jackson’s monumental funeral procession in Richmond as well as the 1858 raid on Harper’s Ferry, where we would have been introduced to John Brown, Frederic Douglass, Robert E Lee, J.EB. Stuart, John Wilkes Booth and Thomas J. Jackson.
GC: Unfortunately, Gods and Generals did not do as well as we all hoped it would do at the box office. We have heard reasons from critics and fans, but as the director, what do you think was the reason?
RM: We hit the trifecta of obstacles at the theatrical release. First, it is common knowledge in the industry that a movie costing in excess of fifty million dollars requires a major box-office star (or two) to “open” the picture. We were fortunate to have first-class actors of great stature, really wonderful and talented people, none of whom were regarded as being able, on their own, to “open” a picture at that budget level. We made offers to such major stars for the role of Jackson, but circumstances and timing didn’t work out. Steven Lang was cast at the last minute, when we switched him from Pickett to Jackson. Of course, he nailed the role and I wouldn’t trade him for the world – but this was well before Avatar and he hadn’t yet established himself as a major box-office star. Second, almost two generations of movie-goers had grown up without ever having attended a movie with an intermission. In my youth, such movies were commonplace, and not just historical epics like Ben Hur, Spartacus and Lawrence of Arabia. There were musicals like The Sound of Music, West Side Story and My Fair Lady. At three hours and forty minutes, plus a twenty minute intermission, audiences were simply intimidated. Theater going habits have radically altered since the fifties and sixties. The previous major studio movies with intermissions were Gettysburg (1993) and Gandhi (1982). Thirdly, as I’ve written in some detail in my essay, “For the Love of Tender Kinship,” most film critics went way beyond the normal parameters of film reviewing and attacked the film on political grounds. They were simply incapable of accepting any Confederate officer as an honorable person caught up in a horrific war. The film wasn’t merely criticized. In many quarters of the main-stream press it was vilified. Although there were some extremely favorable reviews from a handful of respectable film critics writing for major newspapers and television companies (which can be read on my website), the unmistakable impression was one of near overwhelming condemnation. Obviously it does no good to complain. That’s just the PC reality of our times. I think as the years turn into decades, the film is being seen more for what it is than for what the critics wished it to be or wished it weren’t. In any case, their collective reviews certainly were a factor in depressing the turnout on the opening weekend. Let me hasten to add that I don’t for a minute think the film is beyond criticism. After more than thirty years in this business, I’m used to both stinging criticism and excessive praise. The good news is that the film has found its audience on cable television and in home video release. In its opening week in the home video marketplace in the summer of 2003, it was #1 on the charts, selling more than 600,000 units in its first month. It continues to be bought, rented and seen in impressive numbers, which is part of the reason Warner’s and Turner Pictures were able to invest in this new Extended Directors Cut version of the film. In the long run, as with all movies, its the people who decide, not the critics. Having said that, eight years out from its theatrical release, a number of scholarly essays have been written about the movie. In particular, I would point to “God, Man and Hollywood” by Mark Royden Winchell.
GC: Lastly, your name is/was attached to an upcoming Civil War film called Cleburne. Are you going to be involved with this?
RM: I know about the project and wish them well, but am not and have never been attached to it in any way. I was told there’s a website about this movie which claims I’m the director. Categorically false.
I would like to thank Ron for taking the time out of his busy schedule to conduct this interview! It really meant a lot to me to be able to talk with the man that made the two films that turned me into the Civil War buff I am today. I will always be grateful for this. Please check out my other interviews with Gods and Generals/Gettysburg cast members/personnel, which include: Les Kinsolving (General Barksdale), Brian Mallon (General Hancock), Patrick Gorman (General Hood), Bo Brinkman (Major Taylor), and Jeff Shaara (Author of G & G).
There are many reasons why I will never forget this interview with Patrick Gorman, one being because we conducted it close to midnight. Because of conflicting schedules, me coaching hockey and having classes, and Patrick tied up with auditions and work, we decided to just get it done, even though it was so late. This is also the first time I had ever conducted an interview through Skype, and Patrick turned on his camera so I could actually see him. It was almost like watching a television special, because he was very candid and actually seeing him made it like a real conversation.
Patrick played Confederate General John Bell Hood in both Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, and the two of us almost met about ten years ago, as I explain below. Having gotten his start in the Robert Redford film Three Days of the Condor in 1975, he has since been in over sixty films, television specials, and episodes of popular shows such as It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Ghost Whisperer, and The Drew Carey Show. For someone as accomplished as him, it was hard to believe how nice and easy going he was. We ended up talking about hockey when the interview was complete, after he asked about how the team I coached is doing (and you know me, I’ll talk hockey with anyone!). He asked me to email him a few questions the day before, so he could get ready, but once we began talking, it was about twenty minutes before I even go to ask one, and that is great—for some reason, interviews always go better when you don’t get to ask the questions you initially jotted down. Patrick ended up covering everything I wanted just on his own, and kept me laughing from start to finish with his stories and observations. He even offered to send me an autograph!
PG: I recently got Skype for rehearsals for a vampire film I did in Montana. (laughs) And you know, I’m here, they were there, and we had to rehearse some of the scenes before we went to film, and that was the first time I used it.
GC: It’s very good for interviews or just conversations. People have business meetings from home now. They can just sit in front of the computer rather than go to the office.
PG: Yeah, and you have to get a camera too. They don’t cost hardly anything.
GC: Smile right now, I’ll take your picture and have that for the blog.
PG: (laughs) Alright!
PG: So, Greg, you have a blog? What do you do, you write Civil War stuff?
GC: Actually, it started out as just hockey, and I thought I could survive only on that, but then when news of the Gods and Generals Director’s Cut came out, I started covering that and adding more Civil War articles, and hits went from about 200 a day to more than 500.
PG: Well, I just got on the Facebook myself. I did a film a few years ago, a USC thesis film, but it was a real fancy, complete production—ten days on location in Pennsylvania, and I didn’t take a camera or have any production shots. Now they were all very young people and I asked if anyone had any shots because I wanted to have some for souvenirs. They said, “We’re going to put everything on Facebook.” and I said, “Face-what?”. Eventually I got on there, and what happened is that I started getting these friend requests from Civil War reenactors, which is nice because I know a lot of them, and I was invited back to Gettysburg the first year after for the big reenactment. Everyone else was working but me, so I was the only one that showed up (laughs). But I had a great time, and made a lot of friends.
GC: I actually wanted to tell you something about a reenactment—you and I almost met ten years ago. I was ten years old and just becoming a Civil War buff, and my parents gave me a trip to Gettysburg for my birthday, since I was born on July 2, the actual anniversary of the battle. I had a camera, was sitting up in the bleachers, it was about a hundred degrees out, and they announced on the loudspeaker that an actor from the film would be there. I didn’t know who it was, and I just took the picture, but just a few weeks ago, when I was looking through the photo album, sure enough, it was you, in your Confederate uniform. (Pictured below)
PG: You will have to send me that or make a copy of it, and I’ll autograph it and send it back to you!
GC: I definitely will!
PG: Yes, please do, because they are fun to have. These reenactments are a lot of fun, and I have always been a history buff. Most serious actors are, because you never know who you are going to play, or what time in history it is, and so ever since I was a little kid, I have been fascinated with history. The Civil War has always been interesting because I had ancestors that were a part of it, and I grew up playing with a Yankee infantry officer’s dress sword, and I had a .36 caliber Colt revolver with “CSA” carved on the grip. So I grew up playing with those artifacts, and I hate to say it, but I have no idea what happened to them. I left home, I was in the military, in Europe for several years, and by the time I came back, all that stuff was gone. It’s a crime, but anyway, the Civil War, it is neat to have a picture of that.
GC: Normally I try to be professional, and never ask for an autograph, but since you offered, I’ll never turn that down!
PG: Listen, because of this Facebook, I get about 40 or 50 friend requests a day.
GC: You still haven’t got to mine yet. I must be on backlog. (laughs)
PG: I am 600 behind, and I have to accept them all individually because I don’t have a fan club manager. I’m not a star, I’m a journeyman actor, but among the reenactors, I’m a star! (laughs) That is very rewarding because I wanted to become a star, I still want to and be a millionaire and all that, but I’m just a journeyman actor. I had a good experience with the reenactors because when I arrived for the pre-read at Gettysburg, what I would do was get my horse and put my spurs on and practice getting on with the saber and the whole thing, and I would go out and visit the reenactment camps because they were there living the life they did in the day and I would put on my General Hood accent (speaks with southern accent) and I would go out and visit them, and talk to them, and I’d be invited to the fireside to have a few beers or some wine and talk, and I got a lot of stories and a lot of feelings. I had read everything I could about Hood, at least what was available at the time, but then I got a lot of anecdotal stuff, and atmosphere from the reenactors that I never could have gotten from any book. By the time I went before the cameras, I was really very comfortable in Hood’s skin, and so I owed a lot to them. They invited me back, and it was so much fun, getting to ride on horseback and saluting everybody and leading the troops, actually participating in a couple of cavalry melees, it was like a childhood dream.
GC: Now I have read, perhaps it was even on your website, that the scene you were in, right after you got shot when you are lying in the hospital, took several hours to film even though it is only about five minutes in the movie. Why was that?
PG: It’s even less than that. That particular scene was interesting and the most difficult one for me. It was a short scene and it was filmed in the real barn, and I was on a door that they used as a stretcher, and of course Hood is on laudanum and is drifting in and out of consciousness and is in a lot of pain. The difficulty of playing that scene anyway, when you’re on drugs, it is easy to lose focus and all that is necessary for dramatic stuff that needs to be in the scene, and on top of that, in the middle of almost every take, a bird would swoop through because it was a real barn with lots of nests and lots of animals like horses and cows, so we knew there would be sound problems. It took about seven hours to film that scene, and it was exhausting. We did so many takes, and I don’t even know how many takes there were—it was the most I had ever been involved in. It was over 30 or 40. And I had gotten a lesson from Gene Hackman, who had said, “Never get comfortable in a scene”. Before that scene I thought that I was going to be laying down and kind of out of it, so I picked up a rock outside and put it in my underwear, right on the crease, and so every time we started to do the scene I would roll over on that rock so I would get a sharp jab, and that kept me focused. I think the scene worked very well. Ironically, I was very emotional in that scene than the take that they used. I wanted to show, because Hood was a fighting general and a combat guy, someone who went in front of his troops and everyone loved him—a fierce man, and I wanted to show that other side of him, because he did love those troops and he let down his guard. He is not so much the macho guy. Ron Maxwell kind of fought me on it because he did not want me to be as emotional, and of course, he was right, because if you remember in the film, the scene preceding this is the one with Chamberlain and the Irish sergeant, and it’s a very emotional scene, and you never follow an emotional scene with another emotional scene, so I learned that lesson too late, but the take that he used worked anyway. That’s a little history for you, because not that many people know about that, except every reenactor whose ever talked to me! (laughs)
GC: That’s why I love these interviews, because you find out these little stories, like what you did with the rock. I know actors do strange things to make a performance, and that is just very interesting.
PG: If you’re sitting in a chair or next to a piece of furniture, you lean on the edge of it; many actors have put rocks in their shoes. Charles Laughton did that in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but he did it for his character, cause of the way he had to walk, not so much to keep him focused, but those are little tricks and they’re not without value. They’re artificial in a way, but they serve their purpose.
GC: Now, when did you first get involved with the film Gettysburg?
PG: Here’s the story behind that, and it’s weird. The year before I got the part was one of the worst career times of my life. I was newly married, for the third time, and that was great and going fine, but I wasn’t working—my career just tanked and was going nowhere, to the fact that I had to go back and get a regular job to go in between. I hate to say it, but I was a messenger for studios that I had worked at. People didn’t recognize me because I was a function, a messenger; I wasn’t the actor. In fact, I delivered things to some casting offices that I worked for and they knew me but did not recognize me. So my wife at the time, and she was in the production business, my ex-wife now who I am still good friends with, is the assistant to the producer on Entertainment Tonight, and she said, “You’re not taking care of business, you’re not contacting people.” And I opened up, right at that conversation at the table, Variety, and there was a picture of Robert Duvall [who was originally going to play Lee], the film was in pre-production. Because it was Duvall, who was and is one of my favorite actors, and I said to myself, “I want to work with him”, and it’s the Civil War, come on! I got to be right for something in that! So what I did was, I took a picture, and at that time I had shaved my head and was letting it grow out and letting my beard grow, and in the picture, I don’t exactly look like Hood (I don’t really look like him anyway), but that picture had something, something of a look, and I took this picture and the resume, and I delivered it myself to the casting director in the office. A couple of days later, my agent called me and said that he got me an interview for The Killer Angels film script. I read for Armistead, which was the part I wanted, but they wanted me for Hood, which I read for, and I did a really good reading, and they called me back and said I got the part, which was great. The interesting thing was, later on, the casting director Joy Todd said, “When we saw your picture, we just prayed that you could act.” I was able to capture something of Hood, though I don’t really resemble him. He was called the “Blond Giant”, he was probably 6’2” or something like that, with really broad shoulders, and I’m barely 5’10” and don’t have broad shoulders, and I was twice his age, but I did get something of his persona. That’s how I got involved: I wanted to work with Duvall and as it turned out, Martin Sheen played Lee, but I did get to work with Duvall in Gods and Generals.
GC: Every actor from these movies that I have talked to has each had such a different way that they were discovered and hired to be in the film. Yours was like a freak accident. You open up the page, and there it is.
PG: There it is. I said, “I got to get involved with this film”. I had ancestors that fought on both sides, and I’m one of these actors that has always been in costume films, even when on stage, I have always been in costume. Costumes and me just go together, and that’s the same for lots of actors, but I’ve always been very comfortable in period stuff. Of course, I have done a lot of period plays and films, television too, and I like it a lot. I knew I had the face for this role, come on! Another interesting little story about when I arrived for the table reading for Gettysburg, I hadn’t worked with any of these actors and there were a lot of them at this long table read, and in between there would be a break. Tom Berenger, who I never met before, I noticed he had brought a bunch of boxes and he was taking out swords and giving them to the different generals, and I thought, “Oh gee, that was neat that he went to the props department, and went through the trouble. That was really nice of him.” Well…he hadn’t gone to props: on his own dime, he had went out and bought, for every general in his corp, a sword and engraved on the blade, “To…”, and in my case, “To General Hood, From General Longstreet”. The blades were all 1862 blades—the hilt and scabbard were reproductions, but it was an actual blade. That had to cost him hundreds of dollars, at the very least. That was the best present I had ever gotten, and he did that for everybody. Tom really made the Confederate officers’ corp bond together. Every Friday night at the Farnsworth House in Gettysburg was the Confederate officers’ club, where we all got together for dinner, drinks, and a lot of fun.
GC: One other thing I wanted to ask you about, and I brought this up to Bo Brinkman, was the beard situation in Gettysburg, and how people tend to poke fun at them. Yours looks really good, so I can’t tell if it is real or not.
PG: Well, mine looked good because it was real. Here’s the thing I always say about that, and I understand what people say, especially about Berenger’s beard, which was very expensive and it looked bad, I know it looked bad, but listen. In defense of us all, well not me, I had my own beard and it looked great (laughs) even though it wasn’t long enough. But anyway, if you look through the Mathew Brady pictures or any history book, and you look carefully at the beards on half the bearded men, they look fake, they look phony, they look like bad theatrical beards. That was the odd style they had. So I say, “Come on guys, give us a break here.” Just look at the pictures. There were a lot of funny looking beards…there were a lot of funny looking people too. (laughs)
GC: How long did it take you to grow the beard?
PG: I already had a short beard when I got the part and they wanted me to shave it to make the long beard, and I said, “Look. We have a couple of months before we begin filming. In two or three months, I can have a really good beard.” They almost made me shave it, but I insisted on keeping it. The beard was not as long as Hood’s was, but the actor in me was saying this: We have two pictures of Hood, one pre-Gettysburg and one after, when he had put on weight towards the Atlanta Campaign, after he had lost his leg and the use of his arm, and I’m saying, he could have trimmed his beard, because I had a new uniform. The pictures of his uniform before Gettysburg didn’t look very sharp or very tailored, but in the film I had a new uniform. Now, my justification was that he was in Richmond and was courting this woman who was the belle of the city, and he had asked her to marry him a couple of times, and she was playing hard-to-get, so I figured, he got a new uniform and trimmed his beard, so he could ask her to marry him. That was my justification. Whether it’s historical or my imagination…it could have happened. We don’t know. But back to the hair thing, it’s tricky. Just last week, I had grown my beard out, and was letting it grow and got a couple of jobs. I am going from general to god now, because I played Poseidon in a commercial (pictured below), but I had the beard and I think that is partly why I got the part. I have played a lot of kings, and I can play that regal style, the leader. And so, I get the job, and when I go to prosthetics to get armor and stuff like that, they shaved my beard. They then put on this huge, long, beard with a wig and everything, and it actually looks great. I’ll send you a picture of that, just for fun. But it’s better to have your own hair. I’ve done films with facial hair, and if you’re on horseback and in the sun and sweating, it’s always a problem, especially with the mustache.
GC: I would like to ask you now about Richard Jordan. I don’t know if you had the chance to really work with him, but he was such a great actor who unfortunately passed away right after filming completed.
PG: I often had dinner or breakfast with him. I had known Richard from New York. When I came back from France after six years (after I got out of the military), I studied theater and acted over there, and in French. I was a circus clown and a dancer. When I came back to New York, he was the leading actor with the APA Company, and I saw him perform a lot on Broadway and off-Broadway, and in the New York Shakespeare Festival, where I had also worked, so I knew him already, not as a buddy or anything like that, I was just familiar with him. Then during filming, we got to be very friendly and talked a lot. He was a wonderful man and a great actor. One of my favorite films he was in, was The Yakuza, with Robert Mitchum, directed by Sidney Pollack, who I have worked for. I had dinner with Richard sometime after he had the aneurysm, after Gettysburg was over, and he was alright—the operation was successful and they removed the aneurysm and he lived. He could no longer remember things, and he couldn’t write. It was almost like being dyslexic, or worse, and so the things that he did since he was a writer, a director, and an actor who had a great career, he couldn’t do them anymore. Now, I believe, and a lot of people have said this, that he willed himself to die. Someone closer to him might dispute it, but that’s what I think he did, because he had nothing left to do. Of course, the performance he left was a very touching, wonderful performance. It’s the role I wanted, but I was very happy playing Hood. It was more that was right for me, just as the role for Richard was right for him.
GC: Now I want to ask you about the Gods and Generals Extended Director’s Cut. Do you have any scenes coming in?
PG: In the film Gettysburg, everything that I did stayed in the film and was not cut. In Gods and Generals, I did not have very much to do, and there was one scene, maybe two, at Antietam that I’m in that may be in the Cut. I have not seen the Director’s Cut for either of the films, so I don’t know.
(We then have a brief discussion about Blu Ray players, and how he feels he is in a new world because of such advances in technology . Patrick noted, “I feel better on horseback than with a cell phone.”)
PG: I noticed in your email that you wanted to ask me about working for Ron Maxwell, and I just want to say that Ron was amazing. You have to understand this, that Ron had The Killer Angels for 18 years. He had that and optioned it, and tried to get it done for 18 years—that’s mind-boggling to keep that interest for so long. Of course, without Ted Turner, he still might be trying to do it. Those two films will be his legacy, and they both wanted to do The Last Full Measure, but Gods and Generals lost so much money. I sat next to Turner all day, when we filmed the Vaudeville sequence that he made his cameo in, and so I talked to him for 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…even some of the bad stuff they have on the History Channel (laughs). Some of their stuff is good, and some of it’s not so good. But anyway, it’s too bad, because to the general public, one bearded guy giving a speech to the troops looks like another bearded guy, unless you know who they are and what the situation is. The general public just went (makes motion of clicking “off” on a remote). They couldn’t go for it, but I understand that.
GC: What do you think was the biggest reason why it failed, if you had to pick one above all others?
PG: Well, that. There is just too much to cover. Gettysburg was much more successful in that the given circumstances around the battle concerned the personal relationship of those generals between one another. That’s why women rated that film very highly. Originally, the producers were afraid that women wouldn’t be interested, but that wasn’t true because it is really about the relationships of those guys, those generals. It was about that one event, and of course it’s a huge event, but that was the reason why it was successful, that’s my opinion. Gods and Generals covered the beginning of the war up until the battle of Gettysburg, which is so many events. You could make a movie about a hundred different events in that period of time. It was just too much for the general public to grasp.
GC: I agree. Even Jeff Shaara, who I also interviewed, said, “You can’t make a ten hour movie, but you can make a ten hour miniseries.”
PG: Yes, exactly, and they cut out so much. I was there when they were filming the John Wilkes Booth scenes and there’s more of the Antietam, just so many stories. One of the more difficult things, because I’m interested in it, is the average person who writes a script, whoever writes it, even a historian, can’t write a story about a battle—you just can’t write a story about a battle. I mean they did Gettysburg, but that’s not what sells it: it’s the guy in the line that is wounded, or runs away and hides, or the guys who get taken prisoner and have to work in the hospital. It’s that individual stuff that makes a story, the individual character, about those people, and the battle is just the given circumstances, and so the stories have to be about people.
GC: Now two weeks ago, when we first got in contact, you said you had auditions. Do you have any upcoming film projects?
PG: (laughs) Well, yes, I’m trying my best to get involved with this new project that’s in development called To Appomattox, [a miniseries].
GC: I was just on their website and that looks like it’s going to be a fantastic series.
PG: They’re going to cover a lot of stuff, and I’ve been talking to one of the writers and producers, and I’ve had some contact with him, and he understands that they have an ambitious number of events they have to cover, and they liked what I did as Hood, but he doesn’t figure in this. I’m too old to play Hood now, actually, I was always too old to play Hood, but there is another general, a Yankee this time, that I might get to play. I’m trying to get involved with it, but there’s no promises, no offer. Actors are always looking for work and that’s part of what we have to do, take care of the business side. I have another film that I’m doing at the end of May, that I’m doing in Pennsylvania, a modern, low-budget feature, and I have another day to do my vampire film in Montana! (laughs)
GC: What’s that vampire movie about?
PG: Well, again, this is a bunch of young people starting out that I met in Hollywood, who I gave some advice to and I said, “If you need an old guy, I’ll be glad to do it….but I don’t work for free.” (laughs) It’s a low-budget film, and they have gotten together in Montana and have raised money to film it. It’s a labor of love and it’s fun. I like to do those in between. I’m an actor, I have to act. It’s like, you have to train, you have to keep your hand in, and of course, I’ve been acting since I was four, so that’s a lot of years. I still love to do it, and in the meantime, I do a couple of commercials…like I just played Poseidon, the God of the Sea!
GC: I wanted to ask you one last question. I saw on your website that you’re really into the Japanese culture. Where did that start?
PG: It really started during World War II. I was a little kid and in my town we had a Chinese restaurant, a beautiful place with carved dragons and their characters, and I was always fascinated with that, and then the war with Japan started. I always had a thing about the Japanese swords, and the calligraphy, which I found out later on, they use Chinese characters with Japanese meaning—you have to know at least two thousand of them, even to be able to read a newspaper. They have like three alphabets and then the characters. I don’t know how they learn to do anything but read and write, it’s amazing. I was fascinated with the Japanese, even though they were our enemy and we hated them, but there was that fascination, not only with the swords and characters, but with the martial arts. As a little kid, when I grew up, my mother was a dancer, and while I spent a lot of time in Hollywood all my childhood, I grew up in a small agricultural town where there were a lot of rednecks (puts on southern accent) where nobody did tap dancing or any of that sissy stuff—anybody who sang or danced was a sissy. I spent my childhood fighting almost every day after school. I would come home with a bloody nose and this-and-that. And so when I started to see the Japanese, these little guys doing so much, I became interested in the martial arts, but there weren’t any around me. By the time I joined the Navy, I got into Hollywood and I saw that there was a Judo place, and I went there. I learned some from my cousin while I was still in high school and when he got back from WWII, he taught me four Jujitsu techniques, all of which I have actually used in fights. So I became interested in it so early because I hated to get beat up! (laughs) Here’s something else, I started training Aikido in my fifties and that had a major influence on my life because I learned that the technique, the way you address martial arts is very much the way you act. Let me explain: you learn different things for different situations, like if someone punches you this way, there’s a certain kind of kick or grab, and you train, and train, and train, but then the moment that somebody jumps you in the parking lot, you can’t say, “Could you hit me in the left side?” or “Can we go under the light so I can see better?”. This ties into films because acting is the same way—you learn your lines, you study technique, and then all of a sudden you come on the set, usually you don’t get to rehearse with actors. In a movie, you audition, get the part, and show up. You have the night before to learn your lines, or if you’re lucky, a few weeks like Gettysburg, and you show up, and there are the people you’re going to play a scene with. You rarely get a rehearsal. In Gettysburg, we had the table read, and when we got together there would be camera set-ups for lighting, but there weren’t really rehearsals. That was a great lesson, in that I had to deal with whatever was there. I have to know the scene and how it should work out, but you have to be in the moment. I know it sounds like a terrible cliche, but it’s true. The best acting is like that, when you think you’re there. We know it’s a movie, but those great actors are able to do that and suspend belief. Getting back to the martial arts, I’m in my seventies, and I just got my third degree black-belt in Aikido and I seriously continue to train…but I’ve been trying to learn Japanese for 25 years and I still can only speak a little. I’ve actually had some of my calligraphy published in Japan, in magazines. It’s very much a part of my life.
Our conversation continued for another ten minutes where he asked me to tell him a little about myself, and the hockey team I am coaching. It truly was a fascinating evening, which I told him, and was so glad to finally get to speak to him after trying to set this up for weeks. I hope we will remain in contact because he is such a nice guy. Please check out his official website, and also, add him on Facebook. Just remember, he is really popular on the internet, so it may take him a while to respond to your request! Best of luck to Patrick in all of his future ventures!
EDIT (12/1/11): View our second interview here!
As we near closer and closer to the May 24th release of the Director’s Cuts for both Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, I have been trying to track down as many people involved with the films as I could, and while most of you know of my upcoming interview with Patrick Gorman, who played Confederate General John Bell Hood, I was able to get another one with Bo Brinkman, who played Robert E. Lee’s aid Major Walter H. Taylor in both films. The reason why I did not get a chance to promote this one is because it happened so quickly. I contacted Bo a few days ago, and he responded to me today with his number, and we agreed to do the interview this afternoon. Very rarely does that happen, and I thank Bo for doing so because my five-days-a-week class schedule really limits the time I have to interview people.
This is really special to me, getting a chance to talk to so many people who I grew up watching. Brinkman’s portrayal of Taylor was something I always noticed, at least in Gettysburg, because I am so fond of Lee, and to see the way these two characters interacted really opened my eyes to what the relationship is between a general and his close staff members. Taylor got plenty of screen time in the first film, and reprised his role in Gods and Generals, though his role was slimmed down. We can only hope that he will be given more screen time in the extended cut, because his acting ability deserves it. He has appeared in ten films since 1988, including An Occasional Hell with Tom Berenger, and Laws of Deception with C. Thomas Howell. I asked him about his filming experiences and much more, in our interview below:
GC: First of all, I want to thank you for the interview and just to say that I grew up watching “Gettysburg”—I think I watched it until the tape wore out, and then “Gods and Generals” of course, and its a great honor to get a chance to talk to some of the actors that I grew up with.
BB: Well, yeah I’ll tell you they’re a great bunch of guys and I stay in touch with some of them, and as a matter of fact, I’m directing a film right now with Morgan Sheppard (Isaac Trimble) who did both films and then Jeremy London (Sandie Pendleton) who was in Gods and Generals.
GC: What’s that film going to be about?
BB: It’s called The Mark, and it’s a movie I wrote about a gambler who disappeared and left his son who was a child, who is played by London, and the old man, Sheppard, is the side-kick to the legendary gambler, and he is trying to help this kid change his life by revealing some secrets he has never told before about his dad. We’ve been shooting it for the last six weeks, we’ve got three more days left on it and it has turned out very well.
GC: That sounds very interesting. I hope it’s on DVD and Netflix will have it because I would like to check it out.
BB: It will be, next year I’m sure.
GC: When were you first offered the role of Major Taylor for “Gettysburg”?
BB: Oddly enough, I was at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988 because I had two movies there, and Ron Maxwell was at the Carlton Hotel having dinner, and I was with some actor friends and he was watching us, laughing, and he finally waved me over to his table and said, “I directed a movie called The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia, with Dennis Quaid, and you remind me of him.” So I said, “Oh, well he’s my cousin, my first cousin.” He started laughing and says, “You know, I’m making a little Civil War movie and I would love to find a place in it for you.” And I said, “Wow, great!” As it turned out, we both lived in New York City, and so we both hung out in Cannes for a couple of days, and we got together in New York and started hanging out in the city, and then a couple of years later when the movie got ready to roll, he offered me the part of Walter Taylor.
GC: Now, you said that Maxwell said “a little Civil War movie”. Did you have any idea that it would turn out to be as epic a film as it ended up being?
BB: I had no idea. He gave me a script, and I thought it was a pretty big script, but yeah, that’s what he said at first: “I’m making a little Civil War movie”. He had been working on it for years and years and years, and he had gotten very close many times to getting it made, and then really what happened was that he met Ted Turner, and he made it happen for him.
GC: Did you know anything about Taylor or the Civil War before Gettysburg?
BB: Not a lot. I had not done a lot of research, other than what I studied in college, and I really did not know until I started to delve into research for the film. It captivated me for years because I love the history, and I thought that Walter Taylor was a fascinating historical character.
GC: How much research and preparation did you do to get ready for this role?
BB: Wow, we’re talking 17 years ago, but I read My Four Years with Lee, that Taylor had written. I read everything I could on Walter Taylor, who was an amazing man. I did a lot of research because I did not want to go in unprepared, and I knew I was going to be up against a lot of actors that were going to be very prepared, like Tom Berenger and those guys, and I really wanted to be on top of it when I started working with them.
GC: In each film, your character works very closely with Robert E. Lee. In “Gettysburg” you worked with Martin Sheen, in “Gods and Generals” you worked with Robert Duvall. What was it like working with those two great actors?
BB: Actually, I had known [Martin Sheen] before, I had met him several times, and my ex-wife [Melissa Gilbert] had actually worked on a movie with him, so I had the chance to know him pretty well before we started. He’s just an amazing man, he’s a sweetheart and a true humanitarian, he’s a religious man, and just a good guy. I loved working with him, and I was pretty young at the time, and very subtly he would help me—he would say, “Oh, you’re working too hard, don’t work too hard”, because I was so eager to please (laughs). He would give me little tidbits like, “You don’t have to work too hard on this line here. Just take it easy.” And of course there’s Robert Duvall, and there is not an actor in the world who doesn’t want to work with him because he’s such a genius. I learned a lot by watching these guys. They’re both fantastic actors, and just to be in their presence, to work with them, and to watch how they approach the material. And I think both Lee’s approached the material very differently, which was interesting to see as well. You had two different actors with two different performances playing the same role—it was pretty fascinating to watch.
GC: This may be a tough question, but in your opinion, which one was more accurate?
BB: They were both very accurate because at the time Lee was at Gettysburg, he was ill, so Sheen was kind of playing reluctant to go into war, and he was also playing his illness a little bit, because historically, all during the battle, Lee was not at a hundred percent. Some people feel that he gave this vague performance of Lee, but he did not have a vague performance at all. He was playing Lee’s illness, and Lee was a humanitarian, he truly was—he was way above his time, and at the time of Gettysburg there was a certain reluctance, and Sheen was playing that. With the performance that Duvall turned in, he was more of a war-horse, and he, not to critique Duvall, seemed to have less humanitarianism. He approached it as a warrior, and not a reluctant warrior, as did Sheen. Does that make sense?
GC: Yes, it does, because I always thought that Sheen was very passionate and Duvall was more calm and reserve. Both performances are fantastic, but personally, I think that Duvall’s performance may have been more accurate because of that.
BB: Yeah, it’s really hard to compare the two because for one thing, it was Lee at two different times, and the war changed Lee, as it does everybody, and so I think they both turned in amazing performances, and if anything hurt Sheen it’s that he was playing the illness and the humanitarian Lee maybe too much. Nevertheless, they are both amazing actors.
GC: I would also like to ask your experience in working with the reenactors. Both of these films had casts of hundreds or thousands, whereas a normal film does not. So what was it like in dealing with all of those people?
BB: Oh, man, they are just the salt of the earth. These movies could have never been done if it wasn’t for the reenactors, and they were kind and a lot of fun. I really enjoyed working with them—they’re just great.
GC: The one thing I have to ask, and people always make fun of “Gettysburg” because of this, and that is all the beards that the actors are wearing. A lot of people call the movie “Gettysbeard” because of some of the obviously fake beards. You had a mustache in both films. Was yours real?
BB: No, it wasn’t real, but Taylor had that little goatee thing going on and when I showed up to do the film, I was really young-looking (laughs). They put the goatee on me and I went straight to Ron Maxwell, and I said, “Ron, I look like a kid in a high school play. This doesn’t fit me. Can’t we just go with the mustache? I know it’s not a hundred percent historically correct, but this thing looks terrible.” He agreed, and thank goodness that I got away with the mustache, which actually looked pretty good. You couldn’t tell.
GC: That’s why I asked because yours and some of the others looked real. Was Martin Sheen’s real, because his looked really good?
BB: Yeah, he had the real thing. Oh, wait, let’s see…I’m trying to recall 17 years ago…I don’t remember now, to tell you the truth. It seemed to me that his was real, but I’m not quite sure. I know Stephen Lang’s was real, certainly not Berenger’s—he had the worst beard in the movie.
GC: It’s a shame because he was the central character and they couldn’t do any better with his beard.
BB: A lot of that is TNT’s fault, I’d say all of it is, because Ron had the best beard guy in the business…the BEST beard guy in the business, and they didn’t want to pay for it, which happens in film. Budget is everything and they just did not want to pay for it. Unfortunately, they were what I call tripping over dollars picking up nickels and dimes, because I feel the beards pretty much hurt the film, horribly. You have “The Movie about Beards” and “Gettysbeard”, and it’s tough because the performances were so solid, the script was so good, the direction was excellent, and yet all those things together and the critics knock the beards. It was really sad that happened, it truly was, because it didn’t have to happen. TNT and the production company that did it were not saving that much money, and we hired a guy that didn’t do beards, but was a great make-up artist and did special effects, but he just did not do beards. The result is now forever on celluloid (laughs).
GC: Now to the “Gods and Generals” director’s cut. Everyone has been waiting eight years for this to come out, there is going to be an extra hour added. Do you know anything about this final cut?
BB: No, I haven’t talked to Ron in about six months. I go see him in Virginia, once a year at least, but I’ve been living in Kenya for the last couple of years, so I haven’t been around much. I knew that he was talking about doing a director’s cut, and actually this week is the first week I have ever heard about it coming out now. I’m very excited for Ron. [Antietam] was not included in the studio cut, and I can guarantee that is going in there. I would also love to see Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth. The actor that played Booth was brilliant at it.
GC: Did you have any scenes that were cut?
BB: I don’t recall. I had a lot of scenes that were cut in Gettysburg. My role was a lot bigger in the script and when we started, and when we ended, the director’s cut was around five hours. The same thing with Gods and Generals—it was really two movies. I think the first edit was over seven hours, it was pretty wild. There might be some stuff in there that was cut, but my role had been diminished because the movie really wasn’t about Lee. The movie was about “Stonewall” and his guys, and so the focus centered around him. I think I only had 12 scenes in the whole movie and I think Duvall only had about 14 or 15 scenes. I was really hoping they would do the next film and novel, [The Last Full Measure], and I guess because Gods and Generals really did not do too well at the box office, it was shelved.
GC: When I spoke to Jeff Shaara, he said as of right now there is absolutely nothing-doing with that.
BB: It’s a shame. It would have been nice to see the trilogy, but it’s tough these days. The general public is more interested in watching Transformers than a historically correct, well-made, Civil War film.
GC: Unfortunately, that’s the way it goes. I hardly go to the movies anymore because I don’t like what’s out there. I would much rather watch older movies.
BB: Same here. I don’t know the last time I went to a movie. Actually, I will tell you, I do remember the last time. It was when my 21-year-old son dragged me out to see Avatar (laughs).
GC: I still haven’t seen that.
BB: Well, you know, it’s okay. It’s another thrill-ride. Basically, if you go to Universal Studios and get on one of those rides, that’s kind of what it’s like. It’s like cowboys and Indians in the future. The cinematography is amazing, and all that, but it’s just not my kind of movie.
GC: You mentioned earlier that you were living in Kenya, and I’ve seen some of your pictures on Facebook, so can you tell us what that is all about?
BB: Oddly enough, I met this guy Brad Phillips on the set of Gods and Generals, and he invited me out to Sudan and it was kind of strange because I literally went from a movie set about the Civil War to a foreign country in the middle of a civil war, a real one. That was about eight years ago, and I fell in love with east Africa, and I developed a water-based Pyrethrum Mist system that runs on solar power, and I manufactured 40 systems, and I went over there and tested it, and went back many times. Every year I spend the summer or a half of summer there. After my son graduated from high school, he and I both went over there, and I stayed for two years and he stayed for three or four months, and I was doing mist systems over there, installing them in Sudan and all over Kenya. It was just a nice getaway and I got out of the film business for a while and thought I would experience a different life. I’ve been back since last April and am slipping back into the film business with this film, The Mark, and it’s been a lot of fun getting some of the veterans from Gettysburg and Gods and Generals to be in the film.
GC: It’s like a little bit of a reunion.
BB: Yeah, and there is going to be a reunion in Los Angeles, but I am not quite sure when.
GC: One last question that I ask everybody, what is your favorite film and why?
BB: Being There. Have you ever seen it?
GC: No, but I’ve heard of it.
BB: It’s got Shirley MacLain and Peter Sellers and it was done in 1979. Love the film. I love it—it’s well done and it has a great message. That one, and another, and this is kind of hokey, It’s a Wonderful Life. That would be my second favorite.
GC: A lot of people like that movie, and I’m going to have to see “Being There” because I am a fan of Peter Sellers and a big fan of “Doctor Strangelove”.
BB: This movie was something that he tried to get done his whole life, it was based on a novel, and he died not too long after the filming was completed. It was his swan-song. It’s just a very interesting film. You should go out and find it, get it on Netflix, because it’s such a good film.
I would like to that Bo for taking the time to conduct this interview. This is why I love talking to people who have been in both films, because they always have so many great stories to share, and some that you do not hear anywhere else. Best of luck to him in his future ventures, and his film coming out next year, called “The Mark”!
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the latest installment of the Gods and Generals Director’s Cut fanfare as I have been in contact with the author of the novel which the film was based, Jeff Shaara. He has kindly agreed to do an interview with me and we will be speaking on the phone Monday afternoon. Mr. Shaara is the author of several books including the prequel and sequel (both of which reached the New York Times Bestseller list for a combined 28 weeks) to his father Michael’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Killer Angels, which also includes The Last Full Measure. He is also an accomplished author of other American war novels, including one on the Mexican-American War, two on the American Revolution, one on World War I, and a World War II trilogy. There is also a rumor that he plans on writing another Civil War trilogy on the Western Theater of the war, and I will definitely ask him about that.
If any of my readers have any questions they would like me to ask Mr. Shaara, please leave them in a comment here or email me, and I will pose them to him along with my own questions if time allows. This interview will be more about his career, method, and interest in the Civil War, and less about the film.
From the first times I watched Gettysburg and Gods and Generals, until now, the one performance that always stood out to me was Brian Mallon as General Winfield Scott Hancock, commander of the United States Army’s first division during the American Civil War, and a General present at major battles such as Fredericksburg, Antietam, and Gettysburg. With two films loaded with star power, I wanted to delve deeper into the supporting cast, and that is where I came across Mallon, who is a veteran actor of both film and theater here in the US, as well as England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. Other than the two films mentioned above, he has appeared in Some Mother’s Son, The Informant, and Gangs of New York, among others.
Each of his performances has left me asking for more screen time for him, something I noted in my two Civil War movie reviews. Not only does he bear a resemblance to the real general, but his voice and mannerisms have the audience feel as if they are watching General Hancock himself, especially when he discusses his friendship with Confederate General Lewis Armistead. Yet every time I watched him, I always thought he reminded me of someone else, and could never pinpoint who it was, that is, until I checked out his website and saw that he has starred as Richard Burton in a one-man show titled Playing Richard Burton. It was then that I realize it was Burton who he bore striking resemblance to—he can even get his voice to be identical to that of Burton, including when he did a voice-over for a musical version of War of the Worlds, in which an animatronic Burton appears as part of the cast.
His portrayal of Burton has been called by the New York Post, “[A] robust and dramatic essence of the late Richard Burton being captured on stage…Mallon miraculously re-creates the brilliant Richard.” The national newspaper of Wales, The Western Mail, has said, “This production is almost as good as having Richard Burton still with us.” Reading these reviews only made me want to talk to him even more. Mallon has also received critical acclaim for his starring in Secrets of the Celtic Heart, a play directed by actress Ellen Burstyn, and his appearance in an episode of PBS’s Great Performances.
But no matter what role he plays, to me and many Civil War enthusiasts, he will always be Winfield Scott Hancock. I asked him about his performances on screen, the stage and much, much more in a telephone interview today:
GC: Before we begin, I just want to say that it is an honor to talk to you because Gettysburg was a film I watched when I was little, and it turned me into the Civil War enthusiast I am today—your portrayal of General Hancock was a big part of that. And also, I thank you for reading the reviews on my site. Not many people I interview actually read through it.
BM: I thought they were good, very thoughtful reviews with reasonable criticisms. I really enjoyed playing Hancock because he ended up becoming one of my favorite characters out of all those generals, as it turned out. He was the least preachy…he was a democrat (laughs), and his story appealed to me. It’s too bad that [The Last Full Measure], the last of the trilogy, doesn’t seem to be forthcoming.
GC: That was actually another thing I was going to ask you about, but yes, Hancock seemed like a very straightforward, to-the-point guy, as you said, not very preachy.
BM: And he was so constantly overlooked due to political reasons. He really should have been given a higher rank because his decisions were always the good ones.
GC: Now to your career, I want to start out by asking you when you first realized you wanted to become an actor.
BM: I suppose it was at the University of Michigan; it was not before that. I hadn’t done anything like that in high school, but at Ann Arbor, a friend of mine from Dublin got me involved with their Civic Theater and we did a play called Hogan’s Goat, and I got hooked on it after that. It wasn’t too long before I went out to New York and went to the Irish Arts Center. I had read about it in the New Yorker Magazine and it was the Irish Rebel Theater at the IAC, so I was expecting something like Lincoln Center and of course it wasn’t. It was something like a little 80 seat theater over in Hell’s Kitchen. But that was good—they put me up because they needed a Gaelic teacher and I was able to do that. I was in a play within three or four days and later on I was the artistic director. Then it was like one thing after another. It was great, I was all connected up immediately.
GC: Would you consider that your “big break” or would that have come in film?
BM: Film would have to be much bigger. I became a life member of the Actor’s Studio. It was there I met Ellen Burstyn and they made me an observer and then you had to do your final audition and that was pretty good. Actually, it was kind of funny for my final, when I was in a production there of one of Sam Shepard’s plays, Buried Child, and I was playing a guy who was terrorizing this girl by putting my fingers in her mouth and getting off on it, a very weird character to say the least. Then I get a call from Burstyn and she said that Paul Newman, who was running the place at the time, wants you to be a finalist tomorrow and I said that I didn’t have a scene. She said they wanted me to do the scene from the play, and I said there were already four actors in that and the rule was two. She said pretend those two weren’t there and you and the girl just do the scene. So I did it and because [actor] Lee Strasberg had just died, all the heavy hitters were in. Robert DeNiro, Shelley Winters, and Christopher Walken were all in the first row. I did the scene and DeNiro’s hand shot up first and they made me a member. Then when I went around the studio, about eight or nine months later, everyone was asking me about Cape Fear and I said, “What? What?” and they kept saying, “See Cape Fear“. Apparently two days [after watching me perform], DeNiro shot a scene where he puts his fingers in the girl’s mouth.
GC: So he got that from your performance?
BM: Well, that’s what everyone at the studio was saying and then I read an interview with Juliette Lewis and of course, nobody was expecting that. The opinion around the studio was that served as an inspiration for him. Anyway, the studio was a big break, in that sense.
GC: Out of all the roles you’ve played, obviously to me, you will always be General Hancock, so what first attracted you to take his role for Gettysburg in 1993?
BM: I was delighted to be offered it. Ron Maxwell came to see me at Cafe Beckett in Hollywood at the time, and we were sitting there talking and he hadn’t told me yet what he wanted me to play, and there’s this friend of mine, an Apache, who was wearing a Civil War general’s hat which was navy blue. Ron laughed and said, “I like your hat.” This friend of mine just puts the hat on my head and Ron thought this was very funny because he was going to offer me the role of this Union general and I didn’t know it yet. My friend then said to me that he wouldn’t take the hat back because it looked so right on me. So Ron thought this was all very amazing because here he was, about to offer me the role of a Union general and I was already wearing the hat.
GC: Did you know anything about Hancock or the Civil War before the movie?
BM: I knew some about the Civil War but I wasn’t really familiar with Hancock. I immediately learned about him, and of course all the actors found that you really had to know your stuff because you’re dealing with all these terrific reenactors who know everything there is to be known about these things and you better know what you’re doing. I read three books on him, and Sam Elliot who had a researcher doing work for him gave me some of his research that had to do with Hancock. I found it fascinating and since we did the movie, I continued to read up on him which only later added to Gods and Generals.
GC: What were your experiences like working for director Ron Maxwell?
BM: They were all great. I had a terrific time doing it. Ron is a fine director and his casting is flawless, really. I could not have had a better time. It was amazing to be in certain scenes and the reenactors were so wonderful with the way they brought their own passion and life to it, which is more than what ordinary extras would bring, which is really nothing. I remember waking through the reenactment camp at night when they had their campfires going. Somebody would be playing a fiddle here and there and everyone was still basically in character and it was amazing—it was like time travel.
GC: I’m a Revolutionary War reenactor and I work at a historic house in New Jersey, and whenever we do an event, everyone stays in character—we even salute each other. It’s quite funny and intense all at the same time.
BM: Yeah, it’s terrific stuff. The more I read about Hancock, the more I liked him. He should have been listened to more.
GC: Now the one thing that everyone is asking about is the rumored Gods and Generals director’s cut. I know you alluded to it in your email but can you tell us anything at all about it?
BM: Yes, I was just talking to Ron Maxwell about twenty minutes ago and I was told at this point that it will be coming out in April. There will not only be one for Gods and Generals but one for Gettysburg as well. He said that I have new scenes coming into G & G because the whole Antietam section is coming in.
GC: I heard that part was about an hour long. I’ve read all different things about it.
BM: It’s a huge scene and I’m amazed that it didn’t make it into the film initially. It should be a very much enhanced version. They’re enhancing the color and everything else and he’s in Los Angeles working on it now.
GC: This is great information. Do you know how long it’s going to be?
BM: I think he said maybe an hour and a half longer than it was.
GC: So about five hours in total. I’ve read a bunch of things about it, someone said originally it was going to be six hours, then I read that he screened it once and it was five hours and ten minutes, and now James Robertson just said it was going to be four and a half. But yours is coming directly from Maxwell so it’s the most credible.
BM: It might not be the final word on it, cause they’re still working on it. That’s probably why there are so many different numbers.
GC: I’m just glad to see Antietam go back in it. I read online that originally the movie was going to be Rated R when Maxwell submitted it and then he made some edits to get it down to PG-13. Since it was such a bloody battle, maybe that’s what got the rating down.
BM: It could be, but I can’t imagine why anyone would make these movies R—they’re mad and totally crazy.
GC: Yeah, because Maxwell did such a good job in showing the horrors of war and a lot of violence while keeping it at the PG-13 level.
BM: As he said, if you wanted the actual reality on the blood, it would be overwhelming after a very short time. People would lose track of the rest of the story if you had soldiers wading through blood.
GC: Well, as someone who wants to be a history teacher, that movie is perfect to be shown in a classroom setting.
BM: Yeah I think so, and it tells about the actual decisions and how our history depends on people’s character in moments of crisis.
GC: I have another question for you, since you’ve become famous for your portrayal of Richard Burton. My friends all make fun of me because I love old movies, and Burton is one of my favorite actors. What can you tell us of your portrayal?
BM: Again it was another role that I really enjoyed because I always liked Burton from back in the day and thought he was great. I almost met him once when I was directing a show and knew his daughter Kate. She was in the show and he was doing a play with Elizabeth Taylor on Broadway, Private Lives. Three of the other people in the cast were in one of my shows and Burton said that he wanted to be in it and I said “great” and sent him over a piece to read but later on he told me that he was on the wagon and he was afraid that if he came over he would start drinking again. It was a big disappointment. But anyway, I used to get that a lot, that I looked like him and his daughter was one who said it. I was doing another play with a lot of Welsh poetry in it called Secrets of the Celtic Heart which I was doing in Edinburgh, Scotland and the fellow who wrote the play, his daughter was there and she happened to catch that and he contacted me and wanted me to do it. Eventually I gave in and got into the damn thing. Burton’s whole family came to see it when we opened it in the new Welsh Millennium Center in Cardiff and his family came up from the little village that he was from, and his brother was there and it was kind of funny. Afterward I see the brother and he was talking to somebody but kept looking over at me and I was wondering what he was going to say and finally he gives me the nod to come over. He says (Mallon impersonates a Welsh accent), “Tell me this: were you wearing lifts in your shoes when you were onstage?” (laughs) I said, “Yes I was, actually. Not now, but I was then.” He said, “I thought so,” and looked around, “So did Richard. You’re exactly the same height and exactly the same size from head to toe.” Then he said that he had one criticism for me and I thought, “Uh oh, here it comes” and the brother goes, “You didn’t smoke enough. Richard would never be one minute without a cigarette in his mouth.” (laughs).
GC: Every movie I’ve seen him in, he always has a cigarette in his hand.
BM: Oh yeah, and three bottles of vodka a day.
GC: I have to ask, would you be able to do a Richard Burton impression for me?
BM: (Thinks) I can’t think of anything. I’m stuck here.
GC: I don’t mean to put you on the spot, if you can’t think of anything. (laughs)
BM: “It was all going to happen to me, and I knew it!” I can’t think of anything else here now.
GC: I was actually watching a clip of you in the War of the Worlds show supplying the voice for the animatronic Richard Burton, and I thought that was really cool and funny that they would think to do something like that.
BM: It is quite an amazing show, and a huge hit over there. They expect to bring it to the United States next year. His head is about twenty feet high and the impression was difficult to do because it is one thing to do a voice-over where you are just supplying the voice and you can see when the lips move and when they stop, but when you’re doing this you have to anticipate his pauses and move your face accordingly. It was amazing work, and I had to learn all of that stuff in a very exacting way.
BM: By the way, I just finished up a documentary on the Irish Brigade and this is something that is going to be on the Smithsonian channel. I originally did it for an Irish television channel, and I did it in Gaelic for them and each scene I did over again in English. We filmed a lot of it in various locations in Ireland and then in Antietam, Manassas, and Gettysburg, which was fun going back to those locations.
GC: Will that be coming to DVD?
BM: I would expect it to. I think there’s a lot of people who find the Irish brigade interesting.
GC: Definitely. The fact that they came over here and basically got involved in someone else’s war and fought so bravely sustaining tremendous casualties.
BM: Well, yeah, they were used as cannon fodder and that was very controversial in Ireland and a lot of people didn’t like it.
GC: Now, you’ve been in a lot of movies and plays, so what’s harder to prepare for?
BM: Plays are more difficult. For a movie, you learn it and you’re not really rehearsing with the people you’re in the scene with so then you go and show up and whatever happens happens, and if anything is amiss you have another take. With the play, it has to be exact and correct every time. Films are still very enjoyable and a lot of fun.
GC: Do you have any upcoming films or stage performances?
BM: I have two films that I’m not really at liberty to talk about coming in the late spring, and I have a stage play I’m going to be doing in Washington D.C. I head there in February to start rehearsals. It’s called The Weir by Connor McPherson and that will take me into May.
GC: Now finally, aside from Richard Burton, who is or was your favorite actor?
BM: I know that’s an ordinary question but I’m not a good one for rating people. I loved all the guys that Burton was in with: Robert Shaw, Richard Harris, who is just terrific, and Peter O’Toole.
GC: Do you have a favorite movie?
BM: I’d say my two favorite films are The Last Picture Show and Doctor Zhivago, the original with Julie Christie and Omar Shariff, which is just brilliant. I would never watch another version of it. And then The Last Picture Show is such an amazing film. Bogdanovich did it and there are so many amazing actors in it. It’s in black and white and it’s just something that stays with you.
I want to thank Brian Mallon for taking the time out of his schedule to conduct this interview. I really had a lot of fun and learned a lot, and of course, getting some inside scoop on the Gods and Generals director’s cut was really cool. I still consider Brian to be one of the more underrated actors I have ever seen, and hopefully he will get more exposure so that more may learn of his many talents.