“Gods and Generals” Extra Discusses his Filming Experience

A few weeks ago I was contacted by an extra who appeared in the film Gods and Generals, who after reading my string of articles on the coming Director’s Cut, thanked me for keeping the film alive, and also offered to tell me anything I wanted to know about his filming experience. That man was a member of the United States Military, Sergeant Benjamin Kullman, and I asked him to send me anything he wanted, and told him I would publish it. He finally got back to me today, with a long list of scenes he remembered filming, that were either shortened or omitted from the final print of the movie. There is no telling if every one of these will be in the extended cut, but it is definitely interesting nonetheless, and I sure hope they are included.

The release of this extended cut will be unprecedented, because 90 minutes (the supposed amount of time that will be added) is long enough to be a film in itself, yet alone get deleted from an entire movie. The descriptions below will finally give us an idea of what was originally filmed, after years of people guessing and assuming what Ron Maxwell shot. Sgt. Kullman has also appeared in others films, including The Pain Within, The Battle of Chantilly, No Retreat from Destiny, and a documentary titled Manasass: End of Innocence. Not related to the Civil War, he played the roles of Galileo Galilei and Alfred Wegener in Bill Nye’s 100 Greatest Discoveries. Below is his description of the many scenes he filmed as a member of the “core reenactors”, which were a separate, and more-used group from the regular reenactors used:

Thank you for your enthusiasm about Gods and Generals, and as much as you are looking forward to the release of the director’s cut of G & G, it is matched and surpassed only by those of us who worked on the film and have patiently waited to see the the result of our hard work in for what was for many of us a labor of love.  Many of us that participated in the film still feel it’s impact to this day, and look forward to having the film get the appreciation it deserves.  As a proud member of the core company of reenactors for the project, I worked on the film from September to December 2001 which was almost the entire production with the exception of the first two weeks. Since then, I have agonized to see the completed version, knowing how many incredible scenes we shot and how much of a more complete film it is.

As a historian and film buff, the production of Gods and Generals, for me, was one of the most incredible times of my life, and ended up supplying me with life-long friends within both the reenacting and film and television communities.  The production also provided me with the opportunity to go on to work on several other film and television projects over the years, and I am happy to say that I have had the honor of working with Stephen [Lang] on two different shows, and he is truly one of the most talented and nicest people you would ever meet, which is why it cracks me up every time I see him play an angry bad guy (Avatar) when his actual personality is closer to his portrayal of [George Pickett, in Gettysburg].  It has now become an inside joke to myself and almost a reality that I can no longer watch any film or TV shows dealing with the Civil War without seeing people I know.

The Core Company, to this day, are very good friends and still keep in regular contact. We even have a large amount of “behind the scenes” footage and pictures from our personal collections that really show what it was like on set, and what an amazing, funny, and meaningful time it was.  True fans would find this footage absolutely fascinating.  Ever wonder what it was like to be in the middle of one of those formations taking fire charging up the slopes of Fredericksburg?  One of my prized possessions is my paperback copy of G & G signed by almost the entire main cast, including some amazing actors who are no longer with us, like Royce D. Applegate.

I will list the scenes that I can remember, off the top of my head, that we filmed but were not included in the theatrical cut as to give you and your readers an idea of some of the things they can expect in the full cut of the film:

  • Many more scenes that take place pre-war and the aftermath of secession
  • Several scenes that take place during the build up to first Manassas, where many recruits are brought in to enlist.
  • Lots of extended dialogue pieces and scenes where [“Stonewall”] Jackson meets his staff
  • A scene that takes place outside of a theater in Richmond, during a recruitment drive, where John Wilkes Booth leaves the theater and speaks to several women. -“Don’t you know?  Mr. Booth is the finest actor in all of Richmond” . (Dialogue from the scene if memory serves). Booth is then is asked to give a rousing speech to those assembled to encourage them to enlist, the Richmond Greys (we called them blue balls), are in attendance as well as several Confederate muster officers

    The first ever look at the John Wilkes Booth character.
  • Several scenes involving the Liberty Hall Volunteers (featured during First Manassas) during which a chorus of “Cheer Boys, Cheer” is sung as we marched.  The Core Company of Reenactors learned this song, and was recorded for use in the film which we were told at the time was to be also included on the film’s soundtrack (kind of like the field music was included in “More Songs and Music from Gettysburg”)
  • A scene leading up to First Manassas in the train yard at Harper’s Ferry where Jackson purchases his horse ‘Little Sorrel’, originally for his wife (a brief glimpse of the beginning of this scene can be seen in the theatrical cut)
  • First Manassas is longer; at least it felt like we had filmed a longer sequence then has been seen
  • A much longer subplot involving the formation of the 20th Maine. Scenes in which new members of the 20th Maine are issued their uniforms and equipment with a cameo by the cook from Gettysburg (can’t recall the actor’s name but he had the line involving “Best darn cusser in all of Maine”). More scenes involving a character that was cut out of the film: a slightly overweight private that seems to have many problems dealing with his new role as a soldier. And a very funny scene in which Albert Ames is disgruntled at the lack of ability of his new troops and new field musicians that play the marches horribly (it was hard for the actual field musicians to play intentionally poorly during filming, but the scene was very amusing)
  • Of course all of Antietam, including: Lee details to his staff his reasons for invading Maryland, a picture of this scene and shots from it have appeared throughout media for the film and it’s trailer. The 20th Maine stands on a hill observing the battle as they, along with the rest of the 5th Corps, are held in reserve. The 20th Maine observes a conversation between an angered Hancock and an over-confident General McClellan. A rogue artillery shell from the battle takes the head off one of the men in the 20th Maine’s formation. Another shell impacts near the line throwing up small bits of shrapnel causing the overweight private to throw down his weapon, grasp his hand and scream.  Kilrain yells at him, in one of the best pieces of cut out dialogue, “Quit your whining! You’re making more noise than the man who lost his head, PICK UP YOUR MUSKET!”
  • A very nice scene that takes place during the night in which Jackson’s staff (as Stephen Lang called them ‘the Jackson five’) has a very funny conversation involving puns, philosophy, and some other subjects, during which JEB Stuart’s foreign aide, the Prussian, Heros von Borcke, arrives and presents Jackson with the new officer’s tunic Stuart had made, much to Jackson’ s bewilderment and embarrassment.  (I’m looking forward to the scene personally as it is the only one in which I played an officer)
  • Build up to Fredericksburg is longer with extended dialogue scenes between Couch and Hancock
  • General Hood’s scenes before Fredericksburg are much longer and more involved
  • The crossing into Fredericksburg via the pontoon bridges is longer
  • The scene where the boy is knocked down by the spent artillery shell as the family escapes the town is longer, and explains the bruise on the boys chest as his brother picks up the cannon ball and is told by Pastor Lacey to put it down
  • The scenes involving the Union plundering of Fredericksburg are longer and more detailed with several pieces of minor dialogue
  • Union assaults on the Fredericksburg heights might be longer as a lot of time was spent filming this portion of the battle
  • Lots of extended dialogue pieces all throughout the battle
  • The nights spent by the 20th Maine pinned down in front of the stone wall are longer with more dialogue, the retreat from Fredericksburg is also extended
  • Several scenes in and around the field hospitals were filmed and extended leading into the deleted scene with Jim Lewis and the grave diggers, a portion of which has already been seen and posted on your site.
  • The Minstrel show scene (Bonnie Blue Flag) is longer with more dialogue and music
  • Longer scenes around the tobacco/coffee trade including Ron Maxwell’s cameo
  • The much talked about scenes between Harrison and Booth (none of which I witnessed filming) and Lincoln attending Booth’s performance
  • Battle plans and build up to Chancellorsville longer
  • More scenes around the Chancellorsville house before the mass panic from the retreating 11th corps reaches it and the fall out afterward
  • Jackson’s death scenes are extended
Mr. Kullman with C. Thomas Howell.

I would like to thank the sergeant for sharing this with me and it truly sounds like an incredible experience. All of these scenes would seem to amount to more than 90 minutes, so it appears unlikely that everything here will be in the final cut, but we can only hope that the majority will be. We have now been waiting eight years to see this footage, and this description makes it sound like it will be worth it.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Steven Hancock says:

    I remember somebody posted an article a while back when he went to see a special screening of the Director’s Cut in Washington, about a year or so ago. Ron Maxwell hosted the event, and told the viewers that the cut was not yet completely finished. The gentleman said that the length of the film was, not including the two ten-minute intermissions, around five hours, twenty-three minutes. That is also close to the running time given by those who saw the special screening back in 2002 of the cut, which was said to be around five and one-half hours. So, based on the gentleman’s description of scenes, 323 minutes sounds about right for Maxwell’s cut of the film. Guess we’ll know in May (Or July, whichever).

  2. Jake says:

    Wow!!!!! That’s a wallop! If the Gods and Generals Director’s Cut was food, I’d be drowning in my own saliva due to anticipation! And what another great line from my favorite movie character of all-time, Buster Kilrain! LOL! I send a very heart-endearing thank you to Ben Kullman for sharing this info!! Thank you!

    Few questions though.

    1.) Is the soldier who dies in Chamberlain’s arms on the Fredericksburg field as they retreat supposed to be the student who asks him about “protected slavery” in the classroom scene? Or the one-armed soldier who requested to retreat to Ames? I ask this because Chamberlain calls him by name, which seems odd if that’s supposed to be the character’s only appearance.

    2.) Is there more development with the Irish kid Patrick, whom Buster ushers back into the firing line at Fredericksburg, and later recognizes dead the following morning?

    3.) Even with Antietam included, it’s still a big jump to go right from 1st Manassas in July ’61 to September ’62. Is there some sort of montage of Jackson and Co. fighting in various battles throughout the rest of 61, through the winter and into spring of 62 when Chamberlain goes to boot camp? (such as Seven Days, Harper’s Ferry and 2nd Manassas) Seems like that would be a bit smoother transition, and something to build up his legend.

    4.) Anything about Ames getting transferred and promoting Chamberlain to full command? Not to mention the 20th Maine’s quarantining due to smallpox outbreak? I LOVED that scene in the novel. (I haven’t read the whole thing straight through yet, I kinda skipped around at first) Also, the very beginning of the trailer shows a soldier riding a horse and wearing a white mask, so just maybe….

    5.) In the trailer you can see a shot from the scene where the Chamberlains go to see Booth’s play, and Chamberlain is in uniform. It says online that this scene is near the end of the film. How is that possible? Chamberlain is in Virgina the whole time prior to marching 100 miles north chasing the Rebs up to Gettysburg.

    6.) More Chamberlain I presume prior to enlistment? We only know him for 1 minute in the classroom scene before Fanny says she knows about it. Also, is the classroom scene with Chamberlain extended? Seems to me like Chamberlain was going to respond to his student before they cut to his home.

    7.) General Gregg. It’s mentioned he and Jackson have differences which have not yet been resolved. Did their tension arise from Antietam? Or was there something else cut that gave us the premise of this little rivalry?

    Any help would be appreciated!

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